When Nourhan Refaat Holds a Camera

The top spot for the 2016 Barclays L’Atelier, a prize of R225 000 and a six-month residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris, has been won by Egyptian photographer and artist, Nourhan Refaat.

Nourhan Refaat’s winning work, July Tale, is a mask and photography project composed of three portraits. July Tale, says Nourhan Refaat, ‘talks about the relationship between two people and, as you can see, the woman here is blind: she doesn’t see things and the man is silent: he doesn’t speak. Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing, I am leaving to the viewers, they can imagine what it is like for these two people, how they communicate.

When Nourhan Refaat Holds a Camera
Nourhan Refaat at the Barclays L’Atelier Winners Announcement Media Breakfast

In spite of these barriers, they are investing in this relationship, which I have expressed through the knitting process. As a symbol of them investing in the relationship, the thread encircles them as they are so tied together, so attached. If he is not there, she is still invested in this relationship and she still thinks that he is there. And even if she is not there, he still thinks about her. That was my concept, but I’m always open to new stories.

When people ask me, “what’s the story here?” I tell them, “tell me your story.” That is the beauty of art, one piece can be defined by several stories and opinions. ‘The contemporary art scene in Egypt is growing so well,’ says Nourhan Refaat. ‘There are many contemporary artists from the youth and we have several annual exhibitions where you will find artists from different walks of life participating.’

Will she practice art full-time now that she has won the Barclays L’Atelier? ‘I’ve been thinking about going full-time in art for a while now because business is kind of challenging for me, but it’s hard to get a source of income out of art only, given the current economic situation. It’s very challenging, I will have to think about it.’

When Nourhan Refaat Holds a Camera
Nourhan Refaat. July Tale.

Born in 1990, Nourhan Refaat majored in accounting at university and has been working in marketing and communication for the past five years – including working as a social media consultant for UNICEF Egypt. She is a self-taught artist and photographer and has only been working in photography for five years. A few years ago, Nourhan Refaat discovered a love for ‘staged photography’.

‘You have to go through lots of steps and years of practicing and I believe that this is not the end. I’m currently working with staged photography but have also started thinking about other mediums like collage and installation. I haven’t done it yet, but I’m attending workshops to explore new things because the sky is the limit in art.’

Since 2013, Nourhan Refaat has participated in many photographic group exhibitions, including When She Holds A Camera – showcasing 15 great photographs by talented rising female photographers in Cairo.

For more information on the art competition, visit the Barclays L’Atelier website.

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