Only a few days separate Egypt from the first contemporary art exhibition “Forever Is Now,” which will be held at Giza Pyramids, organised by Art D’Égypte. It will take place on 21 October. The international art exhibition aims to both reflect the profound, global influence of ancient Egypt and draw on the ongoing inclusiveness of contemporary cultural practices, by both Egyptian and international contemporary artists. Notably, the team behind this amazing event are all women who have a strong background in the Egyptian art market.
Women empowerment in Art D’Égypte is not just a concept, it is a reality, as every team member plays an effective role. The strength of the Art D’Égypte team is driven by each one of the nine heroines that are working to bring out the best of this event.
In this article DNE interviewed the 9-heroine team to learn about their roles, the challenges they faced, and how did they overcome them? It also digs into what’s new in this edition.
The company’s strategy is to organize a yearly pop-up show in a historic place in Egypt to shed light on the country’s abundant cultural heritage and to connect the art of Egypt’s past with that of the 21st century.
The fourth edition follows three highly successful exhibitions: Eternal Light at the Egyptian Museum (2017), Nothing Vanishes, Everything Transforms at the Manial Palace (2018), and Reimagined Narratives on al-Mu‘izz Street (2019).
How did this amazing team meet?
The team includes Art D’Égypte founder, curator, art consultant, and cultural ambassador, Nadine Abdel Ghaffar; Executive Director of Exhibition, Malak Shenouda; Executive Art Director, Hana El Beblawy; Exhibition Coordinator, Salma Al Khalid; Programme Manager, Nada Hassab; Senior Assistant Curator, HanyaElghamry; Senior Architect, Rawan Abdulhaleem; Public Relations and Communications Director, Mariam El Tagoury; and ,Social Media and Press Manager, Alaa Elsayegh.
“We’re proud to be a team of hard-working Egyptian women. Each lady in this team is ‘Hatshepsut’ in her own right, “ Nadine Abdel-Ghaffar Art D’Égypte founder told Daily News Egypt.
It’s beautiful to see that most of the team was following the yearly exhibitions and dreaming to join Nadine’s team.
“I met Nadine in my senior year at university when she came to give a lecture on the establishment of Art D’Egypte in early 2019, so I introduced myself as I was really amazed by Art D’Egypte’s initiative, mission and previous exhibitions, and by June 2019 before graduating, I started working there as part of the curating team,” ELGhamry, the senior assistant curator said.
Meanwhile, Shenouda, the executive director said that in her last year of university, she was majoring in visual arts and sociology, she read about an exhibition that happened at the Egyptian Museum.
She was very curious to go and see the exhibition, as she believed it must be a unique collection to have this honour, the collection had by then moved to the Ritz-Carlton, where she met Nadine.
“I didn’t even know she was the founder, I just asked if they did any internships for students and she confirmed she’d like me to be on board. Since then, I’ve been working at Art D’Égypte, I became a full-time employee here when I graduated,” Elghamry said happily.
Meanwhile, Exhibition Coordinator, Salma Al Khalid said that Art D’Égypte caught her eye during their outdoor exhibition in Almaza 2020, and further finding out it was an all-women team. She decided to reach out and after that, she joined Art D’Égypte in early 2021.
“A friend told me about a story on Instagram saying Art D’Égypte was looking for a new PR Director. I was intrigued as I’d heard about Art D’Égypte’s work. I applied, went through the interview process and was hired,” Public Relations and Communications Director, Mariam EL Tagoury said.
Seeing this small team of powerful women achieving their goals regardless of all the obstacles and challenges they face, inspired the Programme Manager, Nada Hassab and motivated her to be part of it. She joined Art D’Égypte as an intern in December 2019 during her senior year of university, and the work environment there encouraged her to continue.
Nadine selected Rawan Abdulhaleem in 2016 to work as an architect and interior designer. The choice is logical, as Nadine owns an Interior design company as well, and then when she established Art D’Egypte she chose again to continue working with her but this time she became a senior architect.
Social Media Manager, Alaa Elsayegh joined the team after being recommended for the job by her friend, but she was also super excited to work with the team that is behind the yearly amazing exhibition.
Every role comes with its own challenges
So it’s time to know what is the role exactly played by each heroine, what challenges they face, and how did they overcome these challenges?
Every heroine spoke about her role with a glance of hope and motivation in her eyes.
Senior Assistant Curator explained that she is responsible for the management, organisation and logistics for projects. She works directly with the lead curator on the conceptual research, curatorial development and artist liaison of exhibitions.
Elghamry said that curating exhibitions on such a large scale, within a conceptual and curatorial context, in public spaces in Egypt, with international artists has definitely been the biggest challenge so far.
She continued that with the immense support and passion of all Art D’Egypte’s team members, it has been the experience of a lifetime, she believes that the team is making history.
“I work mostly on social media but I love to dabble with other things to explore and learn. I now also support media relations and operations and events organisation in Art D’Égypte. I’m most excited about the carriages [karettas] we’ve renovated and designed for the locals at the pyramids. It’s exciting to mix giving back to the community with working and organising for such a historic event,” the Social Media Manager said.
Elsayegh said that her challenge was personal, as she is usually afraid to take risks, but Nadine helped her overcome this. She learned that taking risks is the best way to learn and gain experience.
“My role is a managerial role when it comes to fundraising, pitching new projects, closing deals, and leading the team,” the Executive Director explained.
“It is really difficult working with all these entities whether private or public sector, each sector has a different system and dynamic. Coordinating between both and having an end result that looks seamless and doesn’t show any of the many setbacks that happen is always a great challenge. However, we always pull it off at the end thanks to the hard work of the girls,” Shenouda said.
Meanwhile, the Senior Assistant Curator said that she plays a dual role, liaising with sponsors and handling guest relations including all logistics and travel arrangements for exhibition visitors. As a programme manager, Hassab is responsible for managing the art scholarship, the podcast, and grants.
“Curating an exhibition out of the white cube [the traditional gallery style that is square/rectangular and white] is definitely a big challenge, especially if that space is the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World,” Hassab explained.
“Despite all the challenges that we’ve faced, it is great to see our vision and all of the hard work of two years coming to life,” Hassab said proudly.
Talking about her role, as a senior architect and project manager, she said that a big part of it is organization and follow-through. She explained further that she puts together a project plan, develop it, coordinate between different entities, create exhibition designs, handle technical management, and monitor the progress of the project. If any problems arose, she deals with them and after the project finishes, she identifies shortcomings and plans for ways to fix similar issues in the future and highlight what went well.
Abdulhaleem said that exhibiting in a public historical space is very challenging. Also, the expansion in a project deliverable throughout the project is not an easy task. She said that anticipating any potential issues before they happen and explaining these to the team is what help the team a lot in facing any challenges.
El Tagoury is mostly managing communications and public relations strategies for Art D’Égypte. She explained that two challenges spring to mind, the first is introducing contemporary art to a wider audience here in Egypt. One of the goals in Art D’Égypte is to democratise art and make it accessible for all, hence Art D’Égypte’s exhibitions are open to the public, with no exorbitantly priced tickets to gain access.
“The contemporary art scene has its enthusiasts in Egypt of course but we do hope to make it more accessible and relatable to a wider audience who can also share the pride of our amazing Egyptian contemporary artists,” she continued.
“The second challenge is presenting this very unique concept of Art D’Égypte of exhibiting contemporary art in heritage sites. The idea is so bizarre yet holds so much intrigue. When communicating to the world they ask, ‘is it a fair, a biennale?’ And the answer is no it’s a unique concept made by Nadine. Working with such a creative mindset has its perks of course as it is inspiring to hear her talk about each and every project, artist, artwork, and detail involved; the challenge, and my job, is to translate these amazing dreams that are becoming realities into a dialogue that all can comprehend,” the Public Relations and Communications Director said.
The Exhibition Coordinator explained that her role is handling the artistic, technical, and logistical aspects of the exhibition.
She said that facing a few projects and entities at the same time can be quite complex, however, seeing the end result is always rewarding and worth the challenges.
What’s new in this year’s edition
They all agreed that what distinguishes this year is that It’s the first international art exhibition at the pyramids of Giza – combining the ancient with the contemporary; a cross-cultural collaboration influenced by our ancient Egyptian civilisation and how it’s inspired the modern and contemporary artistic practice. The 9-heroine team explained that being an international exhibition meaning that it is not just featuring Egyptian artists like every year, but it also features leading artists from around the globe
Also, In this year’s edition, artists with different backgrounds and nationalities are united to create a dialogue between their spectacular artworks and the Ancient Egyptian civilisation.
“Forever is now is the first of its kind, an international art exhibition curated at the pyramids of Giza in its 4500-year history. The pyramids are not just a UNESCO world heritage site but also the oldest and only remaining of the 7 wonders of the ancient world. The artworks will be displayed directly on the grounds of the Giza plateau surrounding the visitors’ route, achieving a unique experience for the visitors to witness contemporary art so close to historical monuments,” Art D’Égypte founder told Daily News Egypt.
Art D’Égypte is also working on a parallel project called Cairo International Art District (CIAD). It is the first edition of a diverse artistic and cultural exhibition in Downtown Cairo. CIAD gathers local and international artists from around the world showcasing the beauty of modern and contemporary art.