Today the Coptic Church celebrates the Pentecost, the last of the seven Great Feasts of the Master celebrated year round. These feasts chart the long road to Salvation trodden by Jesus Christ on earth. They include the Annunciation, the Nativity, the Epiphany, Palm Sunday, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Pentecost.
To mark this occasion, Watani would like to offer its readers a glimpse into a splendid art exhibition recently held in Cairo under the theme “The Way of Salvation”. The show was hosted by the Episcopal Church in Egypt among its celebration of 75 years on the foundation of the Church of all Saints in Egypt. Pope Tawadros II opened the exhibition in what was his first visit to the Episcopal Church. He was welcomed by its Bishop Mounir Hanna, the artist and exhibition’s curator Farid Fadel, and all the artists whose works were on show. Attending were Father Rafic Greiche of the Catholic Church and the Reverend Dr Safwat al-Bayadi who heads the Evangelical Church in Egypt.
In the guestbook, Pope Tawadros wrote that it gave him great pleasure to open this exhibition, and that he truly realised the role of art in spiritual meditation and inspiration of acts of goodwill.
Bishop Hanna spoke of the Coptic Orthodox Church, in his opening word, as the ‘Mother Church’ of Egypt. He hailed the Pope’s presence as a “historic visit” and commended the interest of the Church in promoting art which expresses God’s love for humankind. “Pope Tawadros,” Bishop Hanna said, “has expressed strong belief in the unity of the Church which Jesus himself prayed for. Today the Pope’s visit reveals an open mind, and faith in ecumenical work, as well as a deep appreciation of art.”
Bishop Hanna, who spearheaded the exhibition, said he got the idea when he visited an exhibition entitled the Vision of Salvation in London.
The paintings, sculptures or reliefs on display were the work of 11 Egyptian artists Makram Henein, Gamil Shafik, Gamal Lamie, Farid Fadel, Adel Nassief, Salah Botros, Carelle Homsy, Nathan Doss, Pierre Michel, Kyrillos Adel, and this writer. Belonging to different schools of art and different generations, they each uniquely expressed how they saw the story of the Salvation. The life of Christ the Saviour spread before the visitor’s eyes in exquisite expression, starting with the Annunciation and the birth of Jesus, and on to the many events in His life, till the Passion, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension.
Eye and soul catching
In styles ranging from impressionism to cubism and classicism, the artists freely used symbols pregnant with spiritual and artistic insight, each profoundly depicting his or her special perspective through outline, space, and colour that caught both the eye and the soul. The greatness of art, after all, lies in the magic of its ambiguity.
After spending over an hour in the exhibition, studying each piece and individually listening and talking to every artist, Pope Tawadros thanked them one and all, and expressed his appreciation of their blessed effort.
Apart from enriching the Egyptian art scene, the exhibition of contemporary Coptic art, according to the participant artists, truly expressed: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
8 June 2014