With his distinctive light blue eyes and soft demeanor, famed Egyptian sculptor Adam Henein stood observing the towering metallic figures. The statues, numbered at about 20, directed their gaze at the horizon of the desert in which they were standing.
It was early June on a balmy summer’s evening when the sun started to set, casting the softest orange rays on the copper colored sculptures created by a group of Egyptian and international artists as part of SODIC’s first sponsored Art Symposium.
On a makeshift plot outside the company’s head office, the artists were putting the final touches on their large pieces before unveiling them to the public. Henein, an established artist whose work is regularly shown abroad and sold in famed auction house Christie’s, appeared to be delighted.
“We have real art taking place here,” he said when prompted. A man of few words, it was his gaze of seeming amusement that was telling of his sentiment about what was unfolding in front of us.
“I organized the first art symposium in Egypt which now takes place in Aswan every year. I was inspired in the 70s when I participated in one myself [in Europe] and it took years to convince the ministry here to start one.
“Now great pieces are produced in Aswan with granite from there, and the production of these pieces in Cairo — with metal nevertheless, which is a hard medium to work with — points to the evolution taking place in art in Egypt and particularly, with the nature of symposiums.”
SODIC plans on sponsoring a series of international symposiums on its Sixth of October grounds, commissioning local and international artists to create pieces with various themes in various media as part of its objective to promote and place art in public areas, starting with the grounds of the SODIC development itself.
This symposium’s subject was the Jan. 25 Revolution. The pieces will be placed along the Cairo-Alex Desert Road, bidding adieu to travelers on the road.
It is well worth a visit to check out these creations as they await permission to be moved to their new home. Standing side by side, one can infer from casual observation what has been produced by the Egyptian artists. The most aesthetically pleasing and profound of the statues reveal themselves to be made by Ahmed El-Sotouhy, Ehab El-Labban and Salah Hammad, amongst others.
Their statements are poetic. Articulated in Sotouhy’s “Freedom” is the emphasis on the human torso, leading man forward with courage chest first. Hammad’s “Man Facing the Gale” statue too is of a determined figure moving forward as the protesters did with head bent low set on reaching an invisible finish line.
The message of Karanfily’s “Call for Freedom” is not implicitly clear unless one reads the piece’s title, but the ribbons of metal wound to construct arms outstretched to the sky seem to portray the countless figures one watched in Tahrir that were seemingly directing prayers upwards.
Yet, it is Labban’s figure with a large metal sheet held overhead, pierced with words and text that is most amusing. Terms and phrases from the revolution remind one of the inventive humor produced during some of the more distressing moments of the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.
“They’ll look fantastic on the road,” concludes Henein as young artists and the curator of the show come up to him to say hello and see if he so approves.
These pieces will be the first public pieces of art unveiled in Cairo in quite some time, and the first public works of merit in Sixth of October.
The statues are available for viewing Sundays-Thursdays, 10 am-5 pm on the symposium grounds until they are relocated to their positions on the Cairo-Alex Desert Road.