Marwa Adel is a visual artist who lives and works in Cairo. Adel, who currently is an assistant lecturer at the Faculty of Applied Arts at Helwan University, has had her work exhibited across the Arab world and beyond — from Dubai, Lebanon and Kuwait to Bamako, Hamburg and Amsterdam. In November, her Momentum series from Tahrir was shown at Cairo’s Safar Khan Gallery in Zamalek. One year after the series was shot, Adel speaks to Mashallah News about her work.
The events of the past year have been, and continue to be, overwhelming. What have they meant to you in your creative work?
The past year for me was both the best and the hardest year ever. It gives me hope and strength and lets me dream, but it also constitutes a continuous pressure, as I always feel worried about what will happen tomorrow.
On the artistic level, I presented the solo exhibition about what happened in our society. I chose the title Momentum because it says that something happened to the Egyptian people. We are not weak anymore. The voice belongs to the people. The exhibition was a way to say that people are the only one who will have power; not the police.
I am now working on my next work which is about how to make a revolution against yourself. It is about showing all the things hidden inside you, and to be strong enough to face your fears and angers and to express your dreams and hopes.
Your images from Tahrir have a unique style, mixing photography and art. Would you like to describe your working process?
My work is conceptual photography, mixing texture, colours and calligraphy. This is a concept which for me is very important because it gives the work reality and credibility, and it conveys the personal point of view of the artist.
First of all, I put down my idea on paper, visualising the idea. Then I choose a model for the piece and write calligraphy which supports the concept. It is all done in the same image: my work is about manipulating photography to express a specific idea. I also usually work in terms of series, not singular pieces.
Photography can tell great stories. I always use texture to give the feeling of old paper – paper from the past, weak and with cracks. And I usually work with photo editing programs. So my work includes many layers with different elements in the same image.
Your art from Tahrir is powerful because it captures both the individual bravery and the strength in numbers. Is that what you wanted to express?
Momentum is telling a story. There was a man who wanted to speak about what he wants and dreams, but no one listened to him. So he spoke instead to his shadow, the only thing that would never leave him. Then, a few people started believing in the man. And then, the people who believed in him became more and more, until they were everywhere and in every place. That is the story of our revolution..