I expected to see something akin to the Egyptian version of a Tracey Emin but found something even more incredibly amazing – “The Revolution of 25TH January” by Hany Abdul Kader. I know I get over excited but if I explain that this piece has been purchased by the Oriental Museum at Durham University because they appreciate the significance of this piece of art work – which the tent makers wife had to pursuade him to bring when he wasn’t sure – you may get some impression of what I discovered there.
Stitch like an Egyptian is an exhibition of the work of Egyptian Tent Makers. It has been organised by St. Mary’s College Durham and the Centre for the Advanced Study of the Arab World together with the School for Government and International Affairs. I have no doubt that when they organised this exhibition with Jenny Bowker they had no idea what the Egyptian tent maker would bring with him. Most of the exhibition is beautiful textile work which is pretty and shows good craftsmanship but is essentially nice quilting which was originally designed to go on the inside of tents. The Revolution of 25th January however is a very different piece.
Hany talked us through the meaning of the piece, something which the Oriental Museum I understand intends to do with the hanging. Across the top is the title, “The Revolution of 25th January is the Revolution of the Egyptian People”, (see this BBC article for significance). This is written, as is most of the text in Arabic because it is an authentic piece where the artist has used his art to explain a world changing social and political event which he, as an Egyptian living in Cairo, was caught up in. Underneath the main title are the words Freedom and Justice.
It is a pictorial representation of the revolution which includes the Flag of Egypt and representation of Tahrir Square with women and men within it. There are men at prayer and standing around depicting and twice, again in Arabic, the words Viva Egypt occur. Other slogans embroidered on there include “The People Demand the Fall of the Regime”. There is a sign saying, in English “Go Out” on there in English and Arabic and representations of the bridge over the Nile with the tanks on it together with the municipal building on the edge of the square and the gardens being represented. There are various representations of riot police/ army and protesters and perspective is given of those directly facing the batons and those waving further away from police/army lines.
Whilst talking us through Hany explained that he himself did not go down into the city centre until the president had resigned – as he explained he had a wife and young children to think about. Whilst uncertainty remains he is happy and sure that the present is better than before 25th January.
If you are in or can get to Durham by Tuesday I cannot recommend seeing this piece and being talked through it by the artist highly enough, it is truly an amazing and unique experience. It truly is something amazing. The opening times are:
Friday 11 November, 10.00-16.00
Saturday 12 November to Monday 14 November, 10.00-16.00
Tuesday 15 November, 10.00-14.00
You might even want to make a mini break of it staying in Durham until later in the week and so you can also see the Lumiere exhibition which does contain work by Emin amongst others. North Road Methodist Church is having an installation called Metamorph by an artist called Boo Beaumont which the Lumiere brochure says will be “accompanied by a specially-composed soundtrack by Orlando Kimber”. The church congregation will be selling teas and coffees and I just hope they will also have produced some excellent information material about the church and its activities for people to pick up or atleast will have been provided with some resources by the Methodist Church of Great Britain.
All in all very exciting for a modern art buff like me; it’s turning into a week where my usual hangouts, (I mentor at St. Mary’s and am a member at North Road), are turning into micro versions of the Tate Modern.
P.S. if anybody I know is going to the tent maker exhibition and has a camera please, please could they e-mail a picture of it to me, I am in love with this and would love a good print to get framed – for a Sociologist with a qualification in Political Activism and Social Movements and a love of modern art particularly textiles with text and story this really has been akin to the Mona Lisa or a Constable, and seeing it before the artist got famous!