In a balcony that views “the endless sea of dirty brown satellite dishes,” the American writer Jason Stoneking’s conversation with Egyptian artist Hany Hommos inspired him to start a new project.
Stoneking has launched the “Cairo Dish-Painting Initiative” to beautify the city’s skyline and use it as a medium to empower people.
The writer, who originally came to Cairo for a residency programme at Artellewa Art space, started his project by painting dishes on the art space’s roof. Mixing paint colours at the local store in Ard El-Lewa neighbourhood, Stoneking transforms the “depressing” rusty dishes into bright day-glowing ones.
“We wanted to launch an interactive project,” he said, “for everyone, even if they don’t speak English.”
The initiative has gone beyond Ard El-Lewa to reach other neighbourhoods. Fady Azzouny, who lives in New Cairo, has painted three satellite dishes and sent his photos to Stoneking. The artist hopes to spread the word to other parts of Cairo, he said.
“We want to get people to express themselves through the space,” he said. “Their voice will be heard all over the city.”
The process of painting is easy and cheap, he said. One can of paint, which can paint over 20 dishes, cost around EGP 30. People of the same building can share one can. However, colouring satellite dishes on a building roof requires asking each resident for permission.
“It’s a long process,” he said, “but we have got positive responses from everyone we spoke to so far.”
Visiting Egypt for the first time, Stoneking was nervous about how he will be received the neighbourhood, he said.
“The US doesn’t have good reputation,” he said, “people have been very warm and generous though.”
Stoneking plans on staying in Egypt for three months, during which he and his wife Leslie McAllister, who is also a resident artist at Artellwa, will continue working on the project. The couple will also give workshops and a talk about their work, which will be presented in a final exhibition in November.