For over 30 years since its very first issue, Al-Ahram Weekly had run an art column by El-Ashri on the art movement in Egypt. Being present at almost every exhibition, talking to and learning about every up-and-coming artist, El-Ashri brought the latest and deepest insights to our readers.
Prior to the launch of Al-Ahram Weekly in the summer of 1990 – leading to the publication of the first issue in February 1991 – El-Ashri had already written a column for the daily Al-Ahram, providing the newspaper with drawings as well.
Her work was designed to serve the purpose she once declared should be the job of every artist in any newsroom: to make art more accessible and more easily appreciated.
Art, El-Ashri was convinced, should never be approached as an elitist interest. Confining it to art circles or a milieu would go against the nature of art itself.
Clearly, in the articles that she continued to write, even if they grew much shorter, El-Ashri made a point of introducing her readers to international artists and art schools as well as present-day and late local practitioners. She preached making more room for art in public space and making sure that art classes are taken seriously at schools.
Outside the newsroom, El-Ashri immersed herself in drawing and painting. Though a dedicated abstract artist, not wanting to confine herself to one school, she nonetheless often ventured into expressionism and even some forms of impressionism.
El-Ashri gave several exhibitions in and out of Egypt and she received several awards. In 2017, she collected a selection of her columns and drawings in a book, Documents of the Good Times. The book is perhaps the ultimate statement of how El-Ashri viewed art and its role in society.
Journalists and artists who knew El-Ashri, whether in Al-Ahram, in the art circles or at the Faculty of Applied Arts, where she graduated in the 1970s, have much to lament in her loss. El-Ashri was a truly compassionate person who valued friendship and supporting others. She was always able to show a great deal of affection.
She will be truly missed, and so will her Weekly column. She will be missed especially by the Weekly’s Listings editor, her daughter, Reham El-Adawi.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 30 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly