Galla Fattah: Painting the Homeland | Nada Salem

February 15, 2021
By: Nada Salem

What happens when you mix the history of Ancient Egypt with the fine arts of Europe? You end up with the enchanting work of Galla Fattah. 

Artist Galla Fattah

Born in Moscow in 1970, Galla Fattah is a Russian painter of Egyptian descent known for her creative reimagining of Ancient Egyptian art. She is recognized for her contributions to Russian fine art and her numerous exhibitions around the world. Through her paintings, she brings light to the ever-present modernity of art created thousands of years ago. She says, “To me, Ancient Egyptian art is undoubtedly relevant in our modern lives. I see the achievements and beauty… the graceful lines, the grandeur of the architecture. This civilization captures the minds of scientists, architects, and artists! Ancient Egypt has an absolutely modern sound, and that’s what I want to convey in my paintings.”

But what does it take to become intimately connected to a history you are so far away from?

The answer lies in Galla Fattah’s unique sphere of artistic influence. Her father was a cinematographer and art historian who fell in love with ballerina Nadia Abdel Malek, who was a prominent dancer at the Cairo Opera. In 1968, they moved to Moscow on a cultural exchange program. The two started a new life for themselves in a foreign land, bringing with them an appreciation for the arts and a deep adoration for their homeland. 

This is the world that Galla Fattah and her sister, Geba, grew up in. They were surrounded by their father’s tremendous archives of photos and videos documenting Egyptian culture. He had captured the allure of its historic temples, statues, and scrolls. Fattah’s parents had strong ties to their roots in a way often felt by those physically separated from their native land. When asked to reflect on growing up abroad, Fattah explained that “As a child, I didn’t really understand my roots. But with age, I began to feel that I was drawn to understanding my origin story and I became deeply interested in the history of ancient Egypt. It turned out to be an absolutely fantastic and beautiful world that completely bewitched me, and this world still does not let me go.”

While her sister followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a ballerina at Moscow’s prestigious Bolshoi theatre, Fattah pursued her father’s same devotion to the fine arts. In 1986, Fattah held her first art exhibition at just 15 years old. 

Just like the pharaonic worlds she brings to her audience, bright colours and hues of gold and blue are dominant in her work. Fattah has become known for her captivating modern portrayals of ancient Egyptian legends. Her oil and watercolour paintings combine elements of culture, femininity, and dance, with reference to the talented women in her own family.

She layers her portraits with symbolism from Egyptian, Nubian, and sub-saharan African cultures, often featuring the sun – a literal and metaphorical source of energy. “This land and its vibrant, kind, energetic people is a great influence to me. It’s very important to show the sun’s energy in my paintings. This energy gives a person joy and strength, which is the essence of creativity.”

Galla Fattah is a testament to the power of identity transcending geographic borders. But her work goes beyond her personal quest to explore her roots. She emphasizes the interconnectedness in all of us. No matter where we are now, all human beings are ancestrally linked to Africa – a heritage she is “very proud to be related to”.

Galla Fattah
Galla Fattah

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