fbpx


Azza Fahmy: The ‘Never Ending Dreams’ of an Egyptian Artisan

/ 21 Oct 2021

Azza Fahmy: The ‘Never Ending Dreams’ of an Egyptian Artisan

Azza Fahmy’s newly published autobiography, “Never Ending Dreams,” is a song of praise to the master craftsmen who taught her and helped her become Egypt’s most famous jewelry designer.

Born in Sohag, Upper Egypt, Azza Fahmy graduated from Helwan University’s Faculty of Fine Arts before learning her craft from the artisans of Cairo’s Khan Al-Khalili souk.

She has since held more than 200 exhibitions worldwide and has been described as one of the most influential women in Egypt and one of the key jewelry designers in the Middle East. She now heads a team of young designers to maintain the craft.

Published by the Egyptian-Lebanese Publishing House and launched on October 10 at the Royal Carriage Museum in Cairo, the 400-page “Never Ending Dreams” is a story of success in overcoming obstacles in life.

“My book offers a warm homage to the artists of traditional crafts, from whom I have learned, and gives an example from my experience about the importance of perseverance and persistence.”

For Fahmy, these began with the ordeal of losing her father, a Sudanese-born senior employee in a cotton company. His death was a turning point in the life of the family, which moved from Upper Egypt to the mother’s family home, in the suburb of Helwan, south of Cairo.

Fahmy dedicates the book to her mother who, despite their drop in income, taught her to “live life with what is available, without grumbling, and with a contented soul.” She also dedicates it to her father, who instilled in her the roots of belonging and strengthened her love of homeland.

A Fondness for Details

The book reveals Fahmy’s fondness for details and her ability to visually recall the past, notably in scenes from daily life in Egypt, customs and traditions in the 1940s.

Her father instilled in her a sense of belonging to Egypt, while pushing her to open up to Western culture. He believed in the importance of her mixing with children of different nationalities, whose parents worked for the foreign companies that dominated Egypt’s economy at the time.

Fahmy also writes about her years of study, and about the changes created by the Free Officers Movement of 1952. She expresses admiration for the late President Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the years of cultural prosperity and the renaissance of translation and literature, which contributed to shaping an entire generation.

“Never Ending Dreams” also describes her studies in the Department of Decoration at the Faculty of Fine Arts, and the atmosphere of studying under senior artists.

After graduation, she chanced upon a German-language book about ornaments in a public book exhibition in 1969. It persuaded her to quit a routine job and choose jewelry as a profession which grew into an artistic career mixing traditional customs with modern global trends.

There is little about Fahmy’s own life inside the pages of the book; apart from her parents, it focuses mainly on her two daughters and her relationship with grandchildren.

Egypt: Dialect and Geography

“The book also records the rules of working with masters of crafts. … The customs that prevailed until the mid-seventies and are about to disappear.”

At the book launch, Mohammed Abu El-Ghar, a prominent Egyptian doctor and writer, praised Fahmy’s vivid record of the history of jewelry-making in the Khan Al-Khalili neighborhood.

“My book offers a warm homage to the artists of traditional crafts, from whom I have learned, and gives an example from my experience about the importance of perseverance and persistence,” Azza Fahmy said, speaking to Al-Fanar Media.

“The book also records the rules of working with masters of crafts. … The customs that prevailed until the mid-seventies and are about to disappear.”

The book is about her constant quest to confirm her artistic identity: a lesson she offers to young artists, stressing that she was always “striving to learn without stopping.”

Abu El-Ghar noted that the book is written in the Egyptian dialect, and includes a description of the geography of Egypt and its various regions, based on the artist’s journey, to get acquainted with the environments of these diverse traditional crafts.

It gives meticulous details about the forms of daily life in the Egyptian villages and the governorates of Upper Egypt, where she lived her early years. It records many stories about customs, traditions, and family ties, and sheds light on communication between different religions.

A Daughter of Arab Nationalism

“I wrote as I speak, so that the text reflects the rhythm of my life, the tone in which I communicate with people. My language is simple, with which Arab readers will communicate, because they know the Egyptian dialect.”

On her use of dialect, Fahmy said she wanted to address readers directly. “Writing is not my craft, and I did not think of hiring a ghostwriter,” she said.

“I wrote as I speak, so that the text reflects the rhythm of my life, the tone in which I communicate with people, and my language is simple, with which Arab readers will communicate, because they know the Egyptian dialect.”

The book also recounts her journey to discover the art of jewelry-making in other Arab countries, including Oman, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Bahrain, Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Iraq.

“I am the daughter of Arab nationalism, and everything I saw in the countries I visited was an addition to my experience, and enriched my artistic experience,” she said.

Fahmy describes the jewelry industry as “a profession that descended on me from heaven, in a fateful moment” which she managed to turn into art, “thanks to my keenness on development, training and continuing education.”

Her designs often include Arabic calligraphy because Mamluk architecture was a strong visual influence during her years of training at the hands of skilled craftsmen.

[Enjoying this article? Subscribe to our free newsletter.]

Fahmy says she has “a relationship of passion” with her profession which increased her “sense of responsibility towards Egypt’s craft heritage.” In 2012, with the help of a European Union grant, she set up a jewelry design school to train young talents and help them create a heritage-focused art.

Related Articles

To read more about efforts to preserve traditional arts and crafts in Arab countries, see the following selection of articles from Al-Fanar Media’s Arts & Culture archives:




No CommentsJoin the Conversation

What Others are Readingالأكثر قراءة

Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام

arabic

Copyright © 2018 Al-Fanar Mediaحقوق © 2018 الفنار للإعلام