Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Thu, Sep 15th, 2016

Meet Mina Wagih Wardakhan – a man with a soul of a true artist

Mina Wagih Wardakhan is a man with many strings to his bow. He is, among other things, a talented artist with a special love for wood, and an experimental musician who improvises with various instruments on stage in order to create unique ambient music.

– Art tells us about something real in the world that we should discover. A work of art is like a sign that shows us in which direction we should go, says Mina.

29-year-old Mina who lives in Cairo, Egypt has studied Philosophy, Chemistry and Art at university. He has also attended a course in Furniture Making in England which has come in handy nowadays as he mainly focuses on woodcarving and furniture manufacturing.

Creation and creativity has had a prominent place in Mina’s life since early childhood, and his parents have always supported his artistic ambitions. Mina’s mother, who is also artistically talented, is a source of inspiration and she has consistently encouraged him to indulge in his passions and explore his creativity.

Embroidery and sewing was one of his favourite hobbies as a young boy, but when Mina was told that it was not “manly enough” he put the sewing thread aside and started to paint.

Mina Wagih Wardakhan Photographer: Karina Al Piaro

Mina Wagih Wardakhan. Photographer: Karina Al Piaro

A love for natural materials

– When I have a piece of wood in my hands I feel closer to earth.

It appeals to Mina to create practical things. The first thing that he built out of wood was a kind of pavilion erected on the roof of the house he lived in as a child. The construction, which he made with his brother, left a deep impression; the realization that he was capable of creating his own shelter and refuge left a permanent imprint on his soul.

Over the years Mina continued to build on the pavilion while he simultaneously explored other artistic expressions. He has devoted much of his time to painting and photography, but a couple of years ago wood became his favourite material and he has focused on woodwork ever since.

There is not much that Mina is unable to create out of wood. Carved figurines, lamps, shelves, tables, chairs and beds to only name a few of the things that he makes. The list can be made much longer.

Carved figurines. Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

Carved figurines. Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

– I like wood because it’s less processed than, for example, canvas. It’s a natural material that one can begin to work on immediately, whether it’s sculpting or to convert it into a piece of furniture.

In addition to his furniture making, Mina travels to different parts of Egypt to build geodesic domes; structures consisting of a latticework of wooden or metal struts which are assembled into a net-like system of triangles.

Customers request the domes for different reasons; the purpose may be for shelter, or to create a space for yoga, or to be used as a chill-out area during music festivals.

Combined lamp and coat hanger. Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

Combined lamp and coat hanger. Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

– I am aware of big projects by national and international corporations and organizations that manufacture as well as provide and utilize geodesic domes. When I decided to build domes, which was some time before I actually made one, I hoped that my simple creations would act as beacons to these great projects and that I someday may be allowed to participate in making and living in them.

He says that he has barely put any effort into marketing, but somehow he has become a relatively well-known figure in Cairo’s artistic and cultural scene. Buyers who hear about the artist contact him to order customized art work.

Mina spent several months in Aswan last year where he furnished ten rooms in a guest house. He built beds, tables, desks, chairs and other things from pallets.

Communication through music

Mina met the singer Sammy Sayed from the Egyptian death metal band Scarab two and a half years ago. The two men became friends, and Mina was asked if he wanted to participate in another music project – Procession Towards the Unknown. Mina accepted without really knowing what he was getting himself into.

– I didn’t know what to expect. I had only heard one of their songs on SoundCloud, and I didn’t know if or how I would fit in. But Sammy encouraged me and gave me a chance to express what I was feeling.

Procession Towards the Unknown play purely by feeling and each of their sets is new. Little else is prepared or predetermined besides the singer Sammy’s mantras. The musicians are free to play whatever they feel like, and although the band’s concerts are pure improvisation, the result is not as chaotic as one might think. The audience often seems enchanted by the music and emotionally affected; the ambient sound induces a trance-like state according to Mina.

Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

– I would call our music a confusion, rather than fusion, of influences since there is often harmony and editing with fusion. I view our sound as a musical translation of what is happening around us. Life is not single-tracked and we are constantly bombarded by different sounds. Us band members don’t know where our journey will take us, hence the name: Procession Towards the Unknown. I can see that every procession towards the unknown is at one and the same time a procession of knowledge.

Mina loves to create sounds with unusual instruments like Tibetan bowls, rattles and didgeridoos (an ancient Australian wind instrument). He says that he wants to create improvised instruments since it’s an improvised performance. Stones and seashells, water bottles and pieces of wood are only a few of the things that Mina is not afraid of using in order to create rhythmic and almost spiritual tones.

Art and life

Mina speaks passionately about many great artists that inspire him; Salvador Dali, William Blake, Vincent van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Khalil Gibran to name a few. He admires them not only for their art, but for their creative process and life stories. Mina admires artists who suffer for their work.

He hopes that one day he will be able to support himself on his art and live a good or even extravagant life like Dali, but says that his future seems likely to resemble less fortunate artists, like Van Gogh.

Mina at work. Photograph: Marwan Hatem Cherif

Mina at work. Photograph: Marwan Hatem Cherif

What is the most important quality for an artist to have?

– The ability to continue living. To endure. To be able to create terrifying artwork without fear. Perseverance.

Mina is usually alone when he creates his art, but the philosopher wants to point out that it’s difficult to define loneliness. He says that one is never, or always, alone. But we agree that we can say that he is at least physically alone when he creates.

Desk joinery. Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

Desk joinery. Photographer: Mina Wagih Wardakhan

Where do you find your inspiration?

– In my memories, experiences and nature. My artwork reflects important events in my life or important memories. Memories that I sometimes want to change. Every work of art is a step towards obeying the Oracle’s supreme advice, her command; know yourself. My artwork contains reflections from my memories as well, things I’ve learned along the way and things I look to for different perspectives.

Mina’s short term plan is to set up a legal company in order to sell geodesic domes in the correct context. He hopes to provide, in addition to the structure itself, flooring and furnishing as well.

– I want to be a maker of a whole finished space because there is more that I want to say than just putting sticks together. To make the whole space would reflect more of who I am. But I will make whatever people ask for.

Learn more about Mina and his art here:

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