Amani Ramses Abdelbari

Art with a Soul

Throughout her childhood, Amani Ramses Abdelbari loved to draw. Her passion for drawing, and later for painting, persisted as she grew older, and she began taking her art seriously. She started by enrolling in classes at the Corcoran Institute of Art while studying for a bachelor’s degree in International Business and Marketing at the American University in Washington DC. She later moved to Paris where she resumed her art studies at Les Beaux-Arts de Versailles, then at the Penninghen School of Art Direction and Interior Architecture. Her artistic career did not really take off, however, until she moved to Egypt in 2001 and began taking part in art exhibitions. She has since gained much recognition as a uniquely talented artist who expresses important messages through her art. Recently, eniGma was delighted to have Abdelbari participate in eniGma’s Covers Reimagined event with her rendition of Shereen Reda’s cover. To find out more about her artistic journey and her plans, eniGma’s Rawya Lamei caught up with the talented Abdelbari for a chat.

When Abdelbari arrived in Egypt in 2001, after having lived abroad for many years, painting was still just a hobby to her. Once in Cairo, however, she got the opportunity to take part in an exhibition with 15 paintings revolving around African refugees. All 15 paintings, which she had named “Beauty and Grace of the African,” were sold on the exhibition’s opening night. It was at that point that she decided to pursue art as a career.

Abdelbari is very proud of Egypt’s African roots and loves to portray the elegance and uniqueness of Africans. Much of her admiration and fascination with Africa came from her father’s extensive travels all around the continent. “Burkina Faso, Kinshasa, Côte d’Ivoire, these were all names that made me dream,” she recalls. Abdelbari stresses that Egypt is indissociable from Africa, at least because of geography. She treasures Egypt’s Nubian heritage, which is an example of the country’s strong African connection.

Abdelbari is drawn to people and appreciates the uniqueness of every individual, which explains why so many of her paintings are portraits of real people who model for her. Through her portraits, which are as universal as they are unique, each individual personality shines through. She also enjoys painting abstract landscapes, turning to them when she seeks solitude. “Landscapes are a way for me to dream and to project my imagination onto the canvas. They are a sort of spiritual experience,” she explains.

Abdelbari loves to use warm, earthy tones in her work. “I’m a very earthy person. I love nature, the outdoors and the beach. Soothing earth tones are a way for me to connect with nature. I love yellows, browns and particularly red. Red is a very emotive, powerful, and a striking colour; it can also be very violent,” she explains. She adds that she uses knives to paint and that the result is often very different from what she has in mind when she starts a painting. “I go where the process takes me. I dream as I paint,” she says.

Most importantly, Abdelbari’s paintings are also a way for her to connect with the beauty and mystique of her heritage. Her series, “Fayum” portraits, are an example of how she showcases and conserves ancient Egyptian traditions. “We are not just Arab, or Coptic, or Mediterranean, or African, or even just descendants of a Roman and Hellenic legacy. We are all of those things at once,” she says, stressing that Egypt is extremely rich in culture and history and cannot be pigeonholed in a single facet of that culture. “I am very excited about participating in an upcoming exhibition which will combine both Fatimid and Coptic styles,” she adds.

Abdelbari is very happy with the growing diversity and inclusiveness in art and culture, particularly regarding women. “We’re past the stereotypical Vogue nonsense,” she says adamantly, in appreciation of the increased acceptance of every person’s uniqueness. “People, people, people,” she says passionately, expressing how much she loves to show what makes them special.

Abdelbari’s approach is eminently visible in her rendition of Shereen Reda’s cover for our Covers Reimagined event in June of 2021, where she portrays Reda’s genuine and beautiful energy. “Watching Shereen Reda perform on screen is an absolute treat, and seeing her progress through the years is like watching a butterfly come out of its cocoon,” she says, explaining why she chose to paint her as a butterfly. Red was the perfect colour to use in this work as it portrays Shereen’s elegance and her beauty. We can all agree that these shine from the inside out.

Looking ahead, Abdelbari intends to continue the path she’s chosen for herself. She hopes that through her art she will continue to acknowledge the differences, the humanity and the diversity of all people. Her passion, her curiosity and her admiration for people and nature are a part of her being and will continue to be her guiding light.