Designopolis' take on the Egyptian revolution

Farah Montasser, Wednesday 6 Apr 2011

Souk El Horreya seems like another commercial exploitation of the Egyptian revolution. However the exhibition and the graffiti covering the walls, brings back a sense of justice to the revolutionary spirit


The chill-out music gets pleasantly louder, bit-by-bit, as you walk down the stairs into the Designopolis arena. Its interior design shops and art galleries are open for visitors to drop in to its Souk El Horreya (Freedom Market).

Organised on 2 April, Souk El Horreya aims to bring back the ‘street fair’ to Egyptian culture. As such, Designopolis dedicated its walls along its shopping strip to international painters and graffiti artists, to share their visions with fellow Egyptians.

Branded restaurants and cafes are everywhere, so families can grab a quick bite while they explore what Souk El Horreya has to offer.

In fact, Souk El Horreya turned out to be only a commercial festival for prosperous families to enjoy.  The elements which gave it a sense of its name - hence Horreya (Freedom) -  are the works which still remain on display, such as the graffiti of Juan Carlos Noria and Sameh Ismael, along with Tache Art Gallery’s exhibition Thawretna Souretna (Our Revolution Our Picture).

Our Revolution, Our Picture

Nothing much resembled the theme of freedom except for the Tache Art Gallery, which has dedicated this month’s exhibition to the Egyptian revolution.

On 2 April, Tache Art Gallery was filled with visitors all day long and people enjoyed its special Thawretna Souretna photography exhibition. 

Gallery manager Alia Montasser told Ahram Online. “This exhibition of talented photographers captures the heart of the Egyptian revolution and we are happy to feature their work, with all the proceeds to go to charity,” she confirms. 

Mohamed Hakem, a talented young photographer exhibiting his work at Tache Art Gallery says, “I enjoy photography so much and the reason I am here is that I wanted to share my memory of the revolution with everyone instead of just saving them on my computer.”

Hakim’s work includes images from the 28 January, dubbed “Anger Friday,” which was one of the most brutal days in the revolution, when protestors were attacked by state police forces; and several other days of his frequent visits to Tahrir Square (Liberation Square). Although it is his first public exhibition, Hakem has won two photography competitions: National Geographic Online contest and “Popphoto”.

Alaa Taher’s photograph of an Egyptian tank stole the limelight with its definition and highlights. “I wanted to give my own view of the revolution, instead of only taking shots as a journalist,” Taher told Ahram Online. “I don’t want to sound cruel or ignorant about those tragic events but honestly I search for the beauty in any upheaveal,” he explains. “To me art speaks in a very subliminal way.”  

Taher is the founder of ATP, an advertising agency specialising in commercial photography and production. He also co-founded ‘Sowar Online’, the first Middle East stock photography website. His work has been showcased in 13 photography and painting exhibitions in Egypt, Australia and the USA.

The spirit of the revolution

The other two photographers exhibiting are Yehia El Alaily, an Egyptian/British commercial photographer based in Cairo, and Laura El Tantawy, an Egyptian photojournalist and artist based in London.

El Alaily has specialised in commercial photography since 2005. His work covers a wide range of trends including conceptual, lifestyle, nature, figurative and architecture. His upcoming exhibition will open at the Side Gallery in London on 15 April.

As a photojournalist, El Tantawy’s work has been published internationally, including the National Geographic magazine, Saudi Aramco World and the Guardian. She has also held a number of exhibitions in the USA, Europe and Asia.

“This exhibition captures the spirit of the revolution and is not just a monument,” Azza Hassan, one of the opening attendees and a big fan of arts, told Ahram Online. “I am glad that the revolution produced the talent in those artists some never thought they had,” she maintains.

Bread, Freedom and Social Justice

Outside Tache Art Gallery to the right, stood renowned Brazilian painter Juan Carlos Noria with his hands covered in dried paint, viewing his unfinished graffiti on a Designopolis wall.  His partner in the project, Egyptian calligraphy painter Sameh Ismael, was up a ladder printing one of the well-known chants from the revolution, ‘Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice’.

On his fourth visit to Egypt, Noria brought a special mural for the wall of Designopolis that conceptually resembles the revolution. “Because Sameh and I can see that the revolution has been hijacked by commerce, we wanted to be more abstract about it,” he confirms.

The mural is of the Egyptian flag with Arabian swords aflame, and filled with calligraphy by Ismael, which intones the purpose of the Egyptian revolution.

“We wanted to be more realistic about the revolution and what it did to Egypt.  We wanted to resemble the fight of the people using those elements,” he explains.  “With this mural I renew myself and hope for the world to renew itself as well”.

Also working with Articulate Baboon, Noria has a set of 12 pieces displayed at the Articulate Baboon Art gallery called the ‘Burn Series’.

“Originally, they were painted before the revolution but now they tie in with it,” he asserts.  “The idea is that the burning of something is the rebirth of another”.

Tache Art Gallery, S-139 El Sahara District, Designopolis, Km 38 Cairo/Alexandria Desert Road, Sheikh Zayed, 6th of October City

Thawretna Souretna is on until the end of April.

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