AFarid Fadel exhibition is always a love affair with Egypt. That’s what makes “Freddy,” as he is nicknamed, the Freddy we know. But Fadel’s new exhibition, “The Egypt That I Know,” is more than an expression of love for his country — it is a cry for help, a message that the Egypt we know and love needs saving, peace and compassion.
“These paintings were motivated by my jealousy over my country,” Fadel says. “I don’t want [us] to lose Egypt’s beautiful [traditions, values and culture].”
Courtesy of Farid Fadel
A practicing ophthalmologist, the 54-year-old Fadel has always been interested in art and has 35 solo exhibitions to his name. His latest, running November 5–19 at the Mahmoud Mokhtar Museum, showcases 60 new paintings in oil and watercolor.
Although his post-January 25 work has naturally been influenced by the revolution and the hopes it brought about, this particular exhibition was influenced by the recent political conflict and religious tensions plaguing the nation.
“I feel I need to [present] a wake-up call for the fighting forces,” he explains. “The competing political parties should always remember to keep Egypt and its rich culture at the heart of any reform.”
Fadel notes while minority groups are rising to power claiming to be the majority, the real majority of Egyptians have always been tolerant, moderate and lived in harmony with other sects of the society. His paintings, he explains, represent those who have been wrongly called hezb el-kanaba (the couch party), those Egyptians who refuse to take part in politics but still represent our values, traditions and culture.
Fadel’s paintings evoke a sense of nostalgia, reminding viewers of why 19th-century Western travelers like Edward Lane, Lady Duff-Gordon, Florence Nightingale and Gustave Flaubert were enamored by the land, its people and their kindness. “I want to stress the social coherence which has always made Egypt very attractive to travelers and tourists alike,” Fadel says. “We see it in little things, people offering you tea in Upper Egypt, the Nubians and their festivities and [hospitality], people sharing their meals with you even when they have very little.”
Courtesy of Farid Fadel
Fadel believes it is simply “difficult to feel lonely in this country, people are always there for you.”
These are the values and traditions he wanted to present in his paintings, values he fears might be lost in the political turmoil and religious extremism Egypt has been witnessing since the mid-1990s. He believes this sectarian tension and religious intolerance isn’t inherent in Egyptian culture, so there is a need to remind people of the more peaceful, tolerant Egypt.
“We want to stress we are Egyptians and have the right to live peacefully as people of one country,” Fadel says. “This is the image I want to see and a lot of paintings portray that.” et