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Up-Close with Voices from Egypt’s Contemporary Art Scene

November 1, 2017
Artwork by El side effect.

It is sometimes said that the role of artists is to attempt to express what their society feels at a given moment in their history. The emotions, personal struggles, collective hardships and transformative events of a people have been, or ought to be, captured in works produced by artists. In Egypt, having experienced many eras of turmoil and upheaval throughout its history, art, in all its forms, is a fruitful and engaging source for the contemporary reader of society. However, the Egyptian art scene remains a heavily contested space. Ever since what is considered the birth of the modern Egyptian art movement in the early twentieth century, aesthetic expressions have been at once seen as a colonial import and an elitist project, an authentic expression of Egypt’s national essence, as well as a means of popular mobilization, or a mere cosmopolitan endeavor. A new generation of Egyptian artists, strongly influenced by contemporaneous nationalist sentiments, emerged and took it upon themselves to express their appreciation for their country’s national history through their artistic work. In the following century, Egyptian art would go through many stages of change. Mainstream art largely followed…

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