Naglaa Radwan, 51, began her journey in the corridors of the Ramses Wissa Wassef Art Center in the village of Harraniya, Giza Governorate, Egypt, from an early age. Her mother was among the artists weaving handmade carpet paintings at the center.
Naglaa followed in her mother’s footsteps and learned the art of hand-knitting carpets and became an artist producing unique paintings for nearly 40 years.
The story of the Arts Center begins with the return of the late architect Ramses Wissa Wassef, who died in 1974, to Cairo after graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts in the French capital, Paris. Wasef was fascinated by the handicrafts spread in Egypt at the time and wished to develop them.
In 1942 Wasef learned to spin on a loom, and bought half an acre in the village of Harraniya, and he used to visit the village on his weekends to follow up on the construction of the center. Wasef found a turnout of village children to help him build and a curiosity about why he was in their village.
A kind of friendship developed between him and a group of 15 children, ranging in age from eight to 11 years, and he invited them, upon completion of building the center and purchasing the looms, to join him to learn weaving.
Among these children was Lutfia Muhammad, who joined the first generation of artists at the age of seven and learned art from the late architect. Lotfia is now 68 years old and is the oldest woman in the center and the oldest one working there.
Lutfia recalls her memories of the late architect, describing him as a cheerful and loving person. Anything I did to his father, he used to tell me it was sweet, and they used to tell me it was sweet. They encouraged me to do better.”
Over the years, Lutfia relied on nature for the ideas of her paintings, by strolling in the center’s garden with Susan, in search of inspiration among plants, flowers and birds. Lutfia says, “We walk in the garden and watch, do I like this view? No, this is what I used to do before. Your mind leads and answers until I choose the need that I want.”
The center currently employs approximately 27 artists, and Suzanne believes that since the center was established 71 years ago, more than 100 artists have been taught handwoven production.
The prices of the paintings start from 10,000 Egyptian pounds and reach 200,000 pounds. The period of time for producing one painting ranges from five months to a year, according to the size and details of the painting. Each artist receives a third of the value of the work.
Teaching the art of weaving handmade carpet paintings was limited to the two generations taught by Wasef and his two daughters. Susan explains, “We did not start with a third generation, because one human being cannot raise two generations in his life, because we constantly need encouragement, we need confirmation of each one’s personality in order to be able to thrive.” .
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