A competition to forge good relations between Egypt and India.

A recent event hosted by the Indian embassy in Cairo has brought into sharp focus the unspoken link between Egypt’s non-violent January 25 revolution and India. While the crowds at Tahrir square — the centre of the Egyptian revolution — may not have been outspoken about it, the Gandhian advocacy of non-violent resistance that has channelled through the writings of several contemporary thinkers, including Gene Sharp of the United States, was palpable during the heady days of protests that brought down Hosni Mubarak, the former autocrat. By organising an imaginative poster design contest on the theme, “Did you sense the spirit of Gandhi in Tahrir Square?”, the Indian embassy and Egypt’s Artistic Creativity Center have focused the spotlight on the latent link between Egypt’s peaceful uprising and Mahatma Gandhi’s spirit of non-violence.

The response to the competition, which was also open to Indian participants, was overwhelming, triggering a riot of creativity. The artistic superimposition of Gandhi’s image over a sea of protesters at Tahrir Square won the first prize in the adult category. Ahmad Hassan Abayazeed’s poster of Gandhi’s image on a grey wall in the Square overlooking two generations of Egyptians was equally striking, justifiably bagging the special grand prize among adults.

Going beyond its immediate relevance, the competition has established a useful and durable link between top contemporary artists of the two countries belonging to the generation-next. For instance, the recipient of the grand prize among Indians will be hosted for a week at Cairo’s Fayoom Arts Centre, courtesy Mohamed Abla, a well-known Egyptian artist.

The two winners of the grand prize will then spend a week at the National Institute of Design (NID) in Ahmedabad, said Navdeep Suri, India’s ambassador to Egypt. The interaction at NID is likely to result in promising artistic fusion. At a prize distribution ceremony in Cairo, Ahmad Hassan summed it all when he observed: “The seven-day trip to India will give me a good opportunity to see the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad, interact with the winner from India and think of joint projects in the field of art and design. In addition, I will attend workshops there.”