From a sociocultural point of view, the term modern and its implications have formed, shaped, and even dictated the collective identity of the twentieth century. Therefore, questions relating to the birth of this term, its assessment, its manipulative methods, and especially its mechanisms of use, appliance, and adaptation must be critically addressed. The discourse of modernism within the postcolonial context in Asia and Africa seems to be unavoidable.
This essay discusses a particular moment in the history of Egypt, in which a modern supplement, or rather injection, was slipped into the blood of the Egyptian national identity. Thus, this essay deals with modernity in translation in the postcolonial zone and contributes to the effort to highlight the artistic activity in the Muslim world in the twentieth century—a century that has been mainly defined as Western and usually excludes any non-European and non-Western components from its modern discourse. In this article, several drawings and paintings of the modern Egyptian artist Abdel Hadi Al-Gazzar are discussed. The core of the discussion, however, centers on four of al-Gazzar's surrealist drawings that also include surrealist poems, written either by Al-Gazzar or by the Alexandrian poet Ahmad Mursi. These works of art clearly adopt the surrealist aesthetic language, both visual and verbal. The drawings illustrate a particular zeitgeist in the Egyptian artistic milieu and mirror the individual and genuine artistic response of Al-Gazzar to the utopian and almost mythical status given to surrealism in Egypt in the first half of the twentieth century. In addition, his works will be dealt with here as a reflection of the changing social and political context in Egypt at the end of the 1940s and during the 1950s.