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Sunday, May 31, 2009

The artist as a Sufi

Artist, academic and designer Abdel-Moneim Moawad offered the public a treat at his recent exhibition, fittingly named Sufi Square, which ran from 4 to 12 May at the main exhibition hall of the Faculty of Applied Arts, Helwan University, where Moawad teaches.

Interpreting Sufi spirituality with a blend of Egyptian folklore, Moawad offered a glimpse of a spirituality wrapped in the folds of mediaeval design. His pieces brought to life themes of Islamic calligraphy and decorative patterns, packaged for industrial use as well as artistic expression. The collection brings fresh perspectives to Islamic art and takes it to new heights of creativeness.
The pieces he shows can be applied to curtains, carpets, clothes, stained glass and mosaic. They can also be used as full-scale murals in public places. Some of the exhibits are computer-enlarged sketches that have textile potential. Others evoke needlepoint and handmade carpets and scarves. One of his designs has already been used to produce a 9x15- metre carpet for a factory space.

That he can draw so much upon Islamic art is no doubt related to where and how he grew up. He has spent most of his life in the old parts of Cairo, the areas of Ghuriya, Gammaliya, Khayamiya, and Bab Al-She'riya. As a child, he had the chance to admire the complex ornamentations of mediaeval Islamic art as he walked past the Mosque of Sultan Hassan, the Rifaai Mosque, the Blue Mosque, the Muayyad Mosque, the Sultan Al-Ghuri Mosque and Madrasa, and the sabil and kottab of Umm Abbas on Saliba Street. His photographic memory retained those details, and a life of focus on Islamic themes, part of which he spent as a restorer, added maturity to his outlook.


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