Egyptian artist Hady Boraey: ‘Without roots, we would be lost’

The artist’s work taps rich memories from his childhood in Beheira, a coastal governorate in the north of Egypt in the Nile Delta. (Supplied)
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Updated 04 September 2020

Egyptian artist Hady Boraey: ‘Without roots, we would be lost’

  • The Egyptian artist’s work tackles universal themes but is inspired by his personal history

LONDON: Egyptian artist Hady Boraey creates works that pay homage to the rich heritage of his homeland, but retains a universality of narrative and emotion.

“I inherited this huge legacy from the Pharaonic era. When you are born into a county like Egypt, you are used to knowing that your forefathers built these incredible monuments and temples with massive stones and you see perfection — something impossible and extraordinary,” Boraey told Arab News. “So I have been influenced by this legacy of the old, Egyptian era — and a lot of people see it in my work — but I feel I am painting and drawing a global society.”

His work taps rich memories from his childhood in Beheira, a coastal governorate in the north of Egypt in the Nile Delta. Both family history and myths fuel his imagination. Many of his paintings include figures bearing carved rocks or stones — symbolizing the personal histories that we all carry with us wherever we go.

“Gazing up at the moon.” (Supplied)

“Without roots we would be lost. We need our roots to guide us and motivate us and keep us on track,” Boraey explained. “I always talk to my (ancestors) and try to communicate with them through my work and my success. I try to keep them in mind based on the many stories I (was told by) my father.”

That sense of identity comes through in several of the artist’s paintings — take, for example, his striking portrayal of a young man staring at the viewer, holding a bird to his chest.

“I see in this image a reflection of myself and my journey as a man who was raised in a small community, which contains the kind of relationships that make you feel part of a big family,” Boraey said. “This is an abiding inspiration for me. I am part of this big family that lived in a space where they were raised, and this space has been moved to another identity.

“Couple raising their hands in the early morning light towards flock of birds overhead representing infinity.” (Supplied)

“I keep this version of the family I was raised in — they lived very simply and interacted with nature,” he continued. “I used to see this, and I kept it in my soul and I reflect and symbolize it by drawing this guy with his mask face looking directly into your eyes. He is keeping his little birds near to his heart.”

Birds also feature in another of his works: A painting depicting a man and woman with their hands raised towards the early morning sky as a flock of birds flies overhead. The birds in this work, he explained, represent infinity and the couple, in reaching up, show their optimism and determination to embrace life.

Boraey said he felt compelled to draw from a very young age. “No one encouraged me,” he recalled. “It was like something pushing me: I had to draw on any available piece of paper.”

“Man with carved stone.” (Supplied)

That early impulse has translated into an illustrious career. Now aged 36, he has participated in dozens of group shows, and been the subject of several solo exhibitions, in the Middle East and Europe and has been honored with the award of the Medal of Appreciation from the Bibliotheca Alexandria.

Recently, his painting ‘Still Journeying” won first place in peace-building NGO Caravan’s “Heal the World” exhibition. The image represents the human journey through the centuries, with all our vulnerabilities and resilience laid bare.

While Boraey is a practicing Muslim, a humanistic view — rather than a strictly Islamic one — drives his work. He believes all faiths are pathways to the divine.

“All religions call on people to live at peace with themselves and with others. If people followed that guidance we would live in a perfect world,” he said.

Farm to table: Lebanese initiative ‘From the Villages’ celebrates local talent 

Updated 20 October 2020

Farm to table: Lebanese initiative ‘From the Villages’ celebrates local talent 

DUBAI: In an act of solidarity with Lebanon’s villagers, farmers and local artisans, a group of innovative Lebanese graduates are operating an online platform that provides a wide array of their homemade products and crafts to those residing mainly in Beirut, as well as other cities across the country. 

At a time when a number of businesses were closing down, “From the Villages” was born from the COVID-19 lockdown in May. It all started through a fateful conversation between a few individuals who wanted to share good quality produce and foods from their southern, fertile village of Deir Mimas with others.

“Because people in their villages don’t find markets to sell (at), we thought why don’t we sell this food online?” the e-platform’s managing partner Hani Touma told Arab News. “By using technology and having a platform, they can sell their products and reach a wider range of customers.” 

The team designed their website and launched a couple of days later, with a few available items. Today, its offerings have expanded and clients can access a variety of 25 product categories, which include herbs, dairies, jams, olives, syrups, distillates, soaps and pottery. An eco-friendly project, all of the products are minimally packaged and locally made by nearly 50 artisans and farmers, living in 20 villages, mostly from the south.  

“We’re working with real household people,” said Touma. “Some of the ladies that we work with are 60, 70 years old and this is their only job. It started as a fun project and now it’s growing. We’re helping a lot of the suppliers and they’re having regular income, although it’s going up and down because of the economic situation in Lebanon.” 

Prior to the spread of COVID-19, Lebanon was already suffering from decades-long mismanagement and a financial crisis, in which citizens couldn’t access their bank savings, unemployment and inflation spiked and the Lebanese Lira devalued exponentially. 

In addition, Lebanon stands far from its full potential when it comes to local agricultural production as it imports more than 80 percent of its food items. The efforts of Touma, his business partner Sari Hawa, along with their tightly knit team of experts, are amongst the latest aiming to cultivate a culture of homegrown food concepts through grassroots initiatives.  

“Now, even the products imported have started to be missing from the supermarkets,” explained Touma. “I think this was why ‘From the Villages’ grew very fast, because people were not able to find some of their food – like jams, for example. They were all imported from outside. But now, you have a local product available directly at your doorstep.”

Following the deadly Beirut port explosion on Aug. 4, the “From the Villages” team suspended operations for a month and is currently slowly picking up again by carrying out deliveries twice per week. “Everything is working against us,” said Touma, “but we’re trying to stay on the ground and fix everything.”