Egypt is blessed with a plethora of extremely gifted female artists, one of whom is Mona El Kateb. Mona is an artist with an incredibly emotive style, whose art reflects the struggles and strengths of women. She advocates the causes she believes in with her art, and does it with such elegance and grace that we just had to sit down and speak with her all about it.
When it comes to art, inspiration can come from plenty of different sources. Mona El Kateb is clearly inspired by artists who came before her.
“I am fascinated by Egyptian surrealists like Hamed El Nada, and those who are incredible at showing melancholy through their paintings like Injy Afflaton,” Mona continues, “I am definitely influenced by Picasso’s cubist work.” However, that is not all. She is also fascinated by the culture within which she grew up, “I am inspired by the abstractions and natural themes in our Ancient Egyptian heritage.”
“I am most fascinated by Nūt, Ancient Egyptian Goddess of the sky and the universe,” she tells.
As one would expect, Mona El Kateb finds a self-expression outlet within art.
Using it, she not only expresses her own feelings, but also her solidarity with the causes she believes in, “art is such a powerful tool to express all kinds of emotions,” she continues.
“sometimes I use my art to express solidarity or inspiration I feel from the women I am lucky to be around, and sometimes I try to convey my sheer frustration and anger with the world.”
She does this due to her firm belief in the influence of art, “I think art has the power to move mindsets and change societies. It gets you to think. Sometimes in an outright but witty way – like with Banksy’s work – and sometimes more subtly,” she explains.
None of this is an exaggeration, as this has happened before, “historically, art has always had an active role in politics, challenging social norms and pushing boundaries of social discourse,” Mona elaborates. Naturally, the causes Mona supports are all about women, “I think my art could be associated with women empowerment because this is a cause I am deeply passionate about. It always seeps through to every artwork even when I do not consciously intend for it,” she says.
Art is not only for “artists” per se, and one should explore their artistic side.
For that, Mona has very clear advice, “Just keep making art!”
“I truly don’t believe that you have to have some kind of birth-given talent for art.”
“Who defines what ‘talent’ is? Who even defines what ‘art’ is?” Mona wonders. That is why we should always experiment with art, “you’ll never know until you try. So, keep experimenting with different mediums, colors, and compositions. Your hands will slowly get used to the movement, and you might find yourself developing your own style,” she explains.
This is made easy by the fact that we are now even more exposed to art due to the existence of Social Media.
“It has definitely given young artists like me, who might not have access to expensive galleries, a space.” Mona continues, “I think it also brought art to the palm of our hands, making it more accessible for young people who are now able to discover artists from all around the globe.” This availability of art means it can be used for social and political discourse as well, “it has also empowered art to be a part of positive change, as art is often shared by younger generations as a way of spreading a message,” she tells.
With all this in mind, one is not in the least surprised that Mona El Kateb was part of the team of illustrators working on Banat El Ayam Di book.
Her work has been invaluable to the book. “When I was contacted to join this project, I remember thinking how I wished I had this book when I was a little girl.” She continues, “My favorite thing about the project was looking at this long list of incredible women who were featured, reading their stories and trying to do them justice through the illustrations.”
As for what the future holds, Mona El Kateb has got her plans figured out.
“I want to give my art more time, as I still have a fulltime job and sometimes don’t have the time to dive deep into it. I also hope to use it as a tool to articulate my anger and frustration with the things I wish to change in the world,” Mona explains. At the end of the day, it is all about creating the change the world needs. “We need to use every single resource we have to push for a better Egypt and better world. I love that my art can be one of these resources,” she concludes.