The mysteries of the ancient Egyptians are huge, but the key to understanding the life, culture and belief systems of the ancient civilization under its strong rulers is in front of us—in its exquisite art and architecture. Just as hieroglyphs were a visual language, ancient Egyptian art also followed specific rules in order to be read and understood and it is very hard to dispute the particular allure it has held for artists and designers some 5,000 years later. Egyptomania reached fever pitch during the 20th century: The discovery of the tomb of the boy pharaoh, Tutankhamun, by Howard Carter in November 1922, sparked enormous popular interest. The grandeur and “exoticism” of the pyramids, temples, Sphinx, hieroglyphics, made this great civilization a recurring subject in architecture, film, art and popular culture and generic Egyptian imagery proliferated everywhere.
But while the artwork was stunning to look at, the creative impetus and much of its decorative appeal stems from the concept of ma’at, or balance and harmony, and the importance the ancient Egyptians attached to symmetry. Ma’at, which was thought to comprise the very fabric of creation passed down when the Gods instilled order on a chaotic universe, evolved over the decades and remained the ethical and moral foundation of the Egyptian people.
This timeless and universal concept of the search for harmony and balance is captured in Malakoot, an art project by Russian-Egyptian visual artist Dina Shalaby, who, driven by a renewed appreciation of her national patrimony following an illustrious career in international management consulting that left her searching for a more balanced way to achieve happiness and fulfillment, mixed media and her “deep passion for pharaonic Egypt to create pieces inspired by the past and with a story for the future.”
“The call for Malakoot, came to me a few years ago after I had spent more than a decade intensely pursuing success in education, career, travel and intellectual endeavors. I had studied journalism in Egypt, international business in Italy, worked in international management consulting in both countries and eventually in the US. It was a thrilling journey and looking back I wouldn’t change a thing except maybe for the unsustainable rhythm and intensity that came with it. The strive and the conditioning of modern life to achieve more, faster, better. To stay on top of your game. To be the center of your universe. To keep running and there, at the end of that race, happiness is waiting, wearing the hat of success and achievement. But at what price? Very likely a burnout,” Shalaby, who held her solo debut exhibition in Cairo and took part in several group exhibitions, told Majalla.