Amir Adel is one of a new generation of iconographers in Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Church. Admittedly, his work involves painting saints and martyrs. “I believe in fellowship with the saints,” Mr Adel told Watani. “So before
I depict an icon of a saint, I strive to go into fellowship with him or her in order to let the Holy Spirit guide my depiction.”
Watani asked Mr Adel to introduce himself to the readers.
“My name is Amir Adel Thabet Hakim,” he said. “I was born on 26 May 1991 in the village of Nazlet al-Amoudein in the Minya district of Samalout some 240km south of Cairo.
“I always loved drawing and painting even as a child, but I was not good at the art. So I tried to learn what I could from my art teachers in school, but this did not quenches my thirst.”
Mr Adel went on to study Commerce at Assiut University. Being the eldest of six siblings, he had to work alongside his studies, to help with the family expenses; he worked as an agricultural worker and also as a wall painter with a big construction and real estate company in Cairo.
“Whatever work I had to do,” Mr Adel said, “I did with enthusiasm. This gave me a lot of life experience that benefitted me well in my life.”
In Cairo, Mr Adel used to pray at the church of the Holy Virgin in Zaitoun, Cairo. There, he accidentally met artist Samaan Shehata who came from his home village in Samalout. They instantly became friends.
“Mr Shehata was on assignment painting icons in a church in al-Qoussiya in Assiut where my university was located,” Mr Adel said. “I used to attend my classes, and at the same time work with Mr Shehata from whom I learned so much.”
Once he graduated from university and completed his military service, Mr Adel headed to Cairo where he worked at an art studio. “Since then,” he said, “I went into painting icons. For me, it was more a mission than a profitable job or one that attains fame.”
“When I have to depict any saint,” Mr Adel said, “I pray and read extensively about him or her. I work hard to foster a personal fellowship with that saint so that the icon would possess the spirit of his or her character. If I do not do so, the artwork would be dull and lifeless.
“Most of all, I try hard to retain inner peace, because art is an expression of thought and sentiment. Internal turmoil is sure to be reflected in the final art work.
“After completing an icon,” he added, “I feel it was not merely me painting; Divine help was always there guiding me.”
Mr Adel painted icons for many churches in Egypt, including the church of St Episkharoun at the desert monastery of Anba Macarius al-Sakandari; the church of Archangel Mikhail in Samalout; the church of Anba Thomas in Khatattba; the church of the Holy Virgin and Archangel in al-Marg; the church of Mar-Girgis (St George) in Menouf, and many others. “I was lucky to work with great veteran iconographers,” he said.
Mr Adel’s persistent efforts to advance his skill and knowledge as an icongrapher led him to follow the path of extended learning. He studies Coptic art at the Institute of Coptic Studies in Cairo, and also engages in studying Italian art. “I strive to present [modern] Coptic spiritual art fit for our Coptic Church and her glorious art history,” he said.
Replying to a question by Watani about the most memorable moments in his career, Mr Adel replied, “On the day that marked 125 years on opening the Coptic Clerical College in Cairo, in January 2019, a celebration was held over which Pope Tawadros presided. I was asked to present him with the gift, a portrait I had painted of him. I was overjoyed, and saw it as a great blessing.
17 August 2020