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5 Egyptian Female Artists Break Through Their Creative Blocks

A painter, a writer, a cellist, a ballerina, and a photographer step into a ray of sunlight at golden hour to unleash their stifled talents.

"I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman," Virginia Woolf once opined. We would venture to guess she's right, because Virginia Woolf is always right. However, artists Malak Ashraf, Galila Al Jifri, Dina Ibrahim, Sabah Khodir, and Salma Kashef do not intend to live their lives anonymously. Each approaches her craft with uncompromising integrity and profound humility as she navigates bouts of creative block. Inspired by the courage it takes not to sell your inner artist into slavery, the Pandora Rose collection is an homage to women who dare to hack away at what stands between them and their magnum opuses, until that rapturous golden hour.  

Malak Ashraf

An AUC sociology and visual arts major, Malak Ashraf is an artist of depth and complexity. “I’m going for a career in art, I took up a double major for that purpose; I want the sociology to serve my art, not the other way around,” Ashraf says.

Influenced by and versed in still life and renaissance art from a young age, her art evolved as the years progressed. “I had a very classical art formation growing up, I visited museums and read about art history,” she recounts. “Until I started college and I started to get into contemporary art and use different mediums in my work rather than just oil painting. I still can’t shake my renaissance obsession with the human body,” she jokes.  

Salma Kashef

With a keen eye that recognises all that is truly and deeply beautiful, 25-year-old photographer and cinematographer Salma Kashef tries to take in as much of the world as she can, so she travels, and the more she roams God’s great Earth, the wealthier the imagery flickering through her mind.      

To Kashef, inspiration flows like an eternal river that feeds that beautiful mind of hers with imagery. “I’m inspired by pictures I see, images I have in my head, or even things I see in my dreams. Sometimes, I even imagine what a painting would look like if it depicted the meaning of a certain quote,” she romances. 

Dina Ibrahim

Dina Ibrahim is the quintessential cellist, a real life Amelie Poulain of sorts; she is dedicated, delicate, and capricious. “It's just this random urge to pick up the instrument and try something out, triggered by anything – sounds, people, ideas, there's no definite pattern,” she explains.

Together with her pet tortoise, she leads a blissfully uneventful life. “I moved to Cairo about a year ago to continue my studies in music, and ever since then it's just been cello. I work from home with my pet tortoise and try to keep my life as quiet as I like it,” she says. Make no mistake, though, on the art front, she is making quantum leaps. “I'm working on my first something nowadays, and hoping I'd get to release it soon.”   

Sabah Khodir

Like her peers, writer and founder of End Quote, Sabah Khodir, has always been very much aware of her calling in life – no existential to-ing and fro-ing for this one. “I’ve pursued a career in writing for the majority of my life; it’s something I’m profoundly passionate about,” she says.  I founded End Quote because I felt there wasn't a big platform available in Egypt and the Arab world and I wanted to provide one, especially for women.”

Her art imitates her proactive life. “I feel most productive as a writer when I watch the news, I'm always very interested in the emotional turmoil or accomplishments of others,” she explains. “I'm currently writing a poetry book that is a product of the writing on End Quote, and co-authoring a novel with a writer from New York.”

Galila Al Jifri

The ballet is not for everyone; it fits Galila Al Jifri like a glove, though. The art form may be a relic of a bygone time, but she aspires to blaze her own trail one plié at a time. “I would describe myself as a modern ballerina,” she proclaims. “I love dancing to classical music; however, I’m always looking to try new moves and to mix it up with different types of music, and I’m always looking to add a little of myself to each dance number.”

Everything inspires her nimble muscles to dance. “Everything from YouTube videos to the music I listen to inspires me,” she explains. Her body doesn’t paint a picture in the air until dawn. “I’m most productive early in the morning because that’s when I have peace of mind.”

Photo and video shoot by @MO4Network's #MO4Production
Art Direction: Munky
Photography: Malak El Sawi
Cinematography: Mohamed Daoud
Set Design: Noha Bahr, Farida Kassaby
Styling: Ahmed Nabil
MUA: Sherouk Kasaby, Agnes
Hair Styling: TOI Beauty Salons
Props: Alwan (Downtown branch), France Antiques, Hamada Mazzika
Location: Downtown Cairo