By Fatma Ibrahim
If you are looking for something special from the world of art, architecture, or handmade craftwork, the Mishkah gallery located in Nasr City offers a wide variety of colourful products of great quality, from leather bags to wood crafts, glass and clay decorative pieces reflecting the core of the Egyptian identity.
Salah Abo Elleil, the owner, is an architect and interior decorator. “We started Mishkah right after the revolution because we felt the responsibility to contribute to society in some way. We thought of helping craftsmen from underprivileged areas. One of the ideas was to organise workshops in which professionals from the Faculty of Fine and Applied Arts come to exchange expertise and work together with the craftsmen on interior decoration projects and different types of handmade crafts.”
Mishkah is also concerned with keeping traditions alive. “We try to shed the spotlight on forgotten craftsmen who are specialised in working with natural leather, pottery and carpet making, especially in Masr El-Qadeema [the Old Cairo] district. Those craft workers produce great handmade artwork, but do not have the venue or the resources to market their products. What we do is try to showcase some of their work at our gallery,” Abo Elleil said.
“Everything we do reinforces the Egyptian identity, so I wanted an Arabic name for my project that has meaning. Mishkah originally is the place that ancient people put their lamps on, usually a crack in the wall or a corner in the house. We think of ourselves as the place that helps any artist, poet, writer or craft worker to enrich art in their own way, and thus be like a guiding light to others. Our motto is ‘Mishkah: lightens our life with art,” the owner explained.
The gallery also organises many workshops and seminars in different categories of art, catering to a variety of interests. “We have cultural, architectural and musical workshops and seminars. Our goal is to give people a chance to know more about different forms of art, and elevate their aesthetic sense,” Abo Elleil said. “In one of our seminars, ’Paris on the Banks of the Nile’, we discussed the architectural patterns of Khedivial Cairo and traced the buildings that had the same artistic style as Parisian architecture.”
Mishkah also offers workshops for children where they are taught the basic principles of architecture in a fun way through cardboard games and wooden puzzles, making their own models with the material they have. “Increasing children’s awareness of the importance of art is crucial. We hope to see a new generation that appreciates artistic and aesthetic presence in their lives. The kids also learn to work together and so they improve their team work skills,” Abo Elleil added.
The Mishkah team includes disadvantaged children in their programmes. “We collaborated with several orphanages to teach the children drawing, music and photography,” Abo Elleil said.
The owner added that the gallery has several projects planned for the future; “we are preparing for a décor workshop for amateurs and professionals and there will be events in Ramadan, from cultural meetings to artistic shows by singers like opera performer Belal El-Sheikh, and much more.”