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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

A Visit to the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Center

Less than a mile southeast of our Cairo condo lies the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Center. (Facebook here)  Somehow, over the years, we have neglected to visit this architectural gem that is home to a group of textile artists.  We visited the beautiful campus a few weeks ago and were amazed at the work of their weavers and batik artists.

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Ramses Wissa Wassef (1911-74) was an Egyptian architect and art professor.

Fascinated by the form of architecture in southern Egypt's Nubian villages near Aswan, he created a unique style of building in the Cairo area with arches, vaults and domes reminiscent of Pharaonic times.

He founded his unique art center in 1942 and began the school at this location in 1951 to "cultivate the creative abilities that can be found within every child."  Currently the center is run by the daughters of Wassef.


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On display in the gallery area is a large collection of woven fabric pictures.
This primitive weaving was done by Professor Wassef in order to teach himself how to weave.


Some of these works are quite large and amazingly intricate in their detail. This piece took the artist over one year to complete.


We visited the weaving area where we found several works in progress. There is no master drawing being copied by these artists, both female and male.  These tapestries are woven from images entirely in the artists' minds. Sadly there is no one in the younger generation who is interested in learning this amazing art form. When the current artists are gone there will be no more weaving at the center.  Both of these ladies have been creating and weaving for over twenty years.
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People of a certain age may remember the 1960's as a time of batik artistry in many communities.  The Ramses Wissa Wassef Art community added this medium to their repertoire in 1965.

Batik offers some advantages and disadvantages versus traditional weaving.

A large room of batik works is on display. Both batik and woven items are for sale as well as display.

Again, the detail in these works is quite impressive.  There are two styles of weaving- vertical weaving, which is done bottom to top and horizontal weaving, which amazingly is done vertically on the loom.  That is, the left side of the picture is started at the bottom of the loom and the right side of the picture will end at the top.  Such talent!    

Besides showing us the art and artists, our host and tour guide took us through the grounds and garden of the center.  Many plants are grown on site specifically for dyeing both cotton and wool thread. The dyeing process takes place here in the fall.  All of the current weavers and their families live in the houses on the grounds.
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The Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Center is planning two exhibitions in the United States this year.  The first is scheduled for New Mexico and the second is in negotiation for a spot in Minnesota in the fall.

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