Osama Abdel-Moneim: An Artist with a Social Conscience

Osama Abdel-Moneim Art Egypt 2013

Osama Abdel-Moneim (b.1984) is a multi-faceted artist with a strong social conscience – working with painting, drawing, photography and most recently, installation. [This article was originally published in the Cairo Art Blog]

"Hodge Podge of Offenders," installation, 2012.

“Hodge Podge of Offenders,” installation, 2012.

Your most recent work at the 2012 Salon of Youth was a two meter by two meter plexi-glass cube hung from the gallery ceiling called “Hodgepodge of Offenders”. Security police are painted on one side of cube and ordinary citizens on another. Since the cube is transparent, it seems that these different segments of society are somehow connected. Can you explain more about the concept of your installation?

“My installation gives the viewer a chance to see how different people in society can merge together when there is no visible surface to separate them. The idea comes from the informal research I’ve done, where I’ve seen that there is an alternate society to the one we are aware of – the idea of the citizen, the thief and the police, all of whom are constantly swapping roles with each other. For example, citizens need the police to protect them from criminals, but criminals were the ones protecting citizens during the revolution when the police disappeared. At the same time, policemen can be corrupt criminals themselves, and there are amicable relationships between criminals and police officers. The installation title, Shwayit Amn Mishekil (Hodgepodge of Offenders) is an actual term being used on the street.”

Your art has previously revolved around photography and painting. When did you start working with installation?

“I started working with installation a year ago as I felt that the canvas – the flat surface, the 2D – is no longer enough to express what I do. I wanted to get the audience to be part of the work itself, and I found installation to be the best medium for that. Through installation I am able to draw, paint, and use photography simultaneously while bringing people into the work and drawing paths for them to examine the work.”

"The Alley Museum," installation, 2011.

“The Alley Museum,” installation, 2011.

Your installation, The Hara Museum (The Alley Museum), won the grand prize at the 2011 Salon of Youth. It was displayed in the corridor between exhibition spaces. Can you tell us more?

“This was inspired by a project I did in Imbaba with the Young Artist’s Coalition. There, about 60 artists got to know the local community and painted their stories on the walls of the neighborhood. For the 2011 Salon of Youth, I took the people who I felt were heroes in the alley, just for what they do in their daily lives, and displayed them on the walls of the corridor of the exhibition space in a museum format to tell their story. I covered the corridor with painting, drawings and photography. It was meant to show that everyone can be a hero by contributing to society and helping their own community.”

Your recent installations focus on specific themes in Egyptian society, while early in your career, your paintings looked at the cultural identity of Egyptians in general. How did you start exploring that theme?   

“When I started, I was working with the concept of a human being in general, an individual in the universe who exists everywhere in the world. Then I began to look at people in the context of Egyptian folklore and how our collective mindset is formed, especially since we have a very strange heritage. We are an extremely old civilization that was mixed with many other civilizations through the millenia. Egyptians have proven that they have the ability to take in new traditions, and people who come to Egypt, generation after generation, are able to enter this culture and become Egyptian themselves. My early work focused on this research, using painting to discover this individual identity within the larger scope of cultural identity in Egypt.  

For the artist’s biography, click here.

"The Alley Museum," installation, 2011.

“The Alley Museum,” installation, 2011.

Rowan El Shimi is a culture journalist using writing, photography and video for reporting, featuring and analyzing Egypt’s cultural scene. She is also interested in social development and concerned particularly with its relationship with the arts. You can follow her work at www.rowanelshimi.org

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