Egyptian painter Omar Abdelzaher’s ‘inspirational’ artwork

Egyptian artist Omar Abdelzaher’s exhibition is located at the downtown Cairo exhibition hall of Mashrabia gallery. (Supplied)
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Updated 09 January 2020

Egyptian painter Omar Abdelzaher’s ‘inspirational’ artwork

  • The Egyptian painter’s latest exhibition depicts rural life in Aswan 

CAIRO: Three female-focused paintings welcomed me as I stepped into the downtown Cairo exhibition hall of Mashrabia gallery in December. It was the site of Egyptian artist Omar Abdelzaher’s latest exhibition, “Inspirations from the South” — a profound meditation on life in the south of Egypt, specifically the Nile-side city of Aswan.

The first painting was of a mother putting her child to sleep as they exchange a look, with a crescent moon adorning the upper-right corner of the otherwise thoroughly black background. Next to it was a vibrant painting with a yellow background; a bride carries a hand mirror as two other women treat her to some pre-wedding pampering. The same theme of bridal beauty prep characterized the third painting — of a bride looking into a hand mirror carried by another woman, with a crescent moon in the background.




This painting was of a mother putting her child to sleep as they exchange a look, with a crescent moon adorning the upper-right corner of the otherwise thoroughly black background. (Supplied)

“I like to capture the details of pre-wedding traditions,” Abdelzaher told me as we toured the exhibition, full of other paintings that focus on domestic life and family relations. The aesthetic appeal of the paintings aside, it is the sensitivity with which Abdelzaher paints his female figures and their private worlds that is so striking. 

“Many artists who portrayed Aswan in their works — especially male artists like Hussein Bicar, Seif and Adham Wanly — painted Aswan homes from the outside, because they could not gain access to the inner world of these spaces,” says the Cairo-based Aswan-born artist. “Only female artists could set foot in these domestic spaces. Whether it was Tahia Halim, Inji Aflatoun or Gazibiyya Sirri, they were all able to capture the specifics of domestic life in their paintings.”




This vibrant painting with a yellow background; a bride carries a hand mirror as two other women treat her to some pre-wedding pampering. (Supplied)

Abdelzaher adds that his years growing up in Aswan familiarized him with these spaces traditionally reserved for women alone.

Beyond being a sensitive portraiture of domesticity in the southern Egyptian city, the exhibition was also a celebration of Aswan’s vibrant city life. 

Thirty-four oil paintings, spanning the years 2013 to 2019, were on display. Together, they “apprise us about Egyptian folklore,” the exhibition statement claimed.




Beyond being a sensitive portraiture of domesticity in the southern Egyptian city, the exhibition was also a celebration of Aswan’s vibrant city life. (Supplied)

“Expressed by Omar in delightful colors stemming from the local reality, (and) the artist's passion to document Egyptian folklore and cultural heritage, depicting scenes of people’s life in Egypt (addressing) folkloric symbols, social norms, as well as aspects of men and women in their daily work,” it continued. 

“I paint from memory. I will recall an encounter that happened in front of an ice-cream cart some 30 years ago and it will quickly find its way to my next painting,” explained Abdelzaher. “My paintings are attempts to depict the traditions of rural life in Aswan.”

The works on display certainly did that: Street vendors selling their goods, men gathering in an ahwa (Egyptian-style coffee house), and couples in romantic settings, along with agricultural activities including fruit picking and fishing. 




Abdelzaher also incorporates elements of ancient Egyptian pharaonic art into his paintings, reflecting his multiple academic pursuits (he holds an art PhD). (Supplied)

Walking around the exhibition truly felt like taking a stroll in Aswan. As we continued our tour, we came across a painting of a woman lying down, with the Nile — and the gorgeous Aswan landscape — behind her. “You could say that this woman represents Aswan,” the artist told me. Abdelzaher sees the Nile — which he refers to as “al-Nil abouna” (Our father, the Nile) — as “part of the daily experience of living in Aswan,” as opposed to Cairo, “where you would actually have to drive to see the Nile.” 

Beyond the vivid folkloric aspects of his work, Abdelzaher also incorporates elements of ancient Egyptian pharaonic art into his paintings, reflecting his multiple academic pursuits (he holds an art PhD). 

He explained that he sometimes includes the pyramidal composition of ancient paintings, symbols, and other instances of primitive art in his paintings. “Studying and researching everything from ancient art to folktales and fables has certainly elevated my work,” he said. 


Georges Chakra politicizes couture in an ode to Lebanon

Georges Chakra continuously unveils his aesthetic concepts through his couture shows during fashion weeks. (Supplied)
Updated 21 January 2020

Georges Chakra politicizes couture in an ode to Lebanon

  • The 47-piece offering was an extravagant ode to the Beirut-born designer’s home country of Lebanon, where nation-wide protests have been ongoing for the past couple of months

PARIS: Lebanese Georges Chakra presented his Spring 2020 couture collection at Paris’ Petit Palace on Monday. The 47-piece offering was an extravagant ode to the Beirut-born designer’s home country of Lebanon, where nation-wide protests have been ongoing for the past couple of months.

Lebanese Georges Chakra presented his Spring 2020 couture collection at Paris’ Petit Palace. (Supplied)

Placed on each of the guest’s seats along with the show notes was a synthetic white rose accompanied by a note that read “un rose pour la liberte,” which translates to “one rose for freedom.”

Placed on each of the guest’s seats along with the show notes was a synthetic white rose which read “one rose for freedom.” (Supplied)

The message? Fashion is an act of resistance. Chakra wanted to create the real-life looks that reflected the sophisticated and rebellious nature of Lebanese women. These included a show-stopping lineup of striking eveningwear in a burst of white, hot pink and blue color palettes.

Chakra’s brand signature combines elaborate and intricate back details coupled with modern and bold fabrics. (Supplied)

The glimmer-creating Japanese app Kirakira, which turns anything sparkly into a disco ball–like reflection of shine and shimmer, was the preferred medium for capturing Chakra’s runway today — and rightly so. There were plenty of crystal and sequin embellished pieces on the runway that will surely hit the red carpet soon. 

There were plenty of crystal and sequin embellished pieces on the runway that will surely hit the red carpet soon. (Supplied)

Standout looks included a pink, strapless satin duchesse dress that was short at the front and long at the back and boasted a violet floral print, an asymmetrical gown that featured dashes of sequins in varying hues of green, an icy blue sheath dress with an organza train and a hand-painted blue-grey gazar dress with a fan shaped neckline.

Chakra wanted to create the real-life looks that reflected the sophisticated and rebellious nature of Lebanese women. (Supplied)

You can picture his longtime client US actress Janina Gavankar looking devastating on the red carpet wearing the bright pink slit dress with a criss-cross neckline and long train. Or his new client, actress Nina Kiri, who wore one of his creations to the 2020 Screen Actors Guild Awards on Jan. 20, in the strapless, aquamarine satin dress with a high slit.

Chakra began his work in a war-clad Beirut, after he graduated from Canada. (Supplied)

As is customary, the last look was the bridal look. The off-the-shoulder wedding dress was accessorized with a glittering emerald and diamond necklace made by Lebanese jeweler Fawaz Gruosi. In addition to the striking sartorial lineup, the necklace will also be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds going to Beirut’s Children's Cancer Center of Lebanon and scholarships at the Ecole Saint Vincent de Paul.