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It is with absolute pleasure thatSafarkhan announces the 5thexhibition for internationally acclaimed artistZakaria El Zeini (1932-1993), followinghis powerful ‘Moulid Ya Donia’ exposélast February. El Zeini was raised in thepopular Sayeda Zeinab district ofCairo before graduating from the Faculty ofFine Arts, he then honed his innatetalent for painting at the esteemed PravanaAcademy of Venice. El Zeini wouldeventually return to his homeland and almamater, this time as a distinguishedprofessor. He has posthumously beenacknowledged as one of the greatest Egyptianand Arab artists of his generationfor his work’s unique thematic elements andits distinctively austere yet blissfullyserene, otherworldly composition.

El Zeini emerged in the wake of thegreat pioneers Gazzarand Nada, who were infatuated with the popular customs andbeliefs of Egypt’s commonermasses. His canvases are replete with folkloricritual iconography like voodoodolls (arousa in local parlance), which would bepierced by the faithful poor tobanish the superstition of the evil eye. Histireless exploration of such themeswas a refined cultural and politicalcritique. Drawing considerable inspirationfrom the three wives he keptthroughout his life, there are recurring motifs ofvenerating the feminine form,function and essence apparent throughout hiswork. He accentuated his depictionswith an ambiguously intriguing symbology inwhich he conjoined his wives’initials together forming encrypted tributes totheir indelible influence on hiscraft. Although much of his work explores theritualistic practices oftraditional moulid and zar festivities, which he sawas mystifying andenigmatic, his artistic philosophy was more substantive.

El Zeini’s companion and famedfellow artist, Hussein Bicar,elaborated on his concept of the ‘fourth person’,contending that El Zeini’shuman figures are not male or female, and neither arethey androgynous. Theyare featureless beings suspended in space-time, besetwithin the confinement ofrectangular and triangular enclosures that signifyconfusion and a failure tobe transparent about their sacred personal identity.Likewise, the abundance ofcrosses throughout his portrayals were a nullifyingstamp implying aneradication of the free will of individuals that were insteadmarginalized intovarious compartments of society. El Zeini was especiallyattentive to this inrelation to the subjugation of women. There is a starkpensiveness, palpablesimplicity and a wistful plea to spirituality andenlightenment in El Zeini’sportfolio, which Bicar succinctly termed the‘language of silence borne fromthe mysterious.’ Unfortunately, El Zeini is onthe verge of being forgotten asone of the greats of Egyptian art, prodigious ashe was, because of his worknot being adequately promoted in the public eye.Safarkhan therefore firmlybelieves this is an exhibition art connoisseurs willrejoice in.

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