Sunday February 25th, 2024
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Nada Mobarak’s Latest Exhibition Unravels the Fabric of the Everyday

The exhibition, ‘What Shall We Do With This Moment That We Are In’, explores uncertainty within the ever-changing everyday.

Fadila Khalid

In the realm where art converges with profound introspection, Egyptian artist Nada Mobarak emerges as a luminary, breathing life into canvas with a depth that resonates beyond the mere stroke of a brush. With an illustrious background in international development spanning a quarter of a century, Mobarak's journey has been a tapestry woven with purpose and passion. Yet, it is within the realm of artistry that her soul finds solace, where she weaves intricate narratives that echo the very essence of the human experience.

Her artistic odyssey, a kaleidoscope of emotions and poignant reflections, bridges the ancient and the contemporary, fusing the timeless legacy of ancient Egypt with the pulsating heartbeat of the present.“My last exhibition was called 'Look Them in the Eye',” Mobarak tells CairoScene. “Things were difficult but despite the hardship, there was resilience, and we needed to recognise that, to look around us and acknowledge it and pay homage to it.”

With 15 acrylic-charcoal-canvas paintings and an additional 25 works on paper, incorporating watercolour, charcoal, and pencil, Mobarak's latest exhibition,’What Shall We Do With This Moment That We Are In’, currently displayed at Zamalek’s Ubuntu Art Gallery, is a visual feast. And right there, in the midst of her transformative exhibition, lies a profound story intertwined with the art—a story of Mahmoud, the bawab of a nearby villa, whose presence left an indelible mark on the artist's creative journey. Mahmoud, a steadfast figure, embodied constancy amidst the ever-shifting tides of life.

Every morning, while engulfed in the chaos of her pursuits in art and in life, Mobarak would find solace in Mahmoud's presence. As she put out fires and navigated the intricacies of her art, she would glance across the way and find him, seated in a weathered chair, basking in the gentle embrace of the sun. The sight of Mahmoud, peacefully enveloped in that morning glow, became an anchor, a source of stability in a world teeming with uncertainty.“This time I feel a lot more broken,” Mobarak shares. “That resilience, while probably still there, isn't what I wanted to come across. Rather, with this exhibition, I'm trying to capture moments of stillness at the heart of the ongoing upheavals and changes, all of which we have little control over.”

Yet, like brushstrokes on a canvas, life's hand painted a stroke of change in the narrative. An embassy, with its insistent demands, shattered the tranquillity surrounding Mahmoud's existence. The sanctuary he had created for himself in that familiar villa was abruptly disrupted. The universe, in its mysterious workings, deemed it necessary for Mahmoud to depart from the haven that had become an integral part of Mobarak's artistic process.

With Mahmoud's eviction, a piece of the artist's heart seemed to vanish. It was a poignant reminder of the impermanence that threads through every facet of life. The resilience that Mobarak sought to capture in her previous exhibition now took on a new meaning—a fragile thread delicately holding the fragments of Mahmoud's presence, forever embedded in her memories and the essence of her work.

And yet, just as art imitates life, life often finds a way to imitate art. In a remarkable twist, Mahmoud's journey brought him full circle. Fate guided him back to Aswan, the very place that had been a wellspring of inspiration for Mobarak's creative expression. As Mahmoud returned to the land where the Nile flowed gracefully and the boys on their surfboards embodied freedom, the narrative found its completion.

“A lot of the inspiration came from Aswan, and you'll find that these boys will paddle up to your boat and sing,” Mobarak says. “And they're just…wonderful. So inspiring, so uplifting. Obviously, they're looking to get tips, but there’s something so obviously free about them.”

Through the profound story of Mahmoud, Nada Mobarak's exhibition embraces the ebb and flow of existence. His tale, interwoven with the ebb and flow of Mobarak's artistry, offers a profound reminder of the delicate balance between continuity and change, while beckoning us to explore the depths of our shared humanity. Further, it reminds us that life's fabric is a delicate interplay between the transient and the enduring. Mahmoud's presence, his departure, and his eventual return to the embrace of Aswan symbolise the cycles that underpin our existence—the perpetual dance of arrivals and departures, of beginnings and endings. These portrayals remind us that despite the cycles of life and the challenges we face, new generations emerge, and life goes on.

The evocative strokes of Nada Mobarak’s brush invite us to ponder our place in an ever-changing world.

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