Newspaper collages tackle socio-political issues in Egypt

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Silhouettes of football players overlap and mix with articles and news about politics, economy and culture. This is the latest project by Egyptian artist Hisham El Zeiny. He metaphorically addresses the need for dynamism and change reclaimed by the liberal youth on the ‘playgrounds’ of society.  The project is shown at the exhibition Al Masry Al Youm – Interferences with a Journal, organized by Mashrabia Gallery. The exhibition gathers around 40 mixed media collages realized between 2014 and 2015 on the pages of Al Masry Al Youm, one of the most popular newspapers in Egypt.

The title of the exhibition plays on the double meaning of the words ‘Al Masry Al Youm’, indicating not only the newspaper, but also the people of Egypt. The choice of this medium naturally calls attention to the political events and the role of the media in Egypt during and after the 2011 Revolution, but the show also considers the position of the artist within this difficult panorama.

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The leitmotiv of the exhibition is the presence of silhouettes of football players running or vying for the ball, with the word ملاعب (playground) as a background. The sportsmen represent not only the dynamism now lacking in the country, but also embody a feeling of competition and confrontation, which seem to have superseded the unity of Tahrir Square. Politics and political events metaphorically become games played on a chaotic playground, where the actual needs of the Egyptian people are rarely addressed. On the contrary, the constant and massive flow of information astounds the audience which, caught in a sort of schizophrenia, resembles a busy and confused swarm.

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The body of work is coherent and homogeneous while addressing a diverse range of socio-political issues. El Zeiny reflects on the isolation of  singles and subtly denounces the absence of a clear and reliable political agenda, which nurtures an increasingly individualist society, deficient in a national and unitary project. His ‘intervention’ in the newspaper pages mirrors a broader need for deconstructing the mediated information: the speed of today’s news leaves no time for an accurate selection, and for a calm meditation.

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In line with his previous artwork, El Zeiny builds on and further develops his peculiar collage technique. No fiction is involved in these documentary-like tableaux, where the silhouettes of real sportsmen move over the newspaper pages, at times overlapping and merging with painting and other recurrent, symbolic elements such as matches, typical local-shaped vases and games.

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Hisham El Zeiny
Born in Cairo in 1956 to a German mother and an Egyptian-Sudanese father, Hisham El Zeiny grew up in a bilingual and multi-cultural environment. El Zeiny studied architecture at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo, including postgraduate studies with Prof. Hassan Fathy, the pioneer of Egyptian traditional architecture. The artist has held numerous solo and group exhibitions in Egypt, and Europe, where he has been living for more than 10 years.

From the Mashrabia Gallery press release

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