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Le Gardien de la vie (The Protector of Life), 1967
Oil on canvas
132 x 100 cm
Born 1919, Beni Soueif, Egypt
Died 2011, Cairo, Egypt
Produced in the crippling aftermath of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, the work portrays an oversized soldier that looms protectively over a group of Egyptian people engaged in a variety of daily activities: a wedding, a mother nursing her baby, children drawing and riding bikes, a couple lovingly embracing. In the distance, a plantation, a village, a factory and a group of factory workers are depicted. The work offers an image of strength, but also caution: the soldier securely holds his rifle in one hand, whereas his other tenderly shields and protects the people going about their daily lives. Beyond the cradle of the soldier’s enlarged hand, to the right, lies a deserted landscape and a barren tree, suggestive of Egypt’s loss of the Sinai Peninsula during the 1967 war. This staggering defeat crushed the hopefulness espoused by President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Pan Arabist vision and led to a period of self-criticality throughout the region. Influenced by key figures of Mexican muralism such as Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros, Ewais chose to work in an aesthetic style that reflected his socialist political leanings.
Text by Sarah Rogers and Mandy Merzaban
© Photo: Courtesy of Barjeel Art Foundation
Highlights from the Barjeel Art Foundation. Sharjah Art Museum, UAE, 12 May 2018 - 31 May 2023. Curators: Salwa Mikdadi, Mandy Merzaban, Karim Sultan.