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A KHAWAGA'S TALE: Maadi church bridges east-west gap through art - Daily News Egypt

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A KHAWAGA'S TALE: Maadi church bridges east-west gap through art

I’ve always had a nose for a party, and on Jan. 29, St. John’s Church in Maadi is transforming into a caravansary for Egyptian and foreign artists, staging an exhibition that I feel is going to be extraordinary. As with the four Ps in marketing, a good party has Carrigan’s four ‘Ss’: Spirit, spontaneity, sass …


I’ve always had a nose for a party, and on Jan. 29, St. John’s Church in Maadi is transforming into a caravansary for Egyptian and foreign artists, staging an exhibition that I feel is going to be extraordinary.

As with the four Ps in marketing, a good party has Carrigan’s four ‘Ss’: Spirit, spontaneity, sass and sausages.

Spirit is the energy that gets the party started. Spontaneity is that special appeal, the word on the street, which makes it hip and cool. Sass: the playful mischievousness that makes it a little naughty and the sizzle in the sausage that wafts through the market and pulls the punters in.

I sneaked a peek during the week inside St. John’s Church, where the exhibition will feature 18 artists who have painted two pieces each. The exhibition focuses on two different subjects: Bridging the divide between east and west, and presenting an interpretation of the Maadi church.

It is an unprecedented gathering of renowned Arab and Western artists who have come together to use art as a bridge for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue.

Social, political or art movements throughout history have had a buzz around them and this exhibition, “On a Caravan – East and West journeying together through the arts, has that sizzle which is attracting international media, celebrities and the great and the good.

There is word on the street that well-known bishops, ambassadors, journalists from premier art magazines and global newspapers, and even movie stars might be showing up.

I would usually be somewhat cynical about ecumenical movements bridging the orient and occidental worlds given the last 20 years of blood letting, but St. John’s Church and the Rev. Paul Gordon-Chandler, have form.

St. John’s knows how to throw a party. Rev. Chandler, who speaks French like a native of Senegal where he spent his childhood (funny that), has brought speakers like hostage negotiator and hostage, Terry Waite, and bestselling author William Dalrymple, to speak in the church’s Cairo Lecture series.

This Church has brought artists of such high caliber as Mohamed Abla, arguably Egypt’s leading contemporary artist, and Downtown legend, Omar El Fayoumi.

Add to this the likes of Dr Farid Fadel, who is renowned for his realistic paintings of Egyptian life, and the pipe organ sculpture by participant British artist Roland Prime that adorns the front lawn of St. John’s will be whistling the guests through the gates in droves.

An artist representing the West is former East German, Isolde Kadry, who paints spectacularly colorful street scenes and popular artist such as Cuban-American Maria Maher, who in her own words is “addicted to painting.

My favorite of course is the Australian artist, Connie Fiorelli, who has married east and west into a bright sunny painting entitled “Aboriginal Dreaming.

Price tags for these original paintings will be between LE 3,000 and LE 18,000, and I am predicting a sell out for three reasons.

Firstly: the quality of art and the renown of a number of the artists. Secondly: the souvenir and investment potential of the pieces, as any of these would capture the essence of the Egyptian experience for the thousands of expatriates living in Cairo.

But thirdly, they are not stereotypical of the region. Originality permeates through this exhibit, as does an energy that I think you’ll agree, when you see them, provides that all-important sizzle.

During last Wednesday’s gathering for all the “Caravan artist participants, the emphasis was on interacting together. Mohamed Abla, who has sold through Christies and Sotheby’s, used a technique he has developed to get people painting each other through a clear sheet of plastic.

A great party ice beaker if ever there was one. The model stands on one side of the plastic and the artist paints the figure they see in front of them. Simple, but genius.

Like all genius, this exhibition is simple, but has its roots with Chandler, who has long been involved with inter-faith dialogue and reaching for common purpose.

Of course, all people have parties in common; so on Jan. 29 at 8 pm, get ye along to St John’s for a new look at the message of art, without pretension, clichés or preaching.

St. John’s ChurchAt the corner of Port Said Rd & Rd 17Maadi, CairoTel: (02) 2358 3085www.oncaravan.orgJan. 29 – Feb. 5 (closed Feb. 1)Opening Reception Jan. 29, 8 pm

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Topics: Gamma Islamiya

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