A portrait features an elderly woman with many wrinkles covering her face, each one hinting at a great struggle that has taken place. Her hands hold her headscarf down, as if she’s trying to hide the light gray hair underneath. Her gaze reveals the tiredness of her long years, yet still holds love and optimism. An observer cannot tell if the portrait was taken in the country side, in Upper Egypt or even India.
The portrait is among many others displayed at the “India and Egypt through Egyptian Lens” exhibition, which opened to the public last Thursday at The Maulan Azad Centre for Indian Culture (MACIC).
The exhibition by artist Ashraf Talaat aims to merge Egyptian and Indian culture through several portraits taken in both countries. The portraits feature the culture of India and Egypt by depicting the activities of people throughout their daily life.
From the happiness at wedding ceremonies to the tiredness of exhausting work, over 35 photos portray people’s emotions, attitudes and their nations’ heritage and history. At some point, a viewer might lose the sense of where each photo was taken.
“We’ve always believed that Egypt and India are best friends,” said Sanjay Bhattacharyya, India’s Ambassador in Egypt. “What I find in those photographs today are images of Indian society and the Egyptian one and sometimes it’s difficult to define which belongs to which. This exactly represents the merge between both of our cultures.”
Throughout the exhibition, India can be seen through Egyptian eyes with the similarities of both countries when it comes to people’s traditions in weddings, funerals and many other life events.
“Those portraits are not just street photography, they are a new form of documenting history,” said Talaat. “And history reveals that India has the same traditions as Egypt has.”
From his point of view, both countries have similar family traditions and strong bonds, even if there are differences in culinary aspects and traditional clothes. “The warmth and respect which can be felt among family members can be found in Egypt easily; however, finding such a thing in Europe is difficult to do.”
“In India, I’ve never felt as a foreigner, it’s just like being here in Egypt,” Talaat said.
The exhibition is a part of a bigger project Talaat is working on, which documents the traditions of nations, as he travelled to over 44 countries to discover their inherited behaviours. He has been working on the project since 2008, and is planning to continue documenting the rest of the world’s countries.
Talaat travelled to many countries for his photographic project about human interest. His works have been exhibited in the US, UK, Austria, Italy, Portugal and Egypt and a large number of his photographs were compiled in two books, entitled “People through the Lens” and “Point of View”.