We all remember the paper boats our parents used to make us when we were children. We have grown to learn them by heart, not knowing that by performing those simple folds we are performing – even if very slightly – an art form called origami. Origami is a beautifully intricate Japanese art; the boat we all make is only the tip of the iceberg. There are theories, rules and textbooks for Origami. To help us find out more is Origami artist and founder of the Arab Origami Center, Osama Helmy or as we have all come to know him, Ozoz.
“‘it’s not just the boat and frog which we made as children. It is anything that is made by paper-folding.”
First, we need him to explain to us in the plainest of terms what, exactly, is Origami. Ozoz says “It is the art of paper-folding without cutting or gluing. Just like the boat we used to make as children” he says. The subtleness and apparent simplicity of Origami may sometimes mean that it will be dismissed as child’s play by some. Ozoz tells us about how he counteracted that “first, whenever someone asked me what Origami is I would give them the same answer ‘you know the boat and frog we used to make with paper as children? That’s it’” He says, “Now what I tell them is ‘it’s not just the boat and frog which we made as children. It is anything that is made by paper-folding.’ It is not there for our enjoyment only; it is also used in education and psychotherapy. Origami is for anyone, anywhere, anytime”.
“This generation has serious knowledge of geometry and they have computers as well so things are even more complicated now”
Origami started out very simply. Parents used to teach it to their children. However, this changed “The Godfather of Origami is a man called Akira Yoshizawa. He worked in a factory and started solving problems at work using Origami. He then left the factory and dedicated all his time to Origami, creating a language for it and demonstrating in books how it should be done”, Ozoz tells us. This change made it more complex “it started out simply but artists started competing with one another in Origami conventions” He adds, “This generation has serious knowledge of geometry and they have computers as well so things are even more complicated now” The result is that now we have many different types of origami “It can be based on flora, fauna or just different shapes. It can be based on one piece of paper or different units, with squared, triangular or rectangular paper and there is even origami that is based on cutting” He says and moves on to explain more types “Origami could be moving as well, either flying Origami like a paper-rocket or moving origami as in live-action origami. There is architectural Origami as well as Origami made from different materials other than paper”.
“if you don’t go through all the steps you won’t be able to get to the final result. Dr. Sherif used this to teach his patients that sometimes you have to go through certain steps in your program which you may not understand in the beginning but is important to your healing process”
The healing powers of Origami are countless. It can be used in a variety of ways to help people. “I had an experiment with Dr. Sherif Darwish, a psychiatrist who specializes in rehabilitation” Ozoz says, “We met and it was a way for me to use Origami in psychiatry by going to an expert and showing him what I can do, knowing he will implement the correct technique” It may seem outlandish at first, but here Ozoz explains how it can help in this case “In Origami you cannot fold the quarter of a page without folding it in half first” He continues, “Subsequently, if you don’t go through all the steps you won’t be able to get to the final result. Dr. Sherif used this to teach his patients that sometimes you have to go through certain steps in your program which you may not understand in the beginning but is important to your healing process” Rehabilitation is not the only case in which Origami’s healing powers can be used; it is also quite the impressive meditation tool, “Washing the dishes can be a form of meditation. Handwork always is because you are so focused on what you’re doing as you’re doing it” Ozoz explains.
“Washing the dishes can be a form of meditation. Handwork always is because you are so focused on what you’re doing as you’re doing it”
Origami, like many art forms in Egypt, may be neglected in favor of more popular forms of art. Raising awareness for this sort of thing can be difficult “Patience for passion. You need to be patient to get to the thing that you love. You also need to reach out to the people and to have an understanding of what they want” Ozoz says.
“Patience for passion. You need to be patient to get to the thing that you love.”
Ozoz’s efforts finally led him to start the Arab Origami Center, the story of which is quite fascinating “I had always wanted to start the Egyptian Origami Center. In order for me to be accepted in the Cultural Administration I had to have a proposal so I proposed the Egyptian Origami Center. When the workshop was over I was still hesitant about starting the Center” He tells, “I then went to Tunisia for the Safakes Book fair for Children in 2009 where I felt like I was exposing them to origami for the first time. I conducted a survey and when I received good feedback I applied for an internship and started a tour called Fold with us. We went to Lebanon, Jordan, Syria, Bahrain and Yemen in 27 days. Over 500 people benefited from this. I came back determined to start the Arab Origami Center.” By that time he had already met Mostafa El Sherbeeny and in 2011 the center was established and has been a huge success ever since.