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Way to salvation
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 06 - 05 - 2014

Coptic Pope Tawadros II showed an interest in art during the Easter holidays. His appearance at the Anglican All Saints Cathedral in Zamalek brought a crowd of Christian art lovers to their feet at the opening of “The Way of Salvation,” an exhibition curated by artist Farid Fadel.
In his first-ever visit to the Cathedral, which is celebrating its 75th anniversary, the Pope said that he was satisfied with the close rapport developing among the Christian churches.
The art exhibition, held in the main auditorium, contains work inspired by biblical images of the life and passion of Christ. Bishop Mouneer Hanna of the Episcopal Church sponsored the exhibition, which was also attended by the reverend Safwat al-Bayadi of the Anglican Church and father Rafiq Gereish of the Catholic Church.
“The idea of this exhibition came to me when I saw an exhibition in London called the “vision for salvation” and wondered if we could do the same in Egypt, with Egyptian artists tackling that same theme. So I asked artist Farid Fadel to invite Christian artists from varied backgrounds to tell the story of salvation in one exhibition,” Hanna said.
Wagdy Habashy, one of the artists taking part in the exhibition, said that “the greatness of art lies in the magic of its ambiguity.” In his painting “Born to be Crucified,” Habashy depicts the baby Jesus standing on the lap of the Virgin Mary, with his arms extending outwards like a cross. Habashy includes numerous symbols, such as the key of life, the fish, and the chalice, to denote the act of salvation.
In another painting, entitled “Promise of Salvation,” the Virgin Mary is shown holding the baby Jesus, with the latter tossing an apple symbolising sin out of a window. “Coptic art is part of a whole civilisation. Its vision of the past and its biblical inspiration that flows into the depth of the soul almost like a revelation fires the imagination of the artist,” Habashy noted.
Gamil Shafik is showing two pieces, one a carving of the Virgin with the baby Jesus, and the other a painting showing the journey of the Holy Family to Egypt. Makram Henein has been inspired by the Old Testament in his work “Copper Serpent” that was created by Moses who put the serpent on top of a flagpole. Anyone biten by a snake then looking at this copper serpent had to live then. This was considered the wat to salvation.
Farid Fadel goes for a classical effect in “Ultimate Sacrifice,” a painting showing Abraham as he sets out to slay his son Isaac.
Careele Homsy has exhibited a panoramic painting of Noah's Ark and how it saved humanity.
In “Sinai, Holy land” Gamal Lamie shows Moses in front of the Burning Bush, with the Sinai landscape in the background.
Adel Nassief's adds to his repertoire of mesmerising icons with depictions of the Holy Family traveling by the River Nile.
Sculptor Nathan Doss has created sculptures, made of Bronze, evoking Christian symbolism and the passion of Christ. Salah Botros has produced 16 pieces of bas-relief polyester showing religious tales, a particularly haunting one is the “Burial” showing the Virgin Mary crying over the body of Jesus.
During the opening ceremony, Bishop Hanna hailed the Pope's presence as a “historic visit,” and then commended the Orthodox Church for its spiritual work, noting the interest of the Church in promoting art that expresses God's love for humanity.
Pope Tawadros II, who received a standing ovation on his arrival, said that “I appreciate the role of art in inspiration and contemplation. The Church has always sponsored art that illustrates the events of the Holy Book and the life of the saints.”
Wagdy Habashy, Gamil Shafik, Makram Henein, Gamal Lamie, Farid Fadel, Adel Nassief, Salah Botros, Carellel Homsy, Nathan Doss, Pierre Michel, and Kirollos Adel all contributed paintings and sculptures to the exhibition in styles ranging from impressionism to cubism and classicism.

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