By Nii B. Andrews.

The intense irrational reality of a dream continues to consume us even as we enjoy the bouts of heavy rain in Tema.

There has been a bounty from our garden – an organic harvest of tomatoes, cabbage and green beans.

Why then in the midst of plentiful natural resources provided by Providence do we find ourselves grovelling for help as a nation? 

Could it be because several BILLION USD of public money is MISSING as documented by our Auditor General and nothing has been done about it yet by those mandated by law to do so?

Perhaps it is therefore as good a time as any to reflect on the work of the highly acclaimed pioneer of Egyptian Surrealism and freedom fighter, Ramses Younan (1913 -1966).

Younan was also an astute explorer of abstract art and left an indelible mark on the Egyptian art scene of the last century.

****UNTITLED: Ramses Younan, oil on canvas, 47 x 36.5cm.; 18 1/2 x 14 1/8 in.1945***

In the aftermath of the debacle of colonialism and fascism, Younan emerged as polymath; art critic, philosopher, translator and agent provocateur for a global cultural revolution.

He produced an extensive compendium of paintings, drawings, daring visual experiments and incisive essays.

Throughout the 1940’s Younan immersed himself in the Art and Freedom movement which stated in its inaugural statement:

 “We believe that any attempt to confine modern art, as certain people wish, to being an instrument at the service of a religion, a race or a nation is utterly absurd or is no more than a bad joke. 

As for us these reactionary myths can only be regarded as imprisoning the thought.”

****UNTITLED: Ramses Younan, oil on canvas, 50 x 37.4 cm.; 19⅝ x 14¾ in. 1935****

Younan in his paintings often explored themes of poverty and disparity; the social inequality and extreme poverty he witnessed across Cairo – and now at its worst manifestation in many jurisdictions throughout the world.

The divergence between the wealthy and the underprivileged is prevalent in the work directly above, especially when one examines the juxtaposed figures represented across the canvas. 

The dominant figure, with angular features, hovers powerfully amid two faceless nude forms, which stand obediently on either side, as though in representation of the voiceless members of society who hold up the pyramid of wealth, power, privilege and impunity.

At the very bottom is a faceless and vulnerable figure amid a shadow of darkness, in a fetus-like position of susceptibility and helplessness.

Or do others see shades of brown for all the figures with the darkest shade at the bottom…..yet again! 

****INSPIRATION FROM THE SEA/Inspiration de la Mer: Ramses Younan, Oil paint on canvas, 826 × 1004 mm, 1963.****

By the late 50s, Younan transitioned from surrealism to abstract art thereby demonstrating his versatility and uncanny ability to break away from “the traditional” and established modus operandi of the time.

And of course from 1943 he maintained his status as a prominent critic and writer through the role of editor of El Magalla El Guidida (the new magazine) – a revolutionary and artistic publication.

With the collaboration of Centre Pompidou’s research library, Bibliotheque Kandinsky, where Ramses Younan’s archives are now preserved, ZAMÂN BOOKS has this year, produced the first official monograph ( available in two volumes French / English), “that gathers an exhaustive catalogue of Ramses Younan’s paintings, drawings and visual experimentations with an anthology of critical essays about and by the artist”.

The English version is a hardcover book; it includes more complete portfolios and an additional text by Francesca Rondinelli, correspondences between Georges Henein and Ramses Younan.

This seminal publication on a major African artist titled RAMSES YOUNAN: THE SHARE OF SAND can be obtained here: https://zamanbc.com/en/ramses-younan-2/

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