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.

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