The fourth annual art forum has been held by the Institute of Coptic Studies’ (ICS) Coptic art department at the ICS on the grounds of St Mark’s Cathedral in Abbassiya, Cairo, under auspices of Pope Tawadros II. The forum is usually held as the Coptic art department welcomes its new students enrolling for 2018/2019. Attending was Dean of ICS and Professor of Coptic Architecture Samy Sabry; Secretary General of the ICS Ishaq Ajban; and Deputy Head of the ICS Adel Fakhry; also for the first time Anba Demetrios, Bishop of Mallawy, Ansena and Ashmoneen, and Head of the Coptic language department at the ICS; and Secretary-General of the Council of Churches of the Middle East Mr Girguis Saleh.
Hind Fouad, deputy head of Coptic art department and coordinator of the forum gave the opening welcome address. She recalled the mission of art department at the ICS, also its artistic, academic and social activities throughout the last three years. Dr Fouad presented the different academic programmes offered by the Coptic art department: a Diploma, and Masters and Doctorate Degrees in Coptic Art.
Dr Sabry, followed with a word on the ICS and the role played by its art department. He addressed the new students, giving them valuable advice.
Dr Mary Girguis, Dr Amani Samir, Dr Martha Naim and Artist and Fellow Emad Bibawy addressed the new pupils giving them a brief on the study programme.
The attendees engaged in discussions on ways of completing and maintaining works of art to preserve Coptic Art heritage in academic and art work.
Anba Demetrios was then joined by the ICS officials in opening the annual art exhibition which displayed a stunning collection of works by the department’s professors and students. The artworks included icons, mosaics, stained glass, ceramics, and Coptic textile. The exhibition runs throughout the year, until it is replaced by next year’s exhibition of new artworks.
The Art Department of the ICS focuses on studying various branches of Coptic Art; iconography, mosaic, photography, sculpture, woodwork, stained glass, ceramics as well as textiles. In its programmes of study it addresses the mutual effects of similarities and differences between art during the Coptic era, commonly defined as having lasted from the 1st to the 8th century, and art in the eras that preceded and followed it. The programmes of study cover the specifics of the components and contents of the Coptic Church including but not limited to altars, iconostasis and clerical vestments, not foregoing the relation between the artistic and the theological aspects of the Coptic Church.
History of the ICS
In the early 1950s Aziz Suryal Attiya, professor of history at Alexandria University and a prominent Copt, wrote a petition to the then Secretary-Heneral of the Coptic Orthodox Melli (Community) Council Kamel Youssef, drawing attention to the need to establish an institute for Coptic Studies, citing its purpose and goals.
The idea was widely welcomed by Copts, and the Institute of Coptic Studies was established by the Melli Council and opened in January 1954. A decree issued by the Ministry of Education approved the foundation of the institute, confirming that it served to enrich knowledge about Egyptian national history during the Christian age, an era which lacked adequate studies.
Other prominent Coptologists and Egyptologists contributed to its establishment including Professor Dr Pahor Labib Director of the Coptic Museum in Old Cairo from 1951–1965.
The ICS offers graduate studies in Coptic topics including Coptic music, Coptic art, Coptic iconography and Coptic history.
The institute includes nine departments: Theology; Coptic Language; Hymns and Music; Coptic History; Sociology and Psychology; African Studies; Coptic Architecture; Coptic Art and Coptic Antiquities. Other departments are the Pope Shenouda Centre for Languages, the Dr Ragheb Moftah Centre for Hymns, and a free studies section.
In 1999 the ICS helped carry out an icon restoration project in conjunction with the Supreme Council of Antiquities and the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE). It also conducted a comprehensive survey of icons in need of restoration in Egyptian churches and monasteries.
For all its achievements, however, Dr Sabry deplores the fact that the ICS was internationally accredited but has not been accredited locally.
5 November 2018