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From Egypt with art

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Egyptian artist Farid Fadel was part of the third Egypt Cultural Week held in Malawi where he exhibited 21 of his works.

It was his first time to visit Malawi and the Sub-Saharan Africa.

But with all that said, he came to Malawi for serious business and that is to learn from Malawian artists but also share his art.

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Throughout the exhibition, the artist interacted with local artists among them Elson Kambalu and did not mince words saying that the country has talent.

Born in 1958 into a family noted for its doctors, lawyers and engineers, Fadel was encouraged since his early childhood to take his talents seriously.

During his school years he held five solo exhibitions of his artwork and the success of his early art endeavors, however did not deter him from studying medicine and graduating as an ophthalmologist from Cairo University.

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In addition to working as an eye doctor at the Memorial Institute of Ophthalmology, Fadel’s main vocation saw him turning to painting since his graduation from medical school in 1981.

“I am happy to visit Malawi for the first time and the first time out of Egypt. My first impression is very positive, the land is green, the people are religious and very kind and very talented,” he said with a little smile.

Fadel is not only into painting, he is also a pianist and sings in church and so he did not hesitate to take time out to go to church.

“I performed at St Peters. I performed one song but people were impressed and so I ended up doing three songs. I was happy because I managed to perform in church but also to a different audience,” he said.

He said it was important for him to be part of the Egypt Cultural Week to tell the story of Egypt to Malawi through art.

“As I said earlier, I collected 21 works which were shipped from Cairo to Lilongwe and they mainly focused on what can build bridges between the two cultures,” Fadel said.

He said he was happy that there are similarities between the two countries in art having interacted with Kambalu and other artists describing it as enriching for both sides.

“This cultural week showed the beauty of art, art can bridge conflicts between nations, sports also does that but sometimes there are incidences but not in arts,” he said.

Fadel said despite Malawi having potential in art, it needs to do more in art education and awareness.

“The country needs to emphasise the importance of arts and I am happy I managed to talk to some of the authorities who gave an assurance that art will be given the platform,” said the artist.

Fadel also observed that the country is very much ahead in wood carvings.

“In wood carvings, Malawi is very much ahead and I actually bought some. I normally but works that talk to me and these ones really did,” said the pianist.

He also said that he had time to go to Senga Bay in Salima to see fishermen.

“It was so nice meeting some of the fishermen and I met one of them who told me he was not only a fisherman but also an artist. He showed me his beautiful works and I was happy to meet a local artist whose works are inspired by his home,” Fadel said.

He further said the Egypt Cultural Week brought performing and fine artists but observed that there has to be more logistics and that it should be a system.

“Artists from here should go to Egypt to get inspired. Egypt has so many expressions and it is a big country with very rich places,” said the 59-year old artist.

And going back to Cairo, Fadel said he will be holding an exhibition that will speak volumes of Malawi looking at the similarities and differences and also zero in on his experiences.

“I have been doing art for the last 55 years and to me art was a need and not a luxury,” he said.

Recognised by many as Egypt’s foremost naturalist artist, his mission has become bridging the gap between the audience and the available fine art menu.

His figurative paintings carry a strong Egyptian flavor characteristic of someone with a deep passion for his homeland.

His Nubian portraits, country landscapes and Cairo street scenes have become icons of love for Egypt and its people.

And inspired by the beauty of nature, Fadel’s exhibitions in the 1990s carried titles like Fields And Gardens, Theme And Variations and Gifts of the Nile.

From 2006 to 2009, Fadel dedicated his exhibitions to the aesthetic documentation of Egypt with titles like Desert, Oasis and Valley, Description de L’ Egypte and Upper Egypt Revisited.

Fadel actually toured the country to sketch and display his artworks.

And over the years, the artist has won several awards including the Pope’s Medal and a Vatican Award in an art contest illustrating the Bible in 1973.

For three successive years he has participated in the exhibition ‘Physician as Artist’.

“I am a doctor but I love art because it gives me the freedom to tell my story. So I am impressed with the work of Malawian artists, let them continue to do what they are doing,” he said.

The artist hailed Egyptian Ambassador to Malawi Maher El-Adawy for creating a meeting point for Malawi and Egypt.

El-Adawy has since said that he will do everything he can to make sure that this cultural week grows and that Malawi and Egyptian artists engage in cultural exchange programmes.

Fadel called on artists in the country to perceive more.

“They must feel more and spend more in conceiving their ideas. And again it’s important to learn from experienced artists but don’t copy. Have your own ideas after you have learnt and that will make you a better artist,” he said.

Fadel also said artists need to strive for perfection and better performances.

“Artists need to make their technique as good as possible. They must work on the dynamics and master all technical difficulties and most of all try new techniques as well as learn how to introduce new things,” he said.

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