Chant Avedissian

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Africasia, UK Jan 4 2006

Om Kalthoum was the most famous Middle Eastern singer of the 20thCentury. Born in 1904 in a village in the Egyptian Delta she arrived in Cairo in the 1920s. Every Thursday night for more than 10 years, her concerts were broadcast on the radio, and millions of people across the Arab world would gather in homes, cafes and restaurants to hear her sing. Her funeral in 1975 was the largest ever seen in Cairo.

Chant avedissian's stencils are the result of more than 20 years of peripatetic research during which he integrated his formal studies in Canada and France with the iconographic heritage of unknown pharaonic artists; the geometric and abstract concepts of Arab architecture; the baroque and floral motifs of Ottoman textiles; and glamorous 20th century images of well-known figures in the Arab world. The series started in 1991, in Luxor, Upper Egypt, during the Gulf War, and was a turning point in Avedissian's career.

While studying in the West, in Montreal and Paris, Avedissian realised that western modern academism and its cultural mechanism was part of a system in which he would become an exotic outsider if he lived outside its centre. Yet he made the decision to return to his birthplace in Cairo. Here he fused the techniques he had acquired in the West with the heritage of his complex Armenian-Egyptian background.

Egypt - his grandparents adopted homeland after their flight from the massacres in Armenia - became essential to his art.

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