“You can’t begin too soon to encourage an appreciation of art! And each artwork has a story.”
Baba showing the grandkids "The Donkey - An Egyptian Icon" by Reda Abdel Rahman
“Donkeys have been given a bad rap!” I told my grandkids. It was such a pleasure for this Baba to share with them his admiration for donkeys. In the popular animated “Shrek” films, the humorous donkey, named Donkey, is highly regarded for his wit, wisdom and intelligence, and rightly so. I even remember Donkey in the first “Shrek” film saying, “You might have seen a housefly, maybe even a superfly, but I bet you ain't never seen a donkey fly!" Well, I once saw many donkeys fly from Cairo, Egypt to London, England!
For Baba’s Art School, I introduced my two grandkids to this marvelous painting in my collection by the celebrated Egyptian artist, Dr. Reda Abdel Rahman, titled “The Donkey - An Egyptian Icon.” This painting was featured in an exhibition in London, around a charity auction carried out by a Sotheby’s art auctioneer of life-size three-dimensional painted donkey sculptures.
The event was the culmination of a fascinating public art exhibition, which I co-curated, that was held first in Cairo, Egypt and then at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, England, titled “In Peace and with Compassion - The Way Forward” - featuring 45 premier Egyptian and Western visual artists. Each of the artists painted a life-size fiberglass donkey that was sculpted by Reda Abdel Rahman. The donkey figure was selected for symbolic reasons. The donkey symbolizes “peace” in both Christianity and Islam, and is found in both the Bible and in the Holy Qur’an. Examples are numerous, such as both Jesus and Omar Ibn El Khattab, the second caliph, riding donkeys when they entered Jerusalem, saying they were coming in peace. This is why the exhibition’s title begins “In Peace…” The donkey also represents the poor, as it is an animal of burden, and this is especially true in much of the Middle East and North Africa. So, it is also a humanitarian symbol. Hence the full title of the exhibition is “In Peace and with Compassion.” To learn more about the exhibition, visit: www.oncaravan.org/peace.
Through this unique public art exhibition, the artists were making a statement that the way forward in our world can only be “in peace and with compassion.” This is a message we need to hear now more than ever, as we look at the ongoing wars in our world, the building sectarian tensions, and the polarization within our respective societies. Perhaps as never before, regardless of our differences, we need to heed the call to walk peacefully together and serve each other compassionately.
It was most inspiring to see the life-size donkey artwork sculptures all lined up in a caravan in London's majestic St. Paul’s Cathedral, symbolically heading east, pointed in a direction between the sacred cities of Jerusalem and Mecca (see the below photos).
This painting by Reda Abdel Rahman, was showcased during the closing charity auction of the donkey sculptures held at The Mosaic Rooms in London, which raised funds for charities serving the poorest of the poor in Egypt.
PS: The grandkids loved discovering the gold leaf in the painting, on the donkey’s necklace and in her eye!
About the artwork:
Reda Abdel Rahman, "The Donkey – An Egyptian Icon," 2013
Acrylic with gold leaf, 60x80 cm
-For more info on the artist – see: www.redaabdelrahman.com
Photos of "In Peace and with Compassion" exhibition at St. Paul's Cathedral in London, UK.
Photos from Getty (Peter Macdiarmid), and Designyoutrust.