Speaking up about major social issues and reminiscing on the golden age of Egyptian cinema, these pieces are much more than just pin-ups on a wall.
London’s P21 Gallery has been hosting the Pop Art from North Africa exhibition in collaboration with the Arab British Centre, and the exhibition brought together some of the most striking artwork we’ve seen in a while.
The exhibition uses pop-art to explore the human condition and the balance – or lack thereof – between the traditional and the modern world; every piece on display offers a different perspective. The artists serve as public commentators on the most-discussed issues within their respective societies.
Fifteen talented North African artists were carefully hand-picked by curators Najlaa El-Ageli and Toufik Douid, two among which are Cairo-based artists.
Young artist Rasha Amin is not new to this; she has previously shown her work in Spain, Sweden, Italy, Kuwait, and Turkey. Her pop art, which focuses on the golden age of Egyptian cinema, consists of five film groups depicting some of the most famous Egyptian actors of that time, such as Shadia, Roushdy Abaza, Layla Mourad, Anwar Wagdy, and Souad Hosny, and some of the most famous quotes from their beloved films.
“I chose this era because it had such a huge impact, not just on Egypt, but on the Middle Eastern world. The pieces reminisce on the classic films and the values they conveyed. I wanted to highlight the Egyptian identity and how much it has changed nowadays in contrast to the 40s, 50s, or 60s,” the Faculty of Fine Arts graduate told us.
Long-term Cairo resident Qarm Qart also contributed to the exhibition with a series of conspicuous pin-ups that discuss gender, men’s view of women, and how women are often considered sexual objects.
Qart’s collages are a mix of tissues, paper, plastic, women’s underwear, and embroidery, among other materials; the visually shocking pin-ups raise questions about sexual harassment and how it’s dealt with in Egyptian society.“People don’t talk about sex or discuss sexual harassment a lot, but if you go to Khan El-Khalili, for example, you’ll see these sketchy shops selling lingerie which is quite paradoxical to me,” Italian-born Carmine Catrolano said of his newest project. “Every person will draw their own conclusions when they see the pin-ups.”
Whether both artists’ work catches your eye for a minute or stays with you long after you’ve closed the page, there’s no doubt that they have both respectively managed to grab the international art scene’s attention, as well as beautifully represent what an inspiration Egypt can be to artists all over the world.