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Nora Zeid’s Stunning Illustrations Of Cairo To Kickstart Tashkeel’s New Season

The Egyptian visual artist aimed to re-establish her relationship with ‘The City of a Thousand Minarets’ through the arresting black-and-white works…

Nora Zeid’s “Cairo Illustrated: Stories from Heliopolis’” explores the bustling Egyptian capital around the themes of memory, tourism and infrastructure. The visual artist’s first solo exhibition is an ode to the often-overlooked intricacies of her hometown, depicted through black-and-white digital and hand-drawn illustrations. The free expo, the 13th public outcome of Tashkeel’s Critical Practice Programme since its inception in 2014, will run at the gallery in Tashkeel Nad Al Sheba 1, Dubai from 14 September to 23 October 2021.

Longing to re-establish her relationship with the city of Cairo, Zeid, who shifted her focus to her visual arts practice as well as freelance illustration after working as a graphic designer at Abjad Design for three years, gathered memories from various neighbourhoods. The artist, who has worked for clients such as VICE, NoGood, Matter, Dubai Culture and Dubai Design District, found that each recollection was tied to the next by space, adding a virtual layer of historical facts to these personal experiences. Subsequently, this fashioned a duality between the personal and the general, the small and the big picture, making the topic of heritage more accessible.

“To walk in a busy street of Cairo is to have your senses saturated and overwhelmed as you scramble to process the immense amount of data before your senses. Every inch of the city demands your constant, and undivided attention,” the American University of Sharjah graduate with a B.S in Visual Communication says.   

“My practice is driven by a desire to re-establish my relationship with Cairo through close observation. In order to understand my hometown better, I wanted to bring the bustling city to a momentary standstill,” Zeid adds.

 The artist explains her works freeze intimate moments in space and time, with the black-and-white touch simplifying scenes and allowing the city’s complex tapestry to shine. “As buildings, objects and people fade into the distance, they become more and more abstracted, blending into the rich and complex texture of the cityscapes depicted.” Zeid says.  

Lisa Ball-Lechgar, Deputy Director of Tashkeel, says the exhibition is a well-timed commentary on the ongoing debate around urbanisation, socio-economics, heritage and belonging.

“The value of built heritage in Cairo – and Egypt as a whole – has been greatly tied to age, its celebration often reserved to Pharaonic, Islamic and Coptic sites,” Ball-Lechgar says. “Even then, their value is mostly linked to tourism. Nora’s exhibition aims to question how Cairenes define and interact with heritage, starting with the district of Heliopolis.” 

A printed catalogue featuring contributions by Mahy Mourad, architect and professor at American University of Cairo, and Omniya Abdel Barr, an architect, heritage expert and Barakat Trust Fellow at Victoria & Albert Museum, London, is an exciting addition to the showcase. A digital version of the catalogue will be available using the QR code displayed in the gallery.  

Advance booking is required via email [email protected] or by contacting +971 4 336 3313. You can also visit for details on the programme, the exhibition and the tours. 

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