Zamalek's Hidden Mosaics
Squeezed between the sheet metal fences around the new Zamalek metro station under construction and the Helwan University Faculty of Fine Art is a refreshingly colourful find, a set of beautifully made mosaics.
The mosaics are all done by different artists with different styles and subjects. One that really sticks out is a dedication to Pablo Picasso, along with another to the great Egyptian architect Hassan Fathy. Others focus on rural scenes of an Egypt long ago and other's focus on Egyptian traditions, like that of the Arouset el-Moulid.
In 2012, final-year art students under the guidance of the professor embarked on creating these mosaics. Following on from the revolution, just a year prior, the mosaics seem to have been a declaration of free expression and will to reclaim the streets for the public. Interestingly, the themes that come across directly reflect those of the revolutionary graffiti that used to adorn the walls before the mosaics. This certainly comes across, still to this day, with a poignant sense of optimism.
The city is often suffocatingly oppressive in its colour scheme, with not much outside of the spectrum between the grey of concrete high rises and the light brown of dust-covered surfaces. But from the cracks, colour seeps through with the creativity of people decorating their balconies, plants through the cracks in the pavement, and colourful expressions like these.