Art for Millions of People: Fathi Mahmoud's 1951 Ode to the Solidarity of the World's Oppressed
The relatively unsightly Chamber of Commerce building in Downtown across the road from Horreya hides one of Egypt's greatest examples of public art. The 1951 relief adorning the walls of the building voices the growing sentiment that was to explode just a few months later in the 1952 revolution and captures the nation's revolutionary yearning and fight for freedom, empowerment and solidarity with the down-trodden across the globe in a world then throwing off the shackles of colonialism.
The vast tableaux takes you from Chinese peasants tilling the land and Indian farmers rearing cattle to the industrial working class of the West, all united in labour and as those under the boot of those above. The message is very much of its time encapsulates the highest aspirations of the movement following the 1952 revolution and beautifully illustrates Egypt's outreach at the time to the world in a new spirit of brotherhood.
The impressive relief, named the World of Commerce, was designed by the great Egyptian artists Fathi Mahmoud, well known for his influence on Egypt's modern aesthetics all the way from kitchenware through to industrial design and grand public monuments. Fathi Mahmoud's work can be seen across the country and many of his other pieces are also worth visiting, most notably the Mermaid in Alexandria.
His family porcelain company that still runs to this today, proudly state how he was driven by his commitment to "Art for Millions of People", and it seems clear looking at this powerful relief that none of this message seems to have been lost seventy years on.