Three-Legged Figure

by Bassem Yousri with Muhammed Yunis, sawyer

Wood, 2014

The area in front of the early 16th century takiyya (Sufi convent) of al-Gulshayni located just outside the mediaeval Bab Zuwayla city gate has for a long time been used by traditional sawyers. They still cut tree trunks with a double-handed manual saw called loubna, just as when Napoleon Bonaparte’s artists depicted them in 1798-9. The owner, Muhammad Yunis produces huge wooden chopping blocks used by butchers and rustic garden furniture. Parts of these objects are rather crudely joined with simple nails (also hand-made in the neighbourhood). For two days, Bassem Yousri worked with Muhammad Yunis, to produce a sculpture of a human-like standing figure using exactly the same material and techniques. The result is a three-legged figure that is about 2.5 metres tall, weighing about 350 kilograms.


Klio Krajewska, curator



Muhammad Yunis found Bassem very flexible as they both tried to choose the best way to carry out the project. Bassem wanted a human-shaped statue over two metres tall, which was quite different from their routine work. He chose the pieces he wanted to work with, and they tried to simplify the design as much as possible to fit the technique in which it would be executed. Eventually, what initially appeared very difficult became much easier when the actual work started. To make a statue using tree-trunks was a completely new idea, but it was helpful that no new materials or additional tools were required.


Muhammad doesn’t like to use the word “obstacle” when he speaks about his work, but he admits that he and his workers spent almost a complete day designing and preparing before commencing the cutting phase, which again took many hours. It was a more complex task than they normally deal with, and it took a considerably longer time to complete, but now he caould repeat another similar task if he got a commission for it.  He is glad to have gained such experience and he and his co-workers are satisfied with the eventual product and that the collaboration working closely with Bassem was useful. 

based on the interview with Taher ‘Abd al-Ghani of ARCHiNOS Architecture

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A project that brought together contemporary Egyptian and European artists with traditional craftspeople of Cairo in the collective creation of artistic works.

Designed and carried out by ARCHiNOS Architecture in collaboration with the Bayt al-Sinnari Centre for Arts, Science and Culture, affiliated to the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Funded primarily by the European Union Delegation to Egypt, with contributions from the British Council, the Embassy of Poland, the Embassy of Switzerland, and the Academy of Fine Arts in Wrocław, Poland

Website designed in 2015

by Agnieszka Dobrowolska, Ahmed ‘Abd al-Aziz, and Hesham Akl for ARCHiNOS  Architecture