Amal Kenawy in Silence of the Lambs (2009) by Amal Kenawy at Mori Art Museum, Tokyo - Photo Courtesy: Mori Art Museum
“I might have a heart that beats and functions regularly, but I cannot confirm that I am alive.” –from The Room by Amal Kenawy (1974-2012).
On 22 August, Amal Kenawy, Egyptian visual artist, lost a battle with cancer, leaving her peers in shock and sadness, and leaving behind a portfolio of groundbreaking art that will not be forgotten
The prolific artist did not settle on one medium, she hopped from one to the other, dabbling with installation art, sculpture and video. Kenawy tackled themes of conformity and liberation, disarray and identity. She recreated universal truths through a visual language that transcends physical and cultural barriers.
Her work was expressive, it was raw, and it was personal. She held nothing back, and for that, she stood out.
The artist was born in Cairo in 1974, and stumbled upon her passion for art in her childhood. She studied fashion design, film and fine art, and displayed her artwork across the globe, in exhibitions and film festivals.
Kenawy was previously married to artist Shady El-Noshokaty, and she leaves behind their 11-year-old son Yassin.
Below, Amal Kenawy’s friends from the art world help shed light on her life and work:
Mohamed Abla reminisces: “I met Amal Kenawy through Shady El-Noshokaty, who can be credited with bringing her into the art world. High spirits and vibrant energy distinguished Amal, and her ability to access previously untested terrain. She formed an artistic duo with her brother, Abdel Ghangy, at one stage. She had a special relationship with materials, and a great sensitivity to textures.”
Abla continues, “I believe that her experience with illness, and her early diagnosis had a great effect on her artistic maturity. She went deeper into herself and her identity. And in her latest works, she exhibits a highly spiritual and personal experience.”
Artist Enas Elsadiek says: “I don't know a lot about her personal life, but we went to the same hair dresser. We usually met in this place by luck; she was so beautiful and elegant.”
Elsadiek holds deep respect for the late artist. “We were working in the same field, installation, with the same concept: feminism. She was acting like a butterfly, spreading with her two wings, through video or installation, art carrying a new concept, new definition, and what’s more that she said a great her own big "NO" in the face of this stupid male society. I like her work as an artist, even more, I liked her character. She had a great power, lovely talent, and a strong personality.”
Curator Sam Bardaouil writes the following statement on Facebook: “Amal Kenawy, you left too soon. You fought the cancer with dignity and even though your body gave in, your spirit and art will long outlive most of us. Thank you for provoking us with artwork that was never compromising. The words you said to me when we met in Cairo last April are resonating even more: "When it is time, I will be ready." I pray for you, for Yassin, for Abdel Ghany and all the ones who love you. But we were not ready to lose you Amal. You are greatly missed...”
“…But I cannot confirm that I am alive for the emotions that continuously inhabit my body turn it into nothing more than a mere physical shell, into a barrier that separates my inner being from the world around me. For this reason, I try to tailor my understanding so that I may realise the human self within a wider framework of existence. I realise this through the abstracted images which I use, images that oscillate between being of my memories/dreams and of the reality in which I live. These images come close to portraying me, to being an expression of my true self, the self that I can see clearly way beyond the narrow confines of my body.” – The Room, Amal Kenawy