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Salah Jaheen at Al Suhaimi house for the week
Published in Ahram Online on 01 - 08 - 2021

Last Tuesday marked the opening of an exhibition of cartoon drawings by renowned caricature artist and pillar of vernacular poetry Salah Jaheen (1930-1986).

In the heart of Islamic Cairo, I finally reach my destination. There is no sign advertising the exhibition whatsoever. With all doors closed, I started to have some doubts. I knock on the ancient door of Sheikh Shihab Al Din Ahmed Al Suhaimi's house (built in1648 A.D) to be politely greeted and escorted into the quite ancient gem, and then another door is opened where the caricature gems of Salah Jaheen are neatly hanging on display.

Hidden behind the ancient doors, like one of Cairo's best kept secrets, I found the cartoon treasure. I could not help but smile to myself, thinking what Salah Jaheen himself might have drawn about this secret exhibition.

The way leading to the exhibition, inside Beit al Souhemi. Photo amira noshokaty
The illustration depicts a government employee sitting at his desk, buying a cup of coffee for his jacket until he comes back from the cinema.

Fi Al Fadia wal Maliana (Over anything and everything) is the name of the one week exhibition at Al-Sehemi house in Al-Hussien district, which is a name of a cartoon series by Jaheen himself, exhibited there.

The exhibition is the result of the collaborative efforts of The Egyptian Caricature Association, Caricature Museum in Fayoum and the Egyptian culture development fund. This is the beginning of a series of exhibitions of Egypt's renowned cartoonists and their works.

Jaheen's cartoons takes you places. His wit and liberal thoughts break all the barriers that have always been inflicted on Egyptian Society. Scanning the cartoons on display, one can easily relate, seeing how little has changed in our social taboos. During summer, for example, Egyptians are still preoccupied with women's rights to bathing suits and access to the sea. The illustration shows two men checking out an empty slot by the sea shore, commenting "Oh can you see the girl wearing a swim suit who is NOT laying here."

Another interesting illustration depicts a government employee sitting at his desk, buying a cup of coffee for his jacket until he comes back from the cinema. And the classic one depicts a minister of health wearing a mask while stating that he does not feel any of the pollution the press is talking about.

Such wit and talent enabled Jaheen to draw on philosophical ideas as well. Illustrating Sartre's quote "Man is condemned to be free," is one of them that toys with the idea of actual imprisonment.

This one depicts a minister of health wearing a mask while stating that he does not feel any of the pollution the press is talking about.
Illustrating Sartre's quote "Man is condemned to be free,"

"This is the first exhibition to be held outside the museum," explained artist Mohamed Abla, founder of Caricature Museum in Fayoum.

"We aimed to reflect the three main phases of of Salah Jaheen's cartoon's. So we depicted cartoons from Rosa Al-Youssef, Sabah Al-Kheir and later in Al-Ahram," explained Abla to Ahram Online.

The style of Jaheen's cartoon varied in different stages of his life. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Jaheen was part of a great team of talented cartoonists whose talents flourished in Sabah El Kheir (Good Morning) Magazine. While there he created characters like Abu Al-Mafhomia (Mr. Knows Everything) and the Qahwat Al-Nashat (The coffee shop of energetic people), where he mocked the stereotyping of society and the attitude of government employees, explained Abla.He added that later, when Jaheen joined Al-Ahram newspaper in the 1970s, he had his own section and leaned towards political cartoons.

"The exhibition showcases a glimpse of Jaheen's artistic styles and strokes until his style was fully complete," he added.

Salah Jaheen's brilliance was manifested across the arts, not just cartoons. Known as a pillar of Egypt's vernacular poetry, his poems and lyrics remain deeply rooted within the Arab and Egyptian collective memory. As a screen writer, his films remain classic icons of Egyptian cinema. Looking thoroughly at his lifetime achievements, one can easily see a genuine talent mixed with wit and a great sense of humanity. He always sided with kindness, liberty and common sense.

"We are currently working on another big exhibition that shall showcase all of Salah Jaheen's talents and works, be it poetry, cinema or cartoon," concluded Abla.

Fi Al Fadia wal Maliana (Over anything and everything) Salah Jaheen's cartoon exhibition at Beit al Al Suhaimi, Al-Moez l din Allah Al Fatemi Street,

Working hours: Daily from 1 p.m to 7 p.m till Tuesday August 3 – 2021


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