By Samira Mahmoud
The statues at the sixth annual Caravan Exhibition range from fanciful to provocative, and vary in medium and technique. But they all address the same human experience: prayer.
SODIC and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture brought together 30 prominent Egyptian artists and 18 international artists for the project, which aims to promote religious tolerance and mutual understanding. Each artist was invited to give their own unique rendition of prayer in the form of a fibreglass sculpture in various prayer poses.
Reverend Paul-Gordon Chandler, Caravan’s founder and director, selected prayer as this year’s theme, as it is a common theme to all three Abrahamic faiths. Having lived in many countries in Africa and the Middle East where the three religions coexist, he said, he had always been interested in highlighting the common ground rather than disparities between the faiths.
Last year’s highly colourful Caravan event featured statues of donkeys – global symbols of peace and compassion – in large or small versions, painted by various Egyptian and international artists. The donkey exhibition, which was also displayed in St. Paul’s Cathedral in England, was documented in a book that was feted in Cairo and abroad.This year’s exhibition does not disappoint: from fanciful to provocative, the artists varied greatly in the themes and techniques they chose for to represent their interpretations of “The Prayer”. The pieces were expressive and joyful, uplifting at their best.
In one particularly engaging piece, Egyptian artist Souad Abdel Rasoul showed Adam and Eve, where it all began. The piece shows the pair on the back of a figure whose large heart grew roots in blue waters below and expansive branches towards the sky above.
“Art speaks to people across cultures,” Rasoul said, “Regardless of which language you speak, you can still access art.”
Artist Ammar Abou Bakr depicted a person crouched in prayer, wearing a camouflage pattern with flies on it (indicating something rotten). The figure rests on a typical prayer mat marked with a uniformed figure at the head rest point.
For another piece, artist Karim Abdel Malik cut out a large space in the middle, and hung the top part of the statue from an elaborate keychain.
After the exhibit in Cairo, the statues will be displayed at the Nation Cathedral in Washington DC, and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.