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Exhibit Offers a New View of Salah Jahin, Egyptian Poet and Artist

/ 03 Aug 2021

Exhibit Offers a New View of Salah Jahin, Egyptian Poet and Artist

Forty original unpublished drawings by the late Egyptian poet and ground-breaking cartoonist Salah Jahin are on display in an exhibition at Cairo’s historic Bayt Al-Suhaymi.

The works illustrate how, in the hands of a multi-talented artist like Jahin, caricature could move beyond the realm of politics and capture a country’s spirit as well, said Samir Abdul-Ghani, an Egyptian cartoonist.

Before Jahin, Abdul-Ghani explained, Egyptian caricature was mere political satire. “Then Jahin came with a school of artists at Sabah El-Kheir magazine linking political and social aspects, and presented them with a flavor of his countrymen’s humor,” he said. “He had a cheerful style.”

The exhibition is being held in cooperation with the Egyptian Caricature Association and Egypt’s Caricature Museum, in Fayoum.

As Egypt’s most famous contemporary cartoonist, Jahin, who lived from 1930 to 1986, gained fame in the 1950s after his poems and drawings started to appear in magazines like Rosa El-Youssef and Sabah El Kheir. Later on, he edited the latter magazine before moving to work at Al-Ahram newspaper. For more than 20 years, Jahin continued to publish his cartoons daily until he had to stop for health reasons.

The works in the exhibition include 30 of Jahin’s drawings for Sabah Al-Khair, while the other 10 are works he produced for Al-Ahram.

“Between those two stages, Salah Jahin stood to defy time, presented the juice of his creativity, inspired new generations, and offered them the fruits of his journey in a world of great wealth and pleasure.”

Samir Abdul-Ghani   An Egyptian cartoonist

“Between those two stages, Salah Jahin stood to defy time, presented the juice of his creativity, inspired new generations, and offered them the fruits of his journey in a world of great wealth and pleasure,” Abdul-Ghani said.

Pioneering Stature

Every day, the exhibition attracts dozens of young people and families to the historic house museum on Al-Muizz Li-Din Allah Al-Fatimi Street, in the heart of Fatimid Cairo.

“Given the wide public turnout, we decided to extend the exhibition until the end of August’s first week,” said Fathy Abdel Wahab, head of Egypt’s Cultural Development Fund, which runs Bayt Al-Suhaymi.

The exhibition’s opening ceremony was attended by Gomaa Farhat, a cartoonist and the president of the Egyptian Caricature Association; Mohamed Abla, an artist and the founder of the Caricature Museum; Hassan Fedawy, a professor at Alexandria University’s Faculty of Fine Arts; and Bahaa Jahin, a poet, cartoonist and the late cartoonist’s son.

Given Salah Jahin’s pioneering stature in Egypt, several documentaries about his drawings were produced after his death. The artist Muhammad Baghdadi collected a group of them in a book titled “Sudasiyat Jahin” (“The Hexagram of Jahin”), published in Cairo in 1988 by the Arab Future Publishing House. Egypt’s Ministry of Culture, in cooperation with the Center of Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage, documented the works of Jahin in two volumes, published in 2013 and prefaced by the late artist Mohieddine El-Labbad.

In the preface to the first volume, El-Labbad wrote that Jahin “had smashed the thick wall that separated political caricatures from non-political satire. He discovered that politics is behind everything. In his hands, political and social caricatures were born.”

Jahin drew a set of cartoon series that gained great fame and served as illustrated episodes. Among them are series titled “Café d’Énergie,” “The Naked Club,” about government offices, and “Al-Fahhama”—those who understand. In his documentary book collecting Jahin’s drawings, Muhammad Baghdadi pointed out that these drawings always contain a “poetic cartoon image.”

Stylistic Elegance

According to Nasser Iraq, an Egyptian novelist and art critic, Jahin’s artistry relied on great intelligence and remarkable skill, exposing the contradictions of the world and society.

“His drawings seem as raw material from which caricature arts are made,” Iraq said. “His amazing design abilities are obvious in producing impressive and enjoyable cartoons at the lowest possible use of lines and spaces.”

Iraq, who is the author of the first book on Egypt’s history of photojournalism, says the hallmarks of Jahin’s style are elegance and the avoidance of squandering. “He does not use excessive lines to avoid distracting the idea and the painting.”

“He does not use excessive lines to avoid distracting the idea and the painting.”

Nasser Iraq   An Egyptian novelist and art critic

Abdul-Ghani pointed out that Jahin was not an ordinary artist. “He was more like a unique cocktail of joy and creativity in our contemporary life,” he said, “He was multi-talented with an overwhelming presence and amazing creativity.”

Poems, Songs and Film Scripts

In addition to his drawings, Jahin also achieved a large audience for his poems and songs he wrote since the 1950s, which were sung prominent singers like Umm Kulthum, Abdel Halim Hafez, Nagat El-Saghirah, Sayed Makkawi, and Sabah.

Jahin composed more than 161 poems, the most famous of which are “The Ruba’iyat,” “In the Name of Egypt” and “September Rhythms,” which he composed in 1970 as an elegy to Egypt’s late President Gamal Abdel-Nasser.

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Moreover, Jahin wrote the lyrics of the “Grand Night” operetta, which was presented by Egypt’s puppet theater in the 1960s and is still reproduced as one of the most famous works directed at children.

He also wrote the scripts for several Egyptian films, including “Shafika and Metwali”; “Khalli Balak men Zouzou” (“Take Care of Zouzou”); and “Al-Motawahheshah” (“The Wild Woman”), a movie that starred Souad Hosni, for whom he also wrote a TV serial titled “He and She” based on a story by Sanaa El-Besi. The latter was Jahin’s last work before he passed away.

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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام