The spectacular sculpture of 90 year-old Egyptian artist Adam Henein

A new retrospective celebrates the life and work of one of Egypt’s greatest artists. (Supplied)
Updated 11 October 2019

The spectacular sculpture of 90 year-old Egyptian artist Adam Henein

CAIRO: The acclaimed Egyptian sculptor and painter Adam Henein turns 90 this year, and his work remains relevant today, as visitors can currently see in a new retrospective — organized by the UAE’s Sharjah Art Foundation (SAF) — at the Sharjah Art Museum.

The exhibition, which runs until November 16, boasts around 80 artworks created during Henein’s eventful seven-decade career. It is part of SAF’s “Lasting Impressions” series, which, once a year, highlights a prominent Arab artist.

“We chose Adam Henein because we thought that, as a person who (has been working) since the 1950s until today, he’s one of the very few (artists) alive and who link the modernist and contemporary styles,” curator Sheikha Noora Al-Mualla tells Arab News.




Adam Henein turns 90 this year, and his work remains relevant today. (Supplied)

Born in Cairo to a family of metalworkers and jewelers, Henein’s defining encounter with art dates back to his childhood, when, aged eight, he reproduced a clay sculpture of the ancient Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten after seeing it in the Egyptian Antiquities Museum. Impressed by his talent, Henein’s supportive father would go on to display a few of his son’s sculptures in his shop in Old Cairo.

Henein went on to gain a degree in sculpting at the School of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1953, before receiving a scholarship to study in Europe. He enrolled at Munich’s Academy of Fine Arts, where artistic luminaries including Paul Klee, Josef Albers, and Alphonse Mucha once studied. And, as with so many artists, Paris was another stop for Henein — he and his wife lived in the French capital for nearly 20 years.

The time he spent in Europe was liberating and eye-opening, enabling him to experiment artistically and acquaint himself with the works of Western sculptors, according to Al-Mualla.




Henein did not limit himself to a single artistic medium or surface. (Supplied)

Henein returned to Egypt in the 1990s, and has since been heavily involved in helping to elevate the country’s cultural scene. When the government decided to initiate restoration work on the Sphinx of Giza in the late Eighties, they approached Henein to lead the design team. He was initially hesitant about taking on such a major commitment, but eventually agreed in 1989. The project was finished in 1998, and Henein was decorated for his work on it.

In “Lasting Impressions,” Henein’s works — most of which have arrived directly from his home-turned-museum in Cairo — are displayed in a minimalist layout over two wings. The exhibition reveal the artist’s little-known experimentation with abstract painting — intertwining shapes and colors creating a harmonious composition.

Henein did not limit himself to a single artistic medium or surface; he created paintings on delicate papyri, Japanese paper, and tempera.




Henein gained a degree in sculpting at the School of Fine Arts in Cairo in 1953. (Supplied)

“He did not (belong) to a certain school or method of painting and sculpting. His experimentation was different than anyone else’s,” says Al-Mualla.

The artist was most celebrated, though, for creating non-traditional, bold, smooth bronze sculptures portraying animals — including cats and dogs, so popular in ancient Egyptian art — and individuals from Egypt’s working class, particularly those in the Nile Valley city of Aswan.

Henein also turned to contemporary culture for inspiration. In the early 2000s, he produced a large statue of the iconic Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum, and a noticeably round bust of the famed Egyptian writer, playwright (and Henein’s peer) Salah Jahin.




Henein also turned to contemporary culture for inspiration. (Supplied)

One particular animal proves to be a recurring motif in Henein’s oeuvre — thoughtfully  and simply represented — the bird. Whether sleeping, standing tall, watching, or even courting, Henein’s birds are symbolic, majestic, and somehow vulnerable. Henein, it seems, was fascinated by the liberating act of flying, as one can see in a rare 1970s sketch in which he repeatedly draws small, bird-like planes.

“We see the bird throughout his career,” notes Al-Mualla. “It kind of symbolizes him as an artist; it symbolizes freedom, movement, and trying out different things.”


Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition. (Supplied)
Updated 57 min 48 sec ago

Photographers reveal Egypt’s hidden gems in show for a good cause

  • Cairo Saturday Walks are a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city
  • The team is now exhibiting its work for charity at a gallery in the city

DUBAI: The Cairo Saturday Walks team, a group of photographers who go on adventures every week to take pictures across the city, are now exhibiting their work for charity at a gallery in the city.

The exhibition brought together more than 50 local, international, professional and amateur photographers who are displaying their work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22.

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60. (Supplied)

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past, according to the founder of Cairo Saturday Walks Karim El-Hayawan.

This is the group’s fourth charitable exhibition.

El-Hayawan described the practice as an “organic experience,” during which photographers discover the city’s hidden gems.

The group is displaying its work in the Maadi district until Nov. 22. (Supplied)

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers.

El-Hayawan’s journey began after he took a basic introductory course in photography. “I did not have time during the week to work on my photography assignments. I used to go out every Saturday to take pictures and I used to post on my account. Then a lot of people started asking me ‘Where are these places? Where do you go? We want to join,’ although (these places) exist 10-15 minutes from anywhere in Cairo, but people did not notice them or had forgotten them,” he told Arab News.

The photographers walk around and discover the city’s hidden gems. (Supplied)

The group has a library of more than 15,000 pictures accessible on Instagram through #cairosaturdaywalks.

“We ask people who join us to share their pictures on that hashtag, with the intention of having a long-term documentation of Cairo,” El-Hayawan said. “Everyone takes pictures from his/her own perspective. It is extremely neutral; everyone takes pictures of whatever they want.”

In two to three years, people can go back to this documentation and see that Cairo looked this way at this time,” he said.

All proceeds from the gallery will go to the restoration of a public facility in one of the underserved areas that the group has walked in and photographed during the past. (Supplied)

A typical Saturday for the photographers starts off at a cafe. “We meet in the morning at a coffee shop and we take a little bus that we rent every Saturday and we just hit the road to somewhere random and we get lost. We call them to pick us up from wherever we reach at the end of the day. The idea is that it has no structure and I really aimed at that from the very beginning,” El-Hayawan said.

What started off as a one-man weekly walk is now a practice shared by 500 photographers. (Supplied)

The youngest participant is 13 and the oldest is 60, but El-Hayawan said that anyone can join the walk and share their pictures.

“I found out about Cairo Saturday Walks from Instagram. The spirit of people I walk with is just amazing. Also, the fact that I am Egyptian yet I still get amazed by Cairo’s streets is what pushes me to explore more every week,” Yara Wael, a 17-year-old photographer, told Arab News.