By Fanny Ohier
Startling, comforting and amusing are the best way to describe the Artellewa art space. Concealed in a maze of Ard El Lewa streets, reachable only by tuk-tuk or on foot, Artellewa is a unique space in its surroundings. Once you find Mohamed Ali Al Eseary Street the search is not over though, none of the buildings sport a number but as you continue down the street first the Artellewa banner will catch your eye and then you will notice the clean white walls that make the art space stand out.
“Sometimes people just stop by,” Hamdy Reda, the managing director of Artellewa, said. “In general I select artists whose ideas interact with the audience to attract people to come in to Artellewa. I choose the artists who have work that challenges people’s way of thinking and provokes an internal dialogue.”
Reda’s idea to bring art to a densely populated neighbourhood that had so far been denied any artistic space is heartening. “People know it is not a regular shop and it stops the eye as people pass by,” he added. “In general, at an opening, a lot of audience is from the art scene but also some people from the neighbourhood.”
The unexpected art space comprises two rooms, and currently one is showing Mohamed El Masry’s exhibition. “We are the end of the world” say the pictures hung up on the walls. Reda explained: “Violence attracts attention. El Masry works on several levels with his photographs: the colours, the violence and the shapes. Whoever is a victim of violence, wherever and whenever it takes place, are united in its sharing.”
In the black and white pictures the humiliated bodies are the focus that demands the viewers’ attention. Bodies in pain are enhanced by red flowers that replace their heads. In each piece a blossoming rose is a sign of life, as a sign of the common humanity people in pain share in their despair; the humiliated, the abased and cast aside, captured by different photographers.
El Masry gathered the shots and modified them. Interested in using art as a means to relay a message to his audience, the artist chose to make people wonder about maintaining humanity and civilisation. Selecting famous pictures of ethnic cleansing, shot by photographers from all over the world, El Masry takes the suffering of humankind and expresses it in undifferentiated floral-headed victims.
Since the first exhibition at the beginning of last year, the small room of Artellewa has been filled with different artworks but the space is more than just a gallery. Artellewa organises workshops, lectures, movie screenings and art works in general. “We became more interested in the process of making art than in exhibiting and the final work itself,” Reda explained.