Connecting East and West – with Art!

Inviting interested people, artists or participants from former courses and projects to SEKEM and to experience life here in Egypt artistically together was a long-cherished wish of Art Instructor and Color Designer Petra Rosenkranz.

The core idea was to create a space to get up close and personal with the “East” and its very different culture and to enter into a lively exchange – through the medium of art. At the beginning of March, a total of 16 people came to Sekem Farm from Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Austria. And it turned out to be an adventure for two weeks, inside and out.

Art sessions in Petra’s studio with joint and individual work alternated with excursions or encounters, guided tours and discussions with the SEKEM community. In this way, both artistic and interpersonal processes were discovered and initiated, sometimes without words, but with brush, color and line. Through the artistic work, the nature of SEKEM became a space of deepening and tranquility for both the individual and the group. Getting to know the companies, the raw material and food production or taking part in the morning work, discussions about the time when SEKEM was founded, but also current questions about sustainability, economy and future developments revealed the entire SEKEM cosmos to the participants. Not least when he touched on his own questions about meaning.

Other aspects of Egyptian life were encountered on excursions into history and culture. So of course we went to the pyramids in Giza and the Egyptian Museum of Modern Civilization. The old neighborhood of Al Kahlifa was explored with the 14th-century Ibn Toulun Mosque and the quirky and unique collection of Arabic handicrafts at the Gaya Anderson Museum. But the anarchic driving behavior and the hustle and bustle of the modern metropolis Cairo turned out to be astonishing. Both belong to this world, which is so foreign to Europeans, and gave the group the chance to wake up to what was “own” in the foreign, to be interested in the encounters and to observe how many questions arose: What is it here, what is it makes so different? How do people treat each other here? What role does time play? What constitutes the joy that can be experienced everywhere? What can we learn here? How exactly does this work in SEKEM, this meeting of different cultures?

The participants’ growing interest in Arabic culture and the beauty of the language meant that intern Nihal Nour, who is one of Petras art therapy students from Cairo and had supported Petra daily in the course, finally started a spontaneously formed language course and quickly taught an Arabic song (which was presented to the team at SEKEM Guesthouse as a thank you for care and fantastic food), formed a linguistic and cultural bridge.

The course itself developed into an art project that was constantly in motion – some things fell away, others miraculously added and there was room to marvel and let go. Everyone was clear that there must be another such venture next spring!