The Cultural Identity of a Black Gown
An overwrought demure rose after the renowned British singer, Adele, made her appearance at the Glastonbury festival in a fancy Chloé black gown, covered with special buttons and hand embroidered shells.
It was stated that the beautiful black gown was inspired by style of the 70s, without the designer fashion house making any reference to its obvious inspiration from the local fashion of the Siwa Oasis, which lies deep inside the Sahara desert in Egypt. To some Egyptian eyes, mine included, the connection was clear like the eye of Heaven.
Many people interested in fashion, art, and culture began to express their utter disappointment as the traditional Egyptian style was not mentioned, which raised numerous questions concerning cultural identity. However, the whole issue surrounding the high-fashion garment gives way to many perspectives, more miscellaneous and more arcane.
The majority of Egyptians do not even realize that Gaby Aghion, who founded the Chloé fashion house in 1952, was an Egyptian-born French fashion designer. It is even less common to find people who know that she was married to Raymond Aghion, who belonged to the Aghions of Egypt.
The Aghions were wealthy cotton exporters and one of the most renowned Jewish families of Modern Egypt, along with the de Menasce, Rolo and Tilche. Gaby and Raymond were also personal friends of Louis Aragon, the famous French communist poet.
The bitter irony that cannot be neglected is that the fancy Villa of Aghion in Alexandria, Egypt was partially destructed in 2009 with absolute ease and insistence to be completely destroyed in 2016; exactly like the villas of Cicurel, Sednaoui, and many other fine architectural masterpieces of the great city of Alexandria.
The Villa Aghion, one of the very important works that reflects the modern and rich architectural heritage of cosmopolitan Alexandria, was built between 1926 and 1927 by Auguste and Gustave Perret; better known as the Perret brothers.
The Perret brothers were world leading architects whose work was once recognised by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Sites. The destructive scene was very provocative to take place, a mélange of a helpless minority of people and ignorant uncaring authorities. Woefully, it is often said that nothing could have saved such a building that stood for a whole belle époque full of events, names, art, culture, identities, genealogies, history, and pride.
Based on these horrendous historical events can we expect a real reaction in order to preserve the cultural identity of a black gown?
In better circumstances authorities might take great strides in ensuring its people are well educated about their heritage and their unique cultural identity at least, if not to preserve it, to take pride of it and promote it.
However, let me demarcate the galling fact that Egyptian authorities, as well as the majority of people in our society, will not be aware of the existence of such topics in the first place. In case they might be slightly aware, I am afraid that such topics are definitely not an enticing interest to them.
People need to get in touch with their cultural identity; embrace it and practice it. In order for people to do so, they need to be introduced to culture and a developed system, which embraces cultural education.
We need to come to terms with the fact that culture is not meant to be monopolised by a specific coterie of people, who were lucky enough to be introduced to this realm of beauty and openness. All people need to have access to their culture, even if it is only a very brief introduction to it.
It has always been a matter of education; art and culture are egalitarian, and they should always be. Forget about authorities and formal education, as we all know how louche and disappointing they are.
Visit the posh Arab Folk Art permanent exhibition of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, where you will find the captivating and rare collection belonging to artists and folk art scholars, Raaya El- Nimr and her husband Abdel-Ghani Abou El-Eneni. They toured Egypt and the Arab world to collect stunning costumes and elaborate jewelry, which stood for our unique identity and rich heritage.
Go on your own, or with friends and children, and seek out a unique treasure. If you have the opportunity, do not forget to take lots of photos to share with people all over the world, so they will also experience our various and exquisite styles of costumes originating from Egypt and the Arab world.
It is our duty to propagate our superabundant culture and heritage. Maybe one day, our grandchildren will feel the urge to express their disappointment that a renowned singer put on a black gown of a particular Egyptian style, while no one felt any need to promulgate that.