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Sunday, 20 June 2021

From Facebook to Nassbook at London’s MICA Gallery

Egyptian artwork is showcased at the Modern Islamic and Contemporary Art Gallery in London in an exhibition entitled "From Facebook to Nassbook"

Sara Elkamel from London, Thursday 7 Jul 2011
Thomas Hartwell

"From Facebook to Nassbook," which opened 6 July, delves into the artistic ripples of the Egyptian uprising that shook the Middle East region. The show is featured in London's Arab Arts Festival, "Shubbak — A window on contemporary Arab culture". The paintings and photographs showcased provide an insight into the potent creative energies of Egyptian and Arab artists, and their artistic reactions to the revolution.

The exhibition acknowledges the power of social networking websites in disseminating messages to the masses, and the role they played in mobilising the people. Still, Nassbook (people-book) is where the real power resides.

In "From Facebook to Nassbook," Egyptian artists capture their beloved Cairo in paint and photographs, bringing the city’s ardor and charm to be experienced by a wide and diverse audience. 

Change is not easy. But the January 25 Revolution proved that it is possible. After decades of fear, suppression and silence, the people spoke. They screamed for freedom. And as their courage grew infectious, social networking websites helped manifest the dream of a better tomorrow.

The Internet was undoubtedly one of the stars in the 25 January blockbuster. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube enabled people to share experiences, to give others hope, and to freely express their diverse opinions.

The Internet amplified the sound of the revolution. Recorded on mobile phone cameras and other gadgets, the chants of a loud and bold revolution infiltrated every home in Egypt. Blasting from millions of computers throughout the nation, the word ‘freedom’ prevailed. And soon freedom itself (tasted for the first time by millions of Egyptians) prevailed.

On the Internet, Egyptians were able to flaunt their passion, and their sense of humour. Even in the darkest of days, Facebook and Twitter users provoked chuckles from tense citizens. Jokes circulated. The Internet fed people’s enthusiasm, awakened their appetite for information as well as for creative witticisms.

Art also played a major role in the revolution, emerging from the midst of the action in Tahrir Square and documenting the people’s uprising. But if artistic reactions to the uprising have been impulsive, they have also been purposeful. Like the revolution, spontaneity and hope pervades canvases nationwide. Furthermore, there has been a surge of artistic responses, which were raw and diverse, devoid of the factor of consumerism that maims genuine creativity in modern art.

The Internet also played a major role in circulating artworks from Tahrir Square to audiences all over the nation. Social networking websites in particular boosted the exposure of revolutionary artwork.

In "From Facebook to Nassbook," Egyptian artist Khaled Hafez uses collage and paint to break cultural barriers. He combines ancient Egyptian symbols with modern magazine snapshots, laying out modern-day images of war in the style of hieroglyphics, effectively creating new symbols that tell a story of contemporary societal struggles.

Painted before revolution utterly transformed the Egyptian landscape, Hafez's pieces highlight the long-standing struggle for freedom in the region.

Adel El-Siwi, prominent Egyptian artist, paints elongated faces painted in raw, unruly brushstrokes that evoke a sense of motion and ambiguity. His brush carries paint across the canvas, blurring features and inspiring a second (and third) glance at every piece. El-Siwi’s artwork represents the charming side of life in Cairo and the mysticism of its people.

Cairo-based photojournalist Thomas Hartwell documents the January 25 Revolution in symbolic photography that tells the story in an instant. Taken right in the middle of the action in February, Hartwell’s photos are reminiscent of the struggles and triumphs of the uprising. The photos do not simply document: they set the scene that eventually helped topple Hosni Mubarak, who had seemed so irremovable. 

The MICA Gallery presents this collection as a platform for visual cultural commentary, and explores the seeds of the Egyptian revolution, the Arab Spring, and the hope that lies ahead.

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© 2010 Ahram Online.