Arts & Entertainment

The Egyptian artist breathing fresh life into scrap metal

By Taha Mohamed

Cairo, Dec 16 (EFE).- Omnia Helall looks down at the items she will use for her latest project: a couple of large, rusty screws, a spring, a few nuts, and a metal plate. But this is not a pile of discarded rubbish; they are the ingredients she will weld together — with an added dash of passion — to bring to life a sculpture of a waiter carrying cups of water on a tray.

In the typically male-dominated environment of blacksmiths’ workshops in eastern Cairo, Omnia sticks out like a sore thumb, salvaging junk metal from old vehicles and transforming it into art.

“I feel very comfortable dealing with scrap metal. The final result is very good,” Omnia tells Efe. “Whenever I enter a place where there is scrap metal, I feel I am surrounded by something I love so much.”

The 33-year-old, who first developed her interest in the arts at a young age, says other more traditional craft materials like clay never sparked the same passion within her.

And this love for scrap metal only grew thanks to her husband, Amr, a mechanical engineer who has been supportive of her passion.

“Since he saw my work after our marriage, he told me that I would achieve something big. He has always pushed me,” she says.

Amr not only encourages his wife to pursue her dreams, but also provides her with metal from the factory where he works that would otherwise be thrown onto the scrap heap.

“I understand what she wants,” he tells Efe as he lugs a backpack full of junk metal, including screws and nuts that will be used for the waiter’s arms and eyes.

The waiter is the latest in a line of productions that includes sculptures of musicians, a yogi, a ballerina and a soldier celebrating victory.

“She brings scrap metal to life,” Amr says proudly as he accompanies his wife to the workshop near their home.

At first people were surprised to see a woman at a blacksmith’s, she says, but with time the workers became accustomed to seeing her around the garage and have even taken to calling her “boss,” although her husband still escorts her to the area.

She double checks the measurements and gives one of the workers step-by-step instructions. It may take her a week to visualize and plan a project, but assembling the final product takes just a few hours.

The process turns a 25-cent-per-kilo material into statues worth up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars, according to Omnia and her husband.

“When I first learnt about this kind of art, I felt like I have found something I have been searching for my entire life,” Omnia says holding her latest creation. EFE


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