Female Empowerment Through Art: From Past to Present

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President Ricciardone and Chairman Richard Bartlett reveal the Doria Shafik plaque, as part of the Bint al-Nil exhibition, in the presence of Shafik's daughters and AUC alumni Aziza Ellozy and Jehane Ragai
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Bint al-Nil exhibit, inspired by the life of Doria Shafik
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Bint al-Nil exhibit, inspired by the life of Doria Shafik
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When Dreams Call for Silence, by Huda Lutfi

In 1951, Egyptian activist and poet Doria Shafik (1908 - 1975) led “a feminist congress” from Ewart Memorial Hall, gathering 1,500 women to march from the hall along Kasr el-Aini Street to the gates of Parliament. The march demanded that women be granted the right to vote. Egyptian women were granted suffrage in 1956.

Celebrating the life and works of Doria Shafik, Bint al-Nil/Daughter of the Nile exhibition by Egyptian-American artist Sherin Guirguis is one of two major exhibitions that opened with the University's centennial celebration kickoff on the historic Tahrir Square campus, as part of the newly inaugurated Tahrir Cultural Center. This is Guirguis' first exhibition in Egypt.

The second exhibition, When Dreams Call for Silence, by visual artist Huda Lutfi features drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations — Lutfi's first exhibition at AUC in more than 20 years.

Both exhibitions will continue until February 28.

Bint al-Nil/Daughter of the Nile

For two years, Guirguis has been studying Shafik’s life and works, leading her to fully integrate ideas and concepts from Shafik’s life and turn them into pieces of art. Her exhibition, which is being showcased at the Future and Legacy galleries at AUC Tahrir Square, displays a series of paintings and sculptures inspired by Doria Shafik — part of the artist's ongoing exploration of Egyptian feminism through the lens of history and memory.

“I consider AUC as my intellectual and cultural home. An institution to which I owe so much and on so many levels.  So to have Sherin’s special exhibit dedicated to our mother, as one of the opening  celebrations to the AUC centennial, together with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque honoring Doria Shafik’s march to parliament from Ewart Hall, fills me with feelings of infinite gratitude and happiness.” Said Jehane Ragai, the daughter of Shafik and professor emerita in the Department of Chemistry.

Guirguis is known for using hand-cut paper in her work. She uses materials and methods to reflect time and space.

“Coming across the work of Doria Shafik was transformative for my artist practice. The whole of her work — as a poet, a feminist and a mother,” Guirguis said.

When Dreams Call for Silence

Lutfi has created an entirely new body of work, composed of drawings, paintings, sculptures and installations. Her work employs incorporates an array of artistic directions, from surrealism to Pharaonic art, from Eastern philosophy to meditation.

“There is a stillness, a calm in the images,” Lutfi explained. “The mood is one of reflection and silent contemplation.”

Stemming from a period of intense artistic creativity, this exhibition takes Lutfi’s visual practice into new directions. A central piece of the exhibit is a sound installation that incorporates a meditation by Rupert Spira, a teacher of philosophy and spiritual practice. Lutfi also offers an animation short with music, depicting marching figures that echo Pharaonic imagery.

Commending both exhibitions, President Francis Ricciardone noted,

“We at AUC have always recognized Egypt, Mother of the Universe, as the millennial fountainhead of creativity and the arts in this region. These dramatically fresh exhibits by internationally renowned Egyptian artists Huda Lutfi and Sherin Guirguis reaffirm this fact and offer hope for the possibility of a renaissance."