6th class of the Art Jameel Programme for Traditional Arts and Crafts celebrate their graduation

09 May 2016

“This year we are very proud of the improved quality of the pieces,” said programme director Mamdouh Sakr. “The students showed dedication and enthusiasm, and this was reflected in their work.”

The Art Jameel Programme for Traditional Arts and Crafts celebrated the graduation of a new generation of artists and artisans at the Fustat Traditional Crafts Centre.

“This year we are very proud of the improved quality of the pieces,” said programme director Mamdouh Sakr. “The students showed dedication and enthusiasm, and this was reflected in their work.”

Established in 2008 by Art Jameel, a Community Jameel initiative, in collaboration with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts and the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, the programme aims to train young Egyptians in the traditional arts, covering geometry, painting, colour theory, woodworking, ceramics, gypsum & stained glass, metalwork, and many other handicrafts.

Of the 17 students who graduated at the ceremony on August 25th, eight specialised in ceramics, six in woodwork, and three in metalwork.

“The thing I benefited from the most was the design curriculum, it was excellent,” said Ola Said, one of the students specialized in ceramics, whose graduation project, a fully functional traditional drinking fountain constructed of ceramics and artificial stone, is among the most ambitious this year. “Throughout the year we had several intensive week-long workshops, with specialised trainers from the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London. The handicrafts curriculum was excellent as well, and the support was great,” she continued.

The graduation ceremony took place in the presence of students’ friends and family, alumni from previous editions of the programme, as well as several distinguished guests from Egypt’s cultural scene, including Neveen El-Kilany, head of the Cultural Development Fund at the Egyptian Ministry of Culture.

After a walk-through of the exhibition displaying students’ work, Sakr and director of the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, Khaled Azzam, gave welcoming addresses, followed by the presentation of diplomas and a group photograph. The graduating students’ work will continue to be exhibited from August 28th till September 1st from 10 am to 4 pm, at the Fustat Traditional Crafts Centre.

General Manager at Art Jameel International, Renata Papsch, was also in attendance, while Community Jameel, the social enterprise organisation that includes Art Jameel among its initiatives, was represented by George Richards, director of strategy development.

In line with Art Jameel’s focus on preserving cultural heritage, including traditional arts in Egypt, this two-year programme develops students’ abilities to apply the foundational skills they learn during the programme to contemporary design and the restoration of monuments.

The programme also focuses on securing job opportunities for its students within the fields of art and design, and its more than 55 graduates have gone on to teach at academic institutions, venture into the world of furniture design, and hold successful exhibitions of their artwork.

“This year for the first time the British Council hosted an exhibition where the students and alumni could present and sell their art works,” said Papsch. “The next exhibition is planned for January 2017 and we hope to have more events like this in the coming years.”

“We also attended a workshop on how to market our work,” said Said. “It’s a very good start for all of us, but we have to continue our efforts to be able to make it on our own.”

This year, the programme placed a significant focus on the architectural environment of Islamic Cairo, with students actively engaging with historic monuments. As the program grows and develops in coming years, students and organisers look forward to what the future may bring.

“Developing organically over time, each year we are getting steadily more and more

applications,” said Papsch, “and not only that, we feel that the quality is also increasing. So far, 55 students have graduated successfully and we are very proud of them.”

The Art Jameel Programme for Traditional Arts and Crafts is part of a developing network of Art Jameel projects focused on preserving cultural heritage.  This includes other partnerships with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts at the House of Traditional Arts in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and the Jameel House of Traditional Arts and Building Skills, currently under construction in Scotland.