Monday, June 4, 2007

Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Center

A friend had mentioned this place near Harraniya Village, where the Center took in children, and, young adults, and allowed them to give full vent to their creativity with weaving and ceramics. It sounded interesting, so decided to go pay a visit.

Located on the Saqqara- Harraniya Road, past the new highway going towards Saqqara, the Center is about a half hour drive from Maadi.

On reaching the place, we were pleasantly surprised to see lots of greenery and lovely mud pasted structures which looked more in harmony with Egyptian / Arabic architectire than the faceless multi-storyed houses that one sees all across any large city.

A very nice lady, by the name of Yoanna, took us around, and , explained the concept to us. She is the daughter of the founder.

Ramses Wissa Wassef, a Copt from a prominent family, developed this center (in the 1950s) to create a place for local village children to express what they see in their environment through weaving tapestries. He laid down only 3 rules - no cartoons or drawings, no imiation of other works of art, and, no criticism or inteference from adults.

Today, the centre supports 70 people and teaches them to weave, and to make ceramics. When they come in, children are allowed to design and do what they want, so as to allow their inner creativity to come to the fore. Only after they have been here for a few years, does the centre teach them technical stuff. The designs are never forced, or instructed, they're determined entirely by the artisans themselves.

We saw some of the tapestry that had been woven by the inmates. Beautiful sceneries, and, lovely colours. There are large rugs, which have taken the weaver, about a year to weave.

The Center also teaches batik - the colurs are dazzling, and, the designs intricate.

While Yoanna looks after the tapestry and batik, her sister Suzzanne looks after the ceramics. The inmates have created beautiful tea services, jars, bowls, cups etc which have been painted in blue and then glazed.

Not only does the Center teach them these crafts, it also helps them with their health, their children's education, and, any other family problems or issues. A truly holistic approach.

The place is definately worth a visit, not only for the things available to buy, but just to see how one man's vision has helped many people to find themselves, and, build a better life for themselves and their families.


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