The Orange Girl is a line in an endless story whose beginning I shall narrate. She is a a unique form, and a message that constitutes the art I make. She is at the heart of incidents and situations that happened and are still happening.
"The orange girl" is inspirational. She is a stimulant and a catalyst, the source of stories whose minutest details human beings live, interact with, and are influenced by.
“The orange girl” is the manifestation of experiences that the artist went through and wanted to express through his tools, materials, and artistic perceptions and tendencies.
“The orange girl” is a reality, an occurrence, an image, and a vision.
She is a form, a subject, and a symbol.
She is the result of an intellectual and emotional state and an insight into the reality in which we live.
She is one and all, an existence and a meaning, an idea and a symbol.
She occupies both time and space, the city and the country, fields and alleyways.
acrylic colors, charcoal sticks, and skillfully calculated brush strokes? Or does he tell stories in which he got involved throughout years of painting? If so, did he personally witness the events of these stories and meet their protagonists? Or were these stories he listened to then summoned up? Maybe all of the above, forming an image of the different components of a human life?
The content of these paintings present a diversity of moods and we stand in awe as we see the workings of the artist’s subconscious come to the surface in his paintings.
The artist had one day ran away from the staff at Cairo’s central train station who chased him when they saw the sketches he made of different scenes at the station. Those sketches depicted the suffering of the disenfranchised as they struggled through life and as this struggle was exemplified in the hardships they encounter in their train trips. The artist was, according to the station staff, shedding light on undesirable aspects of Egyptian life, ones that would tarnish the country’s image.
Following a long chase, the artist managed to hide in a dark train wagon and there he resumed painting in peace. The train, however, started moving and the artist decided to let it take him wherever it headed. Maybe there, he can find new worlds and explore different horizons that he can also paint.
The train shot into the heart of the countryside, to the simple life of Egyptian peasants in the south.
He was enveloped in breathtaking scenery—palm trees, fruits, forests, and canals. He saw the early rising peasants and the cattle roaming around the fields. It was another world, one that is strikingly different from crammed and noisy working class neighborhoods that abound across the city.
At that moment, the artist decided to paint landscapes from the countryside, to depict the daily lives and customs of villagers, the movement of animals and birds, and the different components of that new world that was opening up to him.
The train stopped at a village called Mazghouna in the outskirts of Giza. He got off and walked along an earthen path flanked by sedges and canes. A few minutes later, he spotted a marketplace.
In the countryside, each village or town has a weekly market in which peasants sell their crops, products, and cattle and vivaciously walk around promoting their goods to potential buyers. He stood on a little hill and from there was able to see the entire marketplace which was surrounded by greenery and palm trees and was coming to life with the movements and chit-chats of the peasants.
The scene was fascinating and after taking his time to contemplate it, the artist felt he was part of it. He left behind the hustle and bustle of the train station back in the city and was at that moment totally immersed in the openness and liberation of the countryside.
He realized there is more to that scene than he could actually see, something invisible that he decided to paint.
The artist sat next to a fence behind a shoemaker’s tent and started making sketches of the marketplace, depicting the movements and interactions of the people and paying attention to all the details in search for particular stimulant that would take him through a unique artistic experience. Then all of a sudden a basket fell to the ground and oranges were scattered all over the place. At that moment at noon as the sun glared down at the fields, the orange girl made her appearance.
She was dark-skinned with contoured eyes. She wore a yellow loose garment with multi-colored flowers. Around her head she wrapped a white scarf and in her feet were dark brown sandals.
With fiery determination, the girl pushed the orange basket off her head and let it fall as she yelled, "I said I am not carrying it!” Behind her was a man holding a stick with which he hit her hard while pressing on her shoulders and saying, “And I said you will carry it!” She cried and sobbed. Her mother, dressed in a dark blue garment walked towards her. She scolded her daughter and tried to talk her into carrying the orange basket. The girl screamed and insisted she was not carrying the basket. She had rebelled and there was no going back to obedience and submission.
What surprised the artist the most was the unexpected reaction of passersbys. Unlike what is known about locals from this area, they were absolutely passive and no one interfered at all as if that was a normal occurrence. Their attitude got to him that he even assumed that it might be the girl’s fault after all. “Maybe she is too spoilt,"he thought.
The argument continued and the artist felt he was watching an opera or a theatrical performance. It was a dramatic composition par excellence-the scattered oranges, the loud voices, the movements of crowds, the attitude of spectators, the colors of garments.
He kept watching as the incident formulated itself compositionally in his mind. He could not, in fact, see it in a different light.
He closed his eyes then opened them. The oranges was all what he saw.
He asked the shoemaker who was also watching from a distance. The shoemaker advised the artist not to consider intervening. "Better let it go,” he said. "New habits seem to have taken hold here. They want to marry the girl off and she wants to play with her friends. She's just a child you know."
The scene never left him and the Orange Girl made an impact on his life and art as he started searching for other orange girls around.
How many Orange Girls are there?
The orange girl shook the artist on both the emotional and artistic level. She turned from an incident that took place in a rural marketplace during one of his artistic excursions into a symbol that made him see the world in a different light. Ever since, the artist has been storing all the experiences he goes through and listening to other people's stories with extreme interest. He then turns all those into artistic stories that reflect the complications of society as represented by the iconic orange girl.