souq el gomaa

souq el gomaa

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Aug 21 / Sept 19 - 2010  

For years, Cairo’s Friday Market (Souq El Gomaa) has been one of the largest open-air markets in the city, where you could find nearly anything you could desire from clothes to animals, from food to antiques and broken junk. Every week, the market bustled with activity as vendors and customers haggled over prices and bartered goods.   

However, in June 2010, this all came to an end when a fire tore through the area, destroying everything in its wake. Photographer and Friday Market frequenter May El Hossamy shares her images of the market both before and after the fire in an exhibition simply titled Souq El Gomaa.

The first image, enlarged and displayed alone on one wall, depicts a collection of junk from the market. The border-to-border image of broken toys, household items that had seen better days and gadgets missing essential parts looks a bit like a page from the popular I Spy book series. The image is an introduction for anyone who has never visited the market and gives insight into what could be found at the Friday Market: namely, anything.   

An abutting wall displays a myriad of much smaller images. Scenes of children playing, colourful pictures of various vendors’ offerings, and portraits of adults smiling into the lens or shunning the camera are displayed so close together that the overwhelming feeling of the market is evoked wonderfully. Further on, a few enlarged images with similar subjects have become unfortunately pixelated in the editing and printing process.

Part two of the exhibit features much less photography. Though few in numbers, these photographs are powerful and emotive. Smiling faces have been replaced with expressions of grief and sorrow. The scene is now demolished and nearly deserted. The photographs are paired with a floor of broken glass and charred metal, and a small collection of salvaged furniture and knickknacks are also displayed.

A television plays a video on loop of the photographer’s experience at the market. Much of the photography from the collection is incorporated in the film, which includes chilling stories from a few people that Hossamy found there after the fire. The film does a wonderful job at tying both parts of the exhibit together and bringing the fire and its consequences to life for those who don’t feel the emotion in all of her photography.

Participant artist 
May El Hossamy

 Press
Kan Ya Makan: The colors and ashes of Souq al-Gomaa
- Traces of a broken civilization
Art in 2010: Cairo in Colour
Kan ya... makan Souq El Gomaa

 

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