Gamal Lanie's paintings depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters.

CNS PHOTO | COURTESY GAMAL LAMIE

Gamal Lanie's paintings depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters.

February 22, 2016
JAMES MARTONE
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

CAIRO - Gamal Lamie's paintings depict calm mothers with serene children, shining stars, doves, flowers, trees, fish and blue waters - the many attributes of an Egypt that once existed, and, he believes, can again be achieved.

All it takes is hope, said the Egyptian artist, a member of Egypt's Coptic Christian minority.

"During the last five years, you can see what happened in Egypt and the Middle East area. So as an artist, I send a message to the whole world that we need hope," Lamie said.

He spoke with Catholic News Service five years after a revolution shook the predominantly Muslim North African nation and toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak. Waves of civil and political unrest across Egypt have killed and wounded thousands of people since then.

"Hope means peace, it means stability. It's not weapons; it's not fighting. We need to live in peace, that is why I call it Hope," Lamie said of the title of his exhibit of watercolours in a small art gallery in Cairo.

In the show's largest painting, boys and girls form a ring with their arms in what Lamie said illustrated youth of the world coming together to create global peace at a time of war in his region.

"It was a terrible time when I started working on this," he explained.

"I said if I express myself in a painting about the pain, it will be black, it will be a disaster. So I said I should think the opposite way, to the happy side and the peaceful side instead . . . and invite the children of the world to be together."

A second painting shows one woman offering a bouquet of flowers to another dressed in Japanese clothing. Lamie conceived of the painting as both a commemoration for the destruction caused by war and strife, and a reminder that such destruction can be overcome.

Lamie called on Egyptians to try to forget hardships of the past.

"We have a lot of opportunities of building again what was broken in five years. We have behind us more than 5,000 years of experiences, and we feel that we can overcome," he said.

Egypt's Coptic minority has suffered discrimination for decades, but attacks against Christians and their properties rose sharply following the 2011 revolution and the election of Muslim Brotherhood member, Mohammed Morsi.

After massive demonstrations against his rule in 2013, Morsi was overthrown by el-Sisi, whom human rights groups accuse of widespread abuses.

"Of course, it is no fun to have a military regime, but it is protection for the country," Lamie said of el-Sisi who is supported by most of Egypt's Christian leaders.

Although many Christians have opted to leave Egypt since the revolution, Lamie said he had not considered it.

"It is not easy to immigrate and to take a decision to leave your home and your country and the place you lived forever," he said, with a hint of sadness, followed by a pause and then tears.

VIOLENT ASSAULT

After several post-revolution robberies in his home in the ancient village of Dahshur where he had lived for three decades, he and his family moved to the relatively safer area of Cairo.

In one attack, armed assailants left Lamie partially blinded in one eye.

"I lived 30 years of my life in Dahshur and we had a beautiful garden (which) we planted, my wife and I together," Lamie said.

The trees, flowers, shining stars, doves and blue waters of his paintings, are thus also a memory of all Lamie had to leave behind, he explained.

"This is my memory from the place. I can make it as a healing for me and for others, and you can feel hope, and dream that one day (the violence) will stop and we can live in prosperity."