My Favorite Things 5: An exhibition of artwork by Egyptian women torn between heart and reason

Névine Lameï, Wednesday 25 Nov 2020

In its fifth edition, the exhibition brings together paintings, drawings, collages and installations

My Favorite Things
Artwork by Amani Nabil

Through their distinct artistic worlds, 19 young female artists in their thirties, express their ideas, as part of the ‘My Favorite Things five’ exhibition. 


Held at the Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art in downtown Cairo, the exhibition, which is being held for the fifth consecutive year; brings together paintings, drawings, collages and installations. 


The work raises multiple questions about existence; about the past and the present; the status of women; material conditions as well as the relationship between imagination and real life. Some of them marked by a humorous touch, cleverly capturing the attention of visitors. 


The eight paintings - made in small formats by Alaa Ayman - are reminiscent of old vintage photos and are collected from old family albums. The accumulation of pastel colors is synonymous with the passage of time, and the memory kept alive.  


"It is the past, the beautiful memories of my childhood, that I like to show through my paintings," underlines Alaa Ayman. 


A slight childish irony characterizes the latter's work, giving the impression that it is a thriller or psychological drama, brought to life by frightening ghostly characters. A guillotined girl, another crushed by a giant foot, a third with a cactus head, etc. 


In works by Shadoo El-Rakhway, there is a constant war between the voice of the heart and that of reason, as the artist moves between being and appearing. 
In their turn, three gaudy paintings by Marwa Saad open up a whole world of wild flowers. It is still a world of heart and reason, logic and feelings. 


Young illustrator, digital painter and graphic designer Sara Ayman's installation features a female dress hanging on the wall with curse words written on it. Words that Sara or any other woman, can hear while walking down the street. It is here that those words touch on modesty. 


Sara Ayman is inspired by a famous line by American poet, activist and writer Maya Angelou, who once said: "Whenever a woman stands up, she doesn't know it, she doesn't claim it, she stands up for all women," and Ayman reiterates saying: “Women's rights are part of human rights; we have the right to feel at ease, to live without taboos, harassment or constraints." 


Mona Essam's installation takes the form of a game of pool or domino on a round table. “The round shape symbolizes life. The circle gives me a sense of security,” said the artist. 


My Favorite Things
Artwork by Alaa Ayman

A grey atmosphere 


“Scientists tell us that black is the absence of all colors, while white is the presence of all colors, therefore grey symbolizes emptiness, it lies somewhere between absence and presence,” says Roshan Al-Qurashi. Her two small paintings, in black and white, evokethe human vulnerability that she tends to hide. 


Anwaar Ahmed's meticulous ink drawings feature a bizarre bird, trapped in an elevator, which looks more like a forest. To her it is the "forest of fear" while the bird, half human, takes us to a distant place. Are we observing the world without taking any risks? The work attempts to answer the question metaphorically. 


Linked together, the black and white photos by Amina Kaddous deal with fragmented human memory. Here is Talaat Harb Square in downtown Cairo, the Saad Zaghloul statue, the interior of an old house, that of the artist's grandfather in the city of Mahalla. 


Kaddous shows the glorious past of this city, but also of the whole country, whose present is very uncertain. “The past feeds our collective imagination,” Kaddous comments. 


Free like the wind 


The two large paintings by Amani Nabil combat ugliness and poverty with their joyful scenes. Children turn anything into swings and smiles, surrounded by a rainbow-colored world. For the artist; joy, innocence and love are the means to escape evil in all its forms. 


Rania Al-Hakim draws butterflies in a grey color, they are free like the wind. “When the caterpillar thinks it's all over, it turns into a beautiful butterfly. You must never lose hope,” Al-Hakim says. 


The large balloon, blue and white, flies up to the sky in the retouched photos of Sara Younes. In her photographs taken in Alexandria, the artist brings a ray of hope. She captures the city in reconstruction, or rather in deconstruction, since these beautiful buildings are being destroyed by the bulldozers, side by side with the concrete blocks and huge skyscrapers. The balloon moves away from any obstruction; hovers on the horizon; heading towards the sea; in search of a more enchanting elsewhere. 


Finally, the very original installation by Rania Ezzat highlights a glamorous face mask, with silvery white rhinestones. The work is cheerful and luminous. The mask no longer refers to boredom or compulsion, but to hope and pleasure. 

The exhibition continues until 3 December at the Mashrabia Gallery of Contemporary Art. Address: 8 Champollion Street, Downtown Cairo 

*This article was originally published in Al Ahram Hebdo, in French, 25 November edition 

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