From "Stories to my Daughter", in collaboration with Marina Shafik.
I have lived during the first five years of my life in its slow flow, similar to the course of the river which quietly ran past my house in El Badari. I played with my friends of old time on the big sacks of cotton traded by my father. I remember that they looked like giant soft mountains to my childish eyes. Bustling markets; pervasive smell of spices; colourful fabrics; clangour of folk festivals; lights; smells; shouting and even silences ... this and much more has crossed my childhood and early youth.
The southern skies are different from the others: you cannot count the stars one by one, but you see them all. The mysterious moving sky looked like a floating abyss of bright spots which ran in the deep silence of that cobalt blue. You could end up being sucked into a sky like that. You could drown in the night darkness. Silence... every now and then, looking through the obscurity over the river, you could see the intermittent glint due to the puff of a burning cigarette. Maybe it was a fisherman or someone who was sitting by the water's edge to get some fresh air.
The Mediterranean for us children and youths of that time, has always been the home of myths and dreams of a magical and moving elsewhere. We embraced the infinite, watching the sea from the shores of Alexandria in Egypt. The spirit of Ulysses was like a force of the instinct that drove us to dive into the warm sea, looking for the ancestral nostalgia of Ithaca. That desire to leave, made us feel like strangers in our home. But what country can man have, when his home is the world?
This sea, kissed by the sun gave the impression of seeing the other side of the bank and the befogged elsewhere became, in the imaginary, tangible,
vivid and traversable.
The daylight slipped over the world,
the yawn of the morning breeze...
the dew, loaded with life,
made the fruitful land flourish.
There is no doubt that my subconscious is flooded and permeated by the great Mother Africa. I drank the water of the Nile, saturated with minerals that arise from the African uplands and that unfortunately nowadays suffers from the pollution which is common to many other rivers of the world. Being born in Egypt and living there until the age of twenty, has led me to have a rich and complex perspective. I have always talked about my world with the ancestral memories and the storytelling of my motherland, with the instruments and the synthesis of the language of modern art and keeping in mind the lesson of the European and
American historical avant-gardes.