Interview: The Egyptian Artist of Walls Aka ‘Elna2ash’

It is safe to say that artists don’t see the world the same way everyone else does and that they live in their own worlds that get bigger as the levels of their creativity increase. This applies to the amazing wall artist Ahmed Fathy, aka El-Na2ash, so we had to get a closer look into his world and his life to get to know more about him.

First of all, please introduce yourself to us

My name is Ahmed Fathy, in a couple of days I’ll be 24 years old. I was a commerce student but now I study literature instead and I love to draw.

So when did you start drawing and how did it evolve for you?

I began drawing as soon as I had a pencil and a paper in my hands. In school, I used to spend all my time in the art room and I always participated in drawing contests. In 2011 I was in 11th grade and I started focusing on the events happening back then, and in that year I drew on my first wall ever. Later in 2015, I started exploring into calligraphy.

Did you always want it as a career or was it just a hobby in the beginning? And do you do anything else besides drawing?

It was just a hobby until 2011. Before that, I was planning to be an architect but then things took turns that I had never seen coming. During my first two years in college I used to work part-time in stores and restaurants to get the money needed for my tools and painting material, but now painting is my whole life and I don’t believe that I could ever improve or develop myself if I worked somewhere else.

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Do you usually do custom-made designs or do you like to stick to your own designs? And how much do they usually cost?

Well, I never work on any design that is not originally mine, so if someone brings a design from the internet and asks me to replicate it, I politely refuse. Some people have new ideas inside their heads so I try to translate their ideas and create a design that is similar to what the client wants. Some people don’t really want anything specific; they just want to decorate their walls so we sit together and try to think of what would suit their taste best. And about the prices of my drawings, they mainly depend on the design and the current prices of the material needed.

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So, what are some of the obstacles that face you and other artists in Egypt?

The main problems I face with clients are not appreciating work and violating agreements. Sometimes a client agrees with me on a design for a certain amount of money, but after I finish they tell me that it’s not worth as much as we agreed on. Some other people don’t appreciate art and I sometimes even get compared to workers who paint walls! Other obstacles artists face is that they have to work extra hard to make an appearance in the market so they can make a name for themselves, but it never gets easy especially if you still live with your parents because naturally, they would think that you’re wasting your time and life so it gets really stressful sometimes.

And if you could change one thing about art in Egypt, what would it be?

Well, it’s not just about art, but accepting and understanding differences are some qualities that we lack in Egypt. People here don’t accept other opinions and sometimes it could lead to violence even among friends. I think that if people started accepting and being open to different opinions, they wouldn’t see painting as scribbling.

Tell us about some of your favourite projects

One of the projects I enjoyed the most was painting on the walls of the workers’ area in the factory of P&G. Also, doing work for 3alganoob festival was really fun. One my favourite projects though, was the drawing of the sun in Wust el Balad because I drew it as a birthday gift to a friend of mine called Shams.

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What about your role models and people who inspire you?

Well, to be honest, there is no one that I look up to or anyone that I want to be like, but I always admired the works of Banksy, an anonymous street artist based in England. He does graffiti in England and he even did some work in Palestine; I find his work and ideas really amazing.

So where do you want to go with your art and what do you wish for yourself?

First of all, I wish that an artist’s work would be more appreciated by people in Egypt and I wish they know the difference between an artist and someone who just paints walls. I also wish to draw on as many walls as I can because I think that a lot of buildings in Egypt look bad even if they’re coloured and it’s a shame to have all these dull walls in one of the first countries to write and draw on walls thousands of years ago. All that I’ve done so far doesn’t even reach 10% of what want to do in the future, and the thing I want the most in my life is not to end after I die. I want to stay alive with my art.

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We sure hope to see Fathy giving more colours to Egypt in the future. You can go follow him on his Facebook page here.