“Having specific Egyptian imagery accessible to me throughout my childhood and teenage years left an indelible mark on my memory, and it seeps into my work,” says Dallas-based contemporary Egyptian artist Marian Mekhail, a few days before her solo exhibition “Maktub”.
Marian chose “Maktub”, which means “it is written” in Arabic, as the name of her exhibition, in line with her belief that it was written for her hands to create and for her voice to “amplify Egyptian stories”.
After reading Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, Marian was inspired by the book’s main message: “The central theme of always remembering that your journey is your treasure, and that the universe will conspire in helping you to achieve your mission, truly resonated with me,” Mekhail tells Egyptian Streets.
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Inspired by themes of purpose, love, and spirituality from Coelho’s novel, Marian reimagines its original characters with Egyptian gods and goddesses, to pay tribute to her own Egyptian heritage.
Growing up in an Egyptian household, Egyptian music strongly influenced Marian’s upbringing. At a very young age, she appreciated classic Egyptian ballads by the famed Egyptian legend Om Kalthoum, and enjoyed the iconic Egyptian composer Omar Khairat’s music as it brought her “immense peace.” Outside the house, Mekhail was brought up in the Coptic Orthodox church, which also heavily influenced her.
“The only instruments used during liturgy are the cymbals and the triangle. The roots of the music are truly Pharaonic. Those songs are stamped into my memory, and have left an indelible mark on my mind,” she explains, referring to her upbringing in the Coptic Orthodox Church.
“The resiliency of the Egyptian people and the creativity of our ancestors’ flow through my veins,” she adds.
Mekhail strongly believes in reexamining gender roles and contributing to the current feminist movement. In her artwork, she portrays women as the main protagonists to get rid of common patriarchal trends.
“Often, it is men who tend to have a higher disposable income. I want to be a part of the shift in which women are investing more and more into fine art,” she explains.
Her paintings include “Omens”, which depicts Isis, goddess of life and healing, “Damsel in Distress”, shows Hathor, goddess of love and fertility, and “Starstruck Lovers”, a gender-swapped reimagination of Ramses’ encounter with Hathor in the afterlife.
To support an Egyptian cause, a portion of the proceeds from Mekhail’s branded merchandise and prints will be donated to Coptic Orphans, an award-winning international Christian development organization.
“My goal is to inspire my audience to seek beauty in all things, all people, and all colors… to uplift and encourage those around me to use their gifts to help those around them,” concludes Mekhail.
The opening reception for “Maktub: It is written” will be held on 13 November at The Whiskey Spot in Dallas TX.
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