ABOUT THE PROJECT:
Cairo, the Mother of the World, was for centuries a melting pot that blended together different cultures, traditions, ideas, products, and people, a scene of dazzlingly dynamic cultural interactions. In its mediaeval heyday, when the city was a preeminent commercial, intellectual and artistic centre of the Islamic world, Cairo produced objects of excellent craftsmanship, many of which are now treasured in the collections of the world’s leading museums. Many traditional crafts are still practiced in the city, and small workshops in the narrow lanes of the historic city, where trade secrets are passed from fathers to sons, produce many truly beautiful objects. However, some crafts are becoming rare. Preservation and continuity of traditional crafts in Cairo is an important element of maintaining cultural diversity. We want to keep them alive, we want to Keep It Real.
This web site presents a project intending to follow in the centuries-long tradition of Cairo as a vibrant place of cultural engagement and exchange, and help carry it into the future.
The KEEPitREAL! project that brought together contemporary Egyptian and European artists with traditional craftspeople of Cairo in the collective creation of artistic works was part of the European Union Delegation to Egypt’s EU-Egypt Cultural Cooperation Programme. The programme aims at contributing to the diversity of cultural creation and improving access to it, especially in marginalised regions and informal areas, and promoting improved social participation in cultural production and consumption. The EU Delegation primary funding was augmented by contributions from other donors sharing the same values and objectives: the British Council, the Embassy of Poland, the Embassy of Switzerland, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, Poland.
The KEEPitREAL! project was conceived, designed and carried out by the Cairo-based architectural practice ARCHiNOS Architecture that has a long history of work in historic preservation and designing in historic context, as well as in public presentation of cultural heritage and artistic production, including museum and exhibition design, and organising exhibitions and events. ARCHiNOS Architecture personnel’s long-standing involvement with the traditional craftspeople of Cairo on conservation projects resulted in publication of books and articles, and in the creation of a web site presenting the crafts practiced in the Desert of the Mamluks section of the “City of the Dead”: www.undeadcrafts.com .
The exhibition presenting the works that resulted from the project was produced in collaboration with the Bayt al-Sinnari cultural centre operated by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina. The Centre is located in the historic district of Sayida Zainab in Cairo in a restored historic house that has served cultural exchanges for a long time: built by an occultist from Sennar in present-day Sudan, it then housed the scholars of the Napoleonic expedition. Nowadays it is used for a wide range of exhibitions and other cultural events.
Website designed in 2014 by Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Ahmed ‘Abd al-Aziz, and Hesham Akl for ARCHiNOS Architecture.
Text: Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Jaroslaw Dobrowolski, Klio Krajewska, Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani; special thanks to Michael Jones.
Video: Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani.
Photographs: Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani, Klio Krajewska, Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Ahmed ‘Abd al-Aziz, Ramy AboRaya.