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Jameel House in Cairo Fosters Traditional Arts in an International Partnership

/ 22 Sep 2021

Jameel House in Cairo Fosters Traditional Arts in an International Partnership

In the heart of Old Cairo, an arts center offers courses in traditional crafts as part of an international program spanning from Britain to Saudi Arabia.

Jameel House of Traditional Arts in Cairo was set up in 2009 in partnership with the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts, in London and Art Jameel, to offer two-year scholarships to Egyptians of all ages.

“The experience exceeded my expectations. There is so much to learn and enjoy doing,” said Marwa Helmy, a 42- year-old cultural management consultant with international and regional institutions.

Keen to revive old skills she had in drawing and design, she joined the classes last year and is about to start a new academic year.

“The experience exceeded my expectations. There is so much to learn and enjoy doing.”

Marwa Helmy   A cultural management consultant with international and regional institutions.

The program emphasizes the importance of linking theoretical concepts with practical experience, she said. “You learn how to have standards to judge a piece of art and recognize flaws in design or execution.”

The idea of Jameel House was born in March 2006 when Prince Charles of England visited Cairo to inaugurate an exhibition of Islamic heritage arts at Amir Taz Palace.

The Prince’s Foundation School was set up the previous year in London to help preserve traditional crafts that are threatened with extinction. It claims to be the only institution of its kind in Western Europe, teaching the practical skills of Islamic traditional art as well as the theory.

A Positive Partnership

Mamdouh Sakr, director of Jameel House in Cairo, said, “Thanks to the cultural exchange between the two countries, several intensive training courses were organized that included artists from both countries.” In 2017, Jameel House in Jeddah became part of the program. A third Jameel House is under construction in Scotland.

The Cairo school’s programs are prepared in Britain, but the content is designed to include specific crafts and to accommodate students at different levels. The teachers are experts in traditional arts and designs, both Egyptian and foreign.

Tuition is free, Sakr said. The program pays the teachers’ fees and provides materials for students to work with. It also organizes tours for students to learn about their arts and architectural styles, and subsidizes the annual public exhibition to display graduation projects.

Jameel House is located in the Foustat Traditional Crafts Center, whose director, the ceramic artist Haytham Hedaya, said the goal was to develop skills in perspective drawing, free drawing, color studies, gypsum craft, stained glass, ceramics, veneer woodwork and metalwork.

Candidates have to pass a written exam as well as an interview and supply examples of their work. About 25 male and female students are selected annually from more than 200 applicants, but in the past two years, the number of admissions was reduced by half due to the precautionary measures imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Renewed Opportunity

“Thanks to what I studied in Jameel House, I became professionally aware of the rules of coloring, methods of mixing colors, and methods of crafting ornaments in Islamic and Coptic arts.”

Karam Yousef   A graduate

One graduate, Karam Yousef, said, “Thanks to what I studied in Jameel House, I became professionally aware of the rules of coloring, methods of mixing colors, and methods of crafting ornaments in Islamic and Coptic arts.” The experience “increased my confidence in our artists’ ability to innovate and enhance a sense of identity.”

Another student, May Al-Qarqasi, joined the teaching team after her graduation from the program.

“I studied at the Faculty of Applied Arts, and I used to draw with skill, but thanks to what I learned, I became interested in the analytical aspect and thinking about the logic of formulating any artwork I watch,” she said.

A critical note was struck, however, by Youssef, who said “works are exposed to damage because they are poorly stored, and we hope that we will be given the opportunity to sell them, for example, and promote ourselves through them.”

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Sakr acknowledged the right of the students to display their work or sell it at a later time, but he recognized that there are some “bureaucratic obstacles that we have tried to overcome but have not been entirely successful.”




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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام

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Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام