Artists’ statement: “The Prestige of Terror is the title of a pamphlet written by the
Egyptian Surrealist George Henein and published in Cairo, in French,
several days after the dropping of the atomic bomb. It was not a thesis
so much as a manifesto, in which he re-affirms his distaste for fascism,
describes this moment in history as the worst day in the career of
humanity, in which the ally’s have come to resemble their antagonists.
Henein despised the politics of compromise, ‘The Lesser Evil’ as he
called it. The Prestige of Terror was a rejection of racism and murder
as a justification to win a democratic war.Our exhumation of the Egyptian surrealist movement began at the
Townhouse Gallery, Cairo in May 2010. Over the course of their short and
sweet life, the ‘Art and Freedom’ group, as they were known, prepared
just five exhibitions and published two editions of a magazine, ‘la part
du sable.’ It is difficult to say what led to their premature end. What
we do know is that the Egyptian surrealists spent much of this short
period eloquently describing their own demise. Still, on December 22,
1938, when this group of precocious painters, poets, journalists, and
lawyers published their manifesto, “Vivre l’Art Degenere,” they were
brimming with optimism. With their stand against order, beauty and
logic, the 'Art and Bread’ group, as they later became known, shook up a
community steeped in academicism and the picturesque with their
particular version of modernism. Herein was a remarkable moment when
surrealism in an odd alliance with Marxism met the orient.”
When the Fatimids conquered Egypt in 969 CE, they claimed the rich river delta for and built a new city, al-Qāhira (Cairo) to reference Mars “the Subduer” which was prominent in the night sky when they conquered the region.
El Naddaha is an Egyptian (modern) legendary female water nymph-like genie.
It is unknown when exactly the legend was first told, or what was the incident that caused its rise. The story became popular around the 1950s where Egypt was less urban than it is now and people would spend more time closer to the Nile. Children would play by its shores after school had released them, and young men would chat there at night. It has become less popular at present though it’s still familiar to the youth.
The legend speaks of an exceptionally beautiful female who unintentionally appears to men walking by the Nile at night. There are usually two men, to which she calls the name of one, causing him to be captivated by her ethereal voice and is hypnotised, and becomes obedient to her. The other man is not affected, and tries to pull the called man back, under severe resistance from the latter. Once the second man manages to pull back the other, they both run away as fast as they can, with the nymph’s voice echoing behind them.
Those who have seen the nymph (although a rare case) state that she is an alluring white female, fall, slender, with long flowing hair down to her back. She stands steadily very near to the bank of the river, her hands placed at her sides, and wearing a loose long semi-transparent dress. In many instances she is described as having a semi-transparent body. Her voice is calm and soft, yet loud and powerful.
In rural Egypt, the creature may call for men in their homes (being situated along the shore of the Nile) who would then eagerly attempt to go out for her. In other tales, the affected man would not immediately try to go out; rather he would enter a state of disturbed consciousness for a few nights, after which he would eventually leave late at night. People in rural Egypt believe that a man who is called for by El Naddaha is doomed, curing him from the curse is impossible, and the process irreversible.
Not a single instance has been recorded where a man was seen devoured by her; but many old local citizens believe she consumes or fiercely pulls her victims into the Nile and drown them.