Another Egyptian revolution: Khayamiya as War art

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Another Egyptian Revolution: Khayamiya as War ArtThe Tentmakers of Cairo have made decorated tents or 'Khayamiya' since the time of the Ottoman Empire (Stone, 2010 and Gagnon, 2003). Their work was widely collected as souvenirs by Allied soldiers in Egypt during the First and Second World Wars, and even appropriated for military purposes. However, in the aftermath of the 25 January 2011 Revolution, Hany Abdel Khader became the first Egyptian Tentmaker to directly address the complex genre of war art. His Revolution Khayamiya (2011 and 2012) are unprecedented and controversial interpretations of this historic textile art form. Given their original context, they are the most provocative of the contemporary artworks that have emerged in Cairo in the wake of the 2011 Revolution. They symbolize a vast break from tradition, and a very direct engagement with the social and political disruption of the Egyptian Revolution.This paper will discuss the unexpected emergence of Abdel Khader's highly expressive and individual work as a contemporary war artist within a medium widely disregarded as a decorative textile craft. His original Revolution Khayamiya now belongs to the Oriental Museum in Durham University, with a second piece proposed for acquisition by another cultural institution at the time of writing. These are the first contemporary Khayamiya to be recognized by major cultural institutions, and they are both exemplars of Egyptian war art.The depiction of a recent and violent political event, by the conventions of the Sharia el-Khayamiya, is an act of breathtaking audacity and acumen. The Revolution Khayamiya were sewn by hand in secret, depicting the events in Tahrir Square as Hany Abdel Khader saw them, as his friends told him, and as they were related by Egyptian media. The result is simple in the manner of folk art, but profound as his personal narrative of a complex national uprising.This is an important story expressed through an ancient decorative art.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConstructing the memory of war in visual culture since 1914
Subtitle of host publicationThe eye on war
EditorsAnn Murray
Place of PublicationNew York, USA
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9780203711385
ISBN (Print)9781138502970
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2018
EventWar in the Visual Arts - University of Cork, Cork, Ireland
Duration: 12 Sept 201313 Sept 2013

Publication series

NameRoutledge Research in Art and Politics
PublisherTaylor & Francis


ConferenceWar in the Visual Arts


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