In the heart of Downtown Cairo is a small art gallery Cairopolitan that creates products inspired by the city’s pop culture.
The project was founded by artist Ahmed Hefnawy and has been in the works since 2006. In early July of this year, the gallery opened its door tickling the brains of many Cairene with intriguing illustrations -turned – products inspired by every day things that brand the city. The products are handmade using local material.
The city of Cairo, known for its busy streets and sleepless nights, is home for 18 million people. It is a hub for cross-cultures around the region thanks to its geographical location.
This city embodies a distinct pop culture that resonates with anyone who has lived and continues to live here and becomes part of every Cairenes identity. Hefnawy decided to turns pop culture into commercial art to highlight the shared identity amongst all the resident’s of the city regardless of their nationality, background, and class.
In an interview with Daily News Egypt, Hefnawy said “In Egypt’s commercial market, the souvenirs are all inspired by the Pharonic era, so we took inspiration from daily life in Cairo that we all know of and redesigned it to serve a different purpose.”
At the exhibition, the traditional Egyptian Baladi bread, which is often used to make Egyptian street food like foul and falafel sandwiches, is on display as a pouch can be used as either makeup bag or a pencil case. It is accompanied by a metal plate and wrapped in newspaper just like the sandwiches sold in food carts.
It is almost impossible to miss Cairo’s red bricks buildings that are infecting the city. These bricks, which are transformed into tissue boxes by Cairopolitan, only add to the city’s classical modern day architecture. Cairopolitan artists also created an Egyptian passport inspired sketchbook used to document travel journals.
“This gallery adds something completely different from other places. It’s not like someone reprinted something on a produced and presented it to you. Every product we have has a detailed concept and idea behind it. Every product serves a purpose,” Cairopolitan’s Manager and Creative Directors, Nelly Sharkawy explained to Daily News Egypt.
One of the iconic Cairo-centric things is the metal balance weight that is often used in scales at vegetable and fruit markets in Egypt. The artists have turned this into an ashtray to also draw attention to Cairo’s “heavy smoking” problem.
Inspired by the black and white Cairo taxi’s meter, that seems to be out-of-service all the time, Cairopolitan turned this nostalgic metal piece into a tissue box.
People’s response to this project has been very positive. Some costumers were so inspired that they have shared product ideas with the Cairopolitan artists. The gallery hopes to release a new batch of fresh pop culture product designs every few months in order to revive the city’s identity.
Henfawy highlighted that, “it is important that when I display a product in a store or an exhibition that it resonates with everyone.”