The El-Sawy Cultural Center attempts to contribute to Egyptian-American cultural exchange
Is Abe Lincoln wearing a fez and George Washington in a pharaoh’s headdress hokey? A bit, but blatant attempts at “cultural dialogue, often can’t avoid the hokey. Overall, El-Sawy Cultural Center’s show of Egyptian and American artists is an interesting mix of two heritages.
These photographs and paintings attempt to document the people and worlds from which they come. Watercolors of the Western Desert stand next to portraits of Native Americans. The show features a wide range of styles, from detailed, realistic portraits of American flamenco dancers to abstract blue disks painted on a white background.
Nabil Makar, an Egyptian artist who has lived in the US for nearly 40 years, has brought together these artists. Most of them are art professors that have made trips to America and Egypt with Makar. He has long been a proponent of cross-cultural dialogue, especially since 9/11 brought so many misunderstandings between the US and the Middle East to the forefront of world debate.
“Everybody must do his part in the world. Artists cannot carry guns or be doctors, Makar said. “But they can express themselves with their brushes and pencils. There must be mutual understanding.
Although he grew up in Egypt, Makar has spent most of his life in the US and only recently started to return to his home country every year. Makar’s whole career has centered on the idea of Egyptian-American cultural exchange. “I want to carry the art flag for Egypt and its people outside, he said.
The artists in this show are from a variety of ethnic backgrounds within Egypt and America. Most of them are art professors, who are acutely aware of how their work might teach and influence society.
The turnout at the opening of this show was small, which Makar did not fail to notice. He feels a strong connection to both Egypt and the United States and has been disappointed that the American community in Cairo does not support his work.
“Where are the Americans? Not a single official comes. Not from the embassy or from the American Egyptian Chamber of Commerce, he said. “I didn’t ask for money, but at least moral support. Americans don’t do anything to change our image … I’m not angry. I’m just disappointed at the wasted opportunity for Americans and Egyptians to do something.