In the documentary film “Rawya,” by the late Egyptian director and journalist Ateyyat El-Abnoudy, we learn about the experience of Rawya Abdel-Qader, a girl from the village of Tunis in Fayoum, southwest of Cairo. The film shows Rawya learning the arts of ceramics and pottery with the Swiss artist Evelyne Porret, who passed away on June 1.
The film, which received many international and local awards, reveals how Porret managed to create an institution that helps rural women use art to change their destiny.
“I was a little girl when Evelyne helped me play with pottery along with her two children, Maria and Angelo,” said Abdel-Qader, who is now a woman on the verge of 50. “She then invited me to learn the craft of pottery and the art of ceramics, and my life changed forever. Today, I cannot imagine my life without her.”
Porret, whose funeral was attended by hundreds of peasants in the village of Tunis, changed the reality of the village, turning it into one of the most important cultural and artistic tourism destinations in Egypt, thanks to the school she founded to teach pottery and ceramics.
“Porret gave the village the spirit by which it lives now,” said Mohamed Abla, director of the Fayoum Art Center, one of the art centers that emerged in the village. “She managed to turn it into a destination for artists and intellectuals from all across the globe.”
Insisting on Living in Egypt
More than 50 years ago, Porret moved to Egypt after studying decorative arts in Geneva and marrying Sayed Hegab, the late Egyptian colloquial poet. The marriage lasted for a short period, during which she resided in the village and used one of her houses as a private studio. After their divorce, she went back to Switzerland for a short time and married Michel Porret, a Swiss fashion designer. After their marriage, she insisted on returning to Egypt and settled with him in the village of Tunis, which she loved and where she raised her children.