Thirty Hosnis, an exhibition of Ali Ali at Articulate Baboon Gallery, Cairo, Egypt.
It has been over three years that I have been wanting to do this show, and it was always put off for the same reasons: one, I couldn’t find a gallery brave enough to take it on; and two, I wasn’t entirely ready to spend the rest of my life in prison. I’ve always found portraits and reproductions of Hosni, despite their hideous appearance, to be of a certain intrinsic value. And now that he’s gone, the image begins to evoke something cathartic, and dare I say, even nostalgic. This is, after all, the most iconic image of our generation. The image that frames our last thirty years. We all grew up looking at Hosni Mubarak, and there he was, peering right back at us: from behind public service desks, across airport terminals, bridges, and shoddy TV-edits and in the fine halftone prints of the covers of Al-Ahram Newspaper. There he was. Timeless, omnipresent, never changing. We have known no other image. This is our Marilyn. Our smirking Mao and our Campbell soup can. Our graceful Jackie O. There is something in the repetition of this image over time. Something as much to do with art as it does with us. The very same face. The same tired features. Faint colors, faint contrast. The images of a Hosni that is now gone. Images, reproduced over ten million times in the last thirty years, fading off the page, as he fades from our collective consciousness. A pharaoh no longer, a person no more. Hosni left without saying goodbye. And aside from his recent audio address, we’ll probably never see this face again. I like to think of this show as a sort of closure. A final collective glance at the man and those thirty years spent perched on our walls before we banish them both to the concrete annals of history. At a time when images of Hosni Mubarak are being taken down all over the country, there has never been a better time to put them up. ali ali