Depictions of daily Cairene life and the realities of the factory floor have dominated Fathi Afifi’s work for over four decades. His canvases mirror the energy that propelled him through an era of industrial transformation and the heyday of the Egyptian plastic arts movement. Afifi’s practice is equally concerned with both human and machine, and their synergistic lockstep, which the artist believes has fundamentally driven Egypt’s progress forwards. Far from romanticising the struggles of the working class, however, his paintings often elucidate an experience that reveals industry’s atomising tendencies and implicit collectivity. Through his practice, Afifi has endeavoured to critically portray life and labour as well as the pursuit of freedom and autonomy that united his generation.
Afifi’s works have been presented in solo and group exhibitions, including Selections from the Egyptian Contemporary Graphic, Boushahri Gallery, Kuwait (2010); Exhibitions for Acquisition, Museum of Fine Arts, Alexandria (2008); The Contemporary Egyptian Art Exhibition, Romanian National Museum (2006); Identity, Karmet Ibn Hanie Cultural Center, Ahmed Shawky Museum, Giza (2006); 1st Drawing Salon (Black and White), Gezira Art Center, Giza (2004); The Human and the Machine, Assiut Cultural Palace (1998); 7th Cairo International Biennale (1998); Museum of Egyptian Modern Art (1997); The Global Art Market, Mexico (1997); and Havana International Biennial (1996). He also participated in all public exhibitions of the Egyptian Trade Union Federation from 1980 to 1984.
He is a member of a number of local art associations, such as the Union of Writers and Artists at Cairo Atelier; The National Society of Fine Arts; The Syndicate of Plastic Arts; and The Wikalet Al-Ghouri artists. He supervised the establishment of a department of Fine Arts at the General Federation for Youth Workers and took part in the establishment of a global theatre for the Egyptian Trade Union Federation.
Afifi’s work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Egyptian Modern Art; Barjeel Art Foundation, Sharjah; Qatar Museum; and Amman Museum, Jordan, among others.
His awards include the Jury Award at the 7th Cairo International Biennale (1998); first prize from the General Federation for Youth Workers (1981); and second prize from the Supreme Council for Sports and Youth (1979–1980). He has received grants from the Ministry of Culture in Egypt (1992–1994) and (1997–2000).
Fathi received the Diploma of Technical Secondary Schools (1968) and free studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts (1974, 1975 and 1981).
He was born in 1950 in Cairo, where he continues to live and work.
Sharjah Biennial 15 (2023)