Sunday, September 13, 2009

A tale of two cities

Monday 06 July 2009 - 05:04 PM
A tale of two cities
Can East meet West? Amira El-Noshokaty attended a photo exhibition that highlights the possibilities

At Al-Gezira art center, the green and red footprints lead you to two portraits of young people from both worlds greeting you with the same smile and welcoming one to Hamdy Reda and Pekka Persson latest photo exhibition: 30 Degrees.

“The title 30 degrees was my idea, because it’s the measurement between the Lines of Latitude separating where I live in Cairo and where Persson lives in Oslo," explained Hamdy Reda who spoke on behalf of his partner who left Cairo. Reda noted that the exhibition aims to highlight the points of similarities between both cities by spending two month in each city and capturing a comprehensive scope.

Several photos comparing and contrasting women from both parts of the world, a wall to wall photo collage of windows that reflect the inner worlds of various people from both countries, each living their stories as the night falls. A set of photos capturing two little girls playing and a sign of Go-Home on top; as well as various artistic infusions that sees snow on the pyramids and women sunbathing amidst Egyptian local districts. Both visual artists with a passion for photography, Reda and Persson toy with the possibilities of photography that transcends it from documenting to a visual medium of artistic expression.

“Real artists are not limited to one medium, it depends on the topic," Reda explained adding that this exhibition is more of a dialogue between two artists and their relationship with such cities is manifested through photo collage, art installation and regular photographs. But such dialogue is not rid of differences in opinion, noted Reda as he revealed that the different backgrounds of each artist made them view things differently. On the one hand the dress code of a local district of Ard Ellewa was rather limiting to Persson who didn’t abide by it. While being in Oslo Reda was alienated by the coldness of the city. “However in the end we realized that despite all the different backgrounds, culture and geographical areas, people are pretty much the same. They share that basic human foundation," he added.

Reda’s set of photos capturing two little girls playing outdoors topped by a handwritten sign: Go Home is a statement in itself. “Both girls are playing, have energy and need space, despite the difference in the marble space of the opera house which is opened for the public in Oslo-Unlike here, which is pretty difficult for local people to get in-and the Egyptian girl who plays on the street," explained Reda. Go Home was a sign targeting refuges and it revealed the way some locals feel about foreigners on an individual level. A thing that negates the efforts of the government to integrate foreigners who comprise some 20 percent of the city’s population. With more than 50 percent of its inhabitants living alone, this city can be very harsh, continued Reda. “I wanted to emphasize that one can achieve best on one’s own ground. I am here and he is there, we can communicate but when I am on my land."

On a parallel note, Persson’s green and red footprints that lead to the exhibition reflect his view that is stated in his editorial where he explains that he can choose to go along with the group or question its rights to govern his mind. “On the other hand I can choose to do both, I can choose to be both here and there .. .. Standing at the cross road, one foot of the other set s the wheel in motion. It is green. We stop for any numbers of reasons. It is red." His CairOslo art installations and collage creating snow at the pyramid plateau and a Norwegian couple watching the Cairo rooftops is a fresh flair of artistic reality.

However, Ruba Bekia, Persson’s seven minute video interpretation of the issue of garbage collection in both cities is quite remarkable. “Anything can be recycled here, in contrast to the automated drive-in efficiency in the Norwegian recycling system," read Persson’s commentary on the exhibition. “ The Ruba Bekia installation will consist of images projected on to used old materials; materials which in Oslo will be useless while in Cairo they represent valuable spare parts," he explained.

On the opposite wall lies Reda’s slideshow titled Fixed Cadre, in which he fixes his lens at a café in Cairo and Oslo respectively and every now and then takes a shot from the same angle hence revealing different people on the same set.

Aside from photography Reda’s latest project is Artellewa an art-space Reda founded and managed since 2007 in his own local neighborhood Ard Ellewa. “It’s a small space physically speaking but it’s got plenty of room for creativity," he explained adding how such a district with its numerous workshops is a rich medium for inspiration as well as a good chance to let ordinary people have a taste of contemporary art. Foreign and Egyptian artists loved it because – regular people-the man on the street gets to see their works.

30 Degrees, Gezira Art Center

1 Al-Marsafi street Zamalek


Open thru July 10

Daily except Friday from 10 am to 2 pm and from 5pm to 9 pm


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