INTERVIEW: Egyptian artist Ibrahim Abla talks about Fayoum Art Centre, upcoming Caricatunis competition

Nevine Lamei, Saturday 17 Sep 2022

The Egyptian artist Ibrahim Abla reveals details of the upcoming caricature competition, Caricatunis, launched by the Fayoum Art Centre.



Ibrahim Abla is an Egyptian-Swiss artist and filmmaker. Son of the renowned visual artist Mohamed Abla, Ibrahim joined his father in the endeavours of the Fayoum Art Centre and manages Caricatunis, a caricature competition held by the Centre’s Caricature Museum.

Founded by Mohamed Abla in Tunis Village, where the artist had had a second home since 1985, the caricature museum is part of an entire artistic complex: the Fayoum Art Centre.

The first of its kind in the Middle East and North Africa, the centre opened its doors in 2009 with the aim of founding a space where the art of caricature can find the attention necessary for its effervescence. The museum houses 500 original caricatures by 50 different Middle Eastern artists.

The centre also holds residencies, a winter academy (a series of workshops for the artists), and the competition Caricatunis, the newest addition to the centre's activities.

Ibrahim Abla talked to Al-Ahram Hebdo about the competition, whose deadline for applications is 1 October, and about the Fayoum Art Centre.

Al-Ahram Hebdo: Tell us more about the third edition of the Caricatunis competition.

Ibrahim Abla: Caricatunis 2022 takes place under the auspices of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture. The event is divided into two sections: the Caricature and the Satirical Portrait.

The theme this year is Climate Change. We wanted to shed light on the challenges linked to climate change and its impact on future generations. Artists can consider thinking about ecological utopia, imagine living together, etc. This goes hand in hand with Egypt's current preparations to host COP27 next November.

The Caricature section invites artists to imagine the world of tomorrow. They are welcome to present both the optimistic views and dystopian visions. 

In broader terms, however, Caricatunis is a universal call to action, addressed to civil society, to create partnerships for sustainable development between the private and public sectors. Artists, media people and corporations are expected to work together for much needed change.

AH: The Satirical Portrait section is dedicated to the famous cartoonist and caricaturist Georges Bahgoury (born in 1932 in southern Egypt). Why this choice?

IA: I admire Bahgoury as an artist. I also admire his way of carving portraits based on a single line, such as his famous sketches featuring Nasser. In fact, they are exhibited across many venues besides Caricatunis. You can find them in the permanent collection of the Caricature Museum, annexed to the Fayoum Art Centre.

AH: This is the third edition of Caricatunis. Tell us more about how the event has evolved so far.

IA: The first edition of Caricatunis in 2020 focused on celebrating the 10th anniversary of the caricature museum, located in the village of Tunis and renowned for its pottery.

The theme of the first competition was tourism. This choice was mainly inspired by preparations for the Pharaohs' Golden Parade, which took place in April 2021. 

Also, the first edition was dedicated to the memory of Palestinian cartoonist Naji Al-Aly (1936-1987). Subsequently, we added to our permanent collection a section reserved for Arab caricatures.

The 2nd edition of Caricatunis, in 2021, had Humour as its theme and was dedicated to the memory of the first cartoonist in the Egyptian press, Mohamad Rakha (1910-1989).

AH: How can artists apply for the competition?

IA: The competition is open to all artists worldwide. Work should be submitted in JPEG, A3 and 300 DPI format. The works can be in black and white or in colour, made in any style or technique. 

The applying artist must certify that the work is their own and authorise the organisers to reproduce all or part of the material for free publication and/or display in contest-related media (Facebook and Instagram).

Two prizes are awarded per section. The first prize is $500 (awarded by an international jury) and the second prize $250 (public vote on social media platforms). The deadline for submitting the works is 1 October 2022. Candidates must submit their works with a short biography indicating their nationality, attaching a personal photo to the following email: [email protected].

AH: Caricatunist is part of the Fayoum Art Centre located in the village of Tunis in Fayoum. What is the mission of the centre?

IA: Due to its location, the Fayoum Art Centre is far from the chaos of the city and the crowd. It was founded in 2006 by my father, visual artist Mohamed Abla. 

The centre aims to connect art lovers, emerging visual artists, musicians, designers, filmmakers, writers, yoga practitioners, local, regional and international. It provides artist studios and open-air spaces, artistic residences in mini-apartments, workshops in various disciplines, a library, and living and creative spaces near the large Fayoum lake. 

The centre also organises the Annual Winter Academy with courses lasting six weeks, from mid-January to the end of February. They follow the model of the International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria.

Mohamed Abla taught there for several years. Among the mentors of this academy are names like the British John O'Carroll, the Swedish Karin Ward, the Nigerian Emeka Ogboh, the American Tavia La Follette, as well as Egyptian artists such as Hany Rashed. 

After each semester, an exhibition is organised in Cairo by the Fayoum Art Centre to show the works of the winter workshops’ participants. This year, for example, we held the exhibition Searching for Zerzura, last March, in Sheikh Zayed at Cairo’s outskirts.

Similarly, another exhibition is scheduled for 15 October to be held at The Factory in downtown Cairo. The artists with the best works can also benefit from a residency grant at the Fayoum Art Centre.

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