The Japan Foundation, Cairo
Let us introduce an artist, Muhammad Abul-Naga. He creates an artwork with various materials, but he's fascinated with paper in particular and presents many paper artworks. He was selected for one of The Top 100 Social Entrepreneurs Who Change the World, a cover story in July 18 2007 issue of Newsweek Japan.
He was selected because his activities at Nafiza (it means window) Center, a paper making factory established in 2005 by him, was highly appreciated. Hand-made, eco-friendly paper is produced at the factory, using agricultural waste such as lotus and banana leaves, shredded paper given by companies and bills that are too crumbled to be used any longer. He also endeavors to employ low-income farmers and physically challenged people to help their economic independence. They not only produce paper but process and design it to make greeting cards and letter sets to be marketed.
He was invited to Japan in 1998 by the Japan Foundation's Fellowship Program. He learned art using Japanese traditional paper making technique and paper from Kyoko Ibe, a world-renowned Japanese paper artist. Now he is one of top artist in Egypt, but he still expresses his gratitude for what he learned in Japan 10 years ago and talks about how it strongly influenced him.
In November 2007, the Japan Foundation invited Kyoko Ibe to NafizaCenter in cooperation with Muhammad Abul-Naga to hold a paper making workshop for two days. On the first day, participants made a lamp using materials in kits. After hearing Japanese paper making technique on the second day, they made their own lamp combining Japanese and local paper. It seemed that many of them learned paper-making know-how as well as importance of raising their works' market value by their originality.
Now Muhammad Abul-Naga thinks about a project to invite artists from home and abroad to create artwork using paper produced by Nafiza. The project is expected to cultivate a market by buying and selling paperwork, to reinvest in NafizaCenter, and to produce even more charming paper crafts, thanks to staff members who will be inspired by the artists.