The 2015 Egyptian Surrealists in Global Perspective conference, and the companion 2016 exhibition When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965), both held in Cairo, Egypt, explored the history and evolution of the work of Egyptian surrealists and their remarkable legacy within Egypt and in international surrealist circles. This article serves as a preview of contributions to this special issue of Nka, which serves as a followup to these two events, documenting the relationship of the Egyptian surrealists with Western counterparts, especially the French surrealists, and their contributions to internationalism, antifascist global protest, and decolonization, staged and performed outside the West. The artistic and intellectual output of the Egyptian surrealists was primarily centered around activities initiated by the Art and Liberty group (Jama’at al-Fann Wa al-Hurriyyah), the Contemporary Art Group (Jama’at al-Fann al-Mu’asir), and the artists who exhibited with one or both of these groups. In addition to more traditional artistic genres, photography played an important role in the surrealists’ artistic practices of the time, as is examined in this issue. This introduction, and the contributions to this issue of Nka that it surveys, affirm that the Egyptian surrealists, among other non-Western modernists, represent the multifaceted aspects of modernity and its global interconnectedness in the twentieth century. The strength of the Egyptian surrealists lay squarely in their theoretical underpinning that emphasized non-Western modernism, not as derivative or secondary to the Western modernism, but as a unique experiment in modernity that is worthy of its own investigation.
Skip Nav Destination
Research Article| November 01 2021
When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965)
Salah M. Hassan
Salah M. Hassan
Salah M. Hassan is Distinguished Professor of Arts and Sciences, Africana Studies and Research Center; director of the Institute for Comparative Modernities; and professor of African and African diaspora art history and visual culture at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. He currently serves as director of the Africa Institute, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates.
Search for other works by this author on:
Nka (2021) 2021 (49): 8–23.
Salah M. Hassan; When Art Becomes Liberty: The Egyptian Surrealists (1938–1965). Nka 1 November 2021; 2021 (49): 8–23. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10757163-9435625
Download citation file: