By Hala Shah | Vogue Arabia
To see the Pyramids of Giza is to travel through time. Whether one experiences the monuments in person through the natural lens of the eye, or virtually through a digital lens, it is undeniable that the perspectives of the people of ancient Egyptian civilization directly influence the lens of the present. This is central to the significance of the Art D’Égypte ‘Forever Is Now’ exhibition at the Pyramids of Giza, and is precisely why Nadine Abdel Ghaffar, founder of Art D’Égypte, developed the global platform as a means for people to understand that the future of humanity is being sculpted now, in real-time, by the perspectives of the present.
“Our mission is to democratize art. We are mainly working on big public projects or public installations and that is why we go into heritage sites,” says Abdel Ghaffar. The group of international artists that Abdel Ghaffar and Art D’Égypte’s curatorial board selected for this second edition of ‘Forever Is Now,’ are celebrated not only for their art, but also for their commitment to this mission they share with Abdel Ghaffar. Strategically positioned throughout the vast Giza Plateau, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are the original works of artists Therese Antoine, Natalie Clark, Mohammad Alfaraj, Emilio Ferro, Zeinab AlHashemi, JR, Ahmed Karaly, Liter of Light, eL Seed, SpY, Pascale Marthine Tayou, and Jwan Yosef. By design, each work stimulates a unique visual conversation with the three Pyramids of Giza and beckons the viewer to transcend present time and wander through an exploration of the potential of humanity, of one’s own potential, bound only by the contours of the mind.
“Literally the artists become the vernacular, they become a guide, the translator, the gateway between the people of today, and this ancient civilization,” says Abdel Ghaffar. With ‘Forever Is Now’ aligned with Cop27, several of the artists’ works address climate change through themes of sustainability and social impact.
It took the ancient Egyptians over twenty year to build the Pyramids of Giza, but in only five years, Abdel Ghaffar and her small team, most of whom are women, built an empire that can withstand the shifting sands of society. “We started in 2017 at the Egyptian Museum, then Manial Palace, then Al Muizz Street. And now the Necropolis,” says Abdel Ghaffar. “We’re really happy that this is taking place again, now under the auspices of the Ministry of Antiquities that has been supporting us from day one,” she adds. As a multi-disciplinary firm, Art D’Égypte also conducts year-round outreach programs and leads CIAD, the Cairo International Art District, which exhibited the works of 100 Egyptian artists this year. “This is really important to have the people who don’t have access to go and see art, to be part of it,“ says artist Therese Antoine who, like Abdel Ghaffar, hails from Alexandria.
Her belief that “art should be accessible for all,” and desire to cultivate pride among Egyptians for their own arts and culture, fuel Abdel Ghaffar’s unrelenting drive. “What keeps me going is the result. We see the result in the people,” she says. Abdel Ghaffar describes how at last year’s inaugural edition of ‘Forever Is Now,’ the infamous carriage drivers at the Pyramids of Giza voluntarily learned about the artists and even acted as impromptu guides for visitors. “The changes that happened in the society itself, in the people themselves, this for me is priceless,” says Abdel Ghaffar.
Abdel Ghaffar is already dreaming big for what is on Art D’Égypte’s horizon. “Culturvator is a global brand that we launched because we believe that we would like to replicate what we have done in Egypt in the rest of the world.” And with HE Noura Al Kaabi of the UAE Ministry of Culture as a global cultural partner this year, Art D’Égypte is poised to expand throughout the region. “I truly believe that together we are stronger,” says Abdel Ghaffar.
Visitors may embark on their journey through the exhibition carrying a sense of personal identity or heritage, yet they will depart the experience feeling fluent in the artistic ‘languages’ of the artists. “The symbolism of the pyramid and the artwork is to have this conversation,” says eL Seed. “There’s a certain truth that artists tell because I think a lot of the artists tap into their own storytelling, their own visual language,” adds Emirati artist Zeinab AlHashemi. British-American artist Natalie Clark agrees, “this diversity of ‘language’ and perspective is a primary source of the exhibition’s power. Public art, at its most successful, creates its own language, a universal language.”
Excerpt from "Spirit of Hathor" feature:
‘Spirit of Hathor,’ the work of artist Natalie Clark, honors the power of the divine feminine as expressed through bold steel interlocking horns that represent Goddess Hathor’s horns cradling the sun. It is a balanced aesthetic of razor sharp edges and sensuous curves. She recalls the mystical moment during installation at the Giza Plateau when she was blessed with a sign from the divine. As the setting sun descended in the sky, it passed through the pinnacle of the horns – the exact position she had designed the Carrara marble sun disc to be placed.
Photo Credit: Hesham Alsaifi