The Forbidden 05 May - 06 Jun

Silent agitators, Yasser Nabaiel and Weaam El Masry question the chains imposed by the (visible and invisible authorities) and the constant obligation for a seal of approval. Mainly government (human laws), religion (divine laws) and society (customs) form these ‘authorities’. Any act contrary is seen as either illegal, sinful or taboo.

Yasser Nabaiel employs controversial androgynous figures to create layers of meanings to describe the state of Arabs today. For Nabaiel, we are confined, imprisoned and suffocating from innumerable chains. This suffering, visualized at times in tied hands or legs, is reminiscent of Jesus and is accentuated by the spreading of stones – acting as setbacks making the road ahead difficult and painful. In four out of five works, the artist hides the head of the main figure, indicating that we no longer exist but as bodies, as numbers or seals.

In her second exhibition at ArtTalks, Weaam El Masry is showing seven new works, in which four are aspired by the unforgettable love scene culminating in murder in ‘Season of Migration to the North’ by the late Tayeb Salih, the founding father of Sudanese literature. With her signature drawing technique of absolute though nervous control of line, El Masry plays on the metaphorical meaning of the forbidden scene at the heart of the book. She poses whether it is possible for love to free us from society’s chains and accentuates the narrator’s most important discovery that “All my life I had not chosen, had not decided. Now I am making a decision.” Perhaps that is what we all should do.

The works presented in the exhibition by both artists are inspired by ‘The Prophet’ written in 1923 by the late Lebanese-born Gibran Khalil Gibran and ‘Season of Migration to the North’ written in 1966 by the late Sudanese thinker Tayeb Salih. Both books offer an enduring appeal to tackle all that is forbidden. Both books were praised and banned. ‘The Prophet’ was temporary banned in Egypt in 1999 and again in 2012 arguing that the drawing on the cover could be seen as representing Islam’s Prophet Mohamed. Tayeb Salih’s book on the other hand was banned for 30 years following its publication in Egypt and in Sudan and denounced as decadent and insulting of religion.

Yasser Nabaiel was born in Kafr el Sheikh, Egypt, in 1970. He lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland. He holds a BFA and an MFA in Painting and Drawing from the Fine Arts University in Cairo. He has participated in several Youth Salons and General Salons through the Ministry of Culture in Egypt, besides exhibiting in many European cities. He received the highest honors in oil painting for the 5 consecutive years at the faculty.

Born in 1987, Weaam el Masry is an Egyptian Cairo-based multi-award winning visual artist whose practice has included video art, photography, drawing and painting. She holds a PhD in Media Arts from the Faculty of Applied Arts, Helwan University and has won over 17 awards across her artistic career from different institutions in Egypt, notably the 2002 Youth Salon, the second prize in the 2003 Rateb Sedik (Atelier du Caire) and the Encouragement Award in the Port Said Biennale in 2003. She has participated in over 40 exhibitions locally and internationally and has attended several residencies, the most recent being in Columbia, where she resided in an all women jail. Her works are in the collection of the Egyptian Museum for Modern Art, Bibliotheca Alexandrina and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.

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