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Handmade dolls gain a following at Gallery Droub

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In Cairo, handmade dolls characterizing Egyptian life are on show at a local art gallery. They're the handiwork of a 75-year-old artist who first started making them more than 50 years ago as a college project.

Traditional characters from all corners of Egyptian society. Sitting in her house in the eastern suburbs of Cairo, artist Nadia Hassan is beginning a delicate process she's spent decades perfecting. What was once a hobby has now turned into a daily routine, and she now makes dolls commercially for galleries and shops.

And it's a time consuming task; it takes 3 days to finish one handmade doll, depending on the clothing and accessories.

"I use lots of raw materials. First, I use tin wire for the internal parts, then I wrap the whole frame with newspaper pieces according to the shape I need. Then, I cover it's body with cotton cloth. It's originally white but I dye it with black tea extract until it takes the color of the skin. Then I cover it with tights, then start coating every doll with its clothes.Then I assemble the head." said Nadia Hassan, Egyptian Artist.

Each of Hassan's handmade dolls are based on local Egyptian characters, from the northeastern coast to the southern border with Sudan.

Now, a well-known Cairo gallery, named Gallery Droub, is displaying her unique dolls, complemented with oriental paintings and sculptures.

"When the dolls were on display for the first time, many visitors said that they'd never seen dolls like these before. Because the dolls are incarnated, they are in 3D. They represent different areas from all over Egypt with their clothes and accessories. And it's a 100 percent Egyptian handmade doll." said Sawsan Salem, Director Gallery Droub, Cairo.

Doll prices here vary from 40 to 50 US Dollars. Many visitors here are attracted by their unique and beautiful designs, including gallery visitor Manal Samir.

"I came to the gallery because I know that rare arts are displayed here. It's not just a doll, it's like a shaped artistic sculpture. I guess it's made from tin wire and stuffed cloth plus its cute accessories. It's very beautiful and unique and I'm so happy that I've purchased one."

While Hassan's dolls display the same facial expressions, the first handmade models she made back in 1961 were very different. The dolls she made for her college graduation project were smaller in shape and had complex detail on the eyes and lips.

"My graduation project were dolls that were slightly different from these. They had drawn eyes and eyelashes which were more specific. But the commercial style imposed that look. Glued black eyes, mouth, that sort of thing." said Nadia Hassan, Egyptian Artist.

Hassan's graduation project also included dolls from different countries, including Romanian folk dancers, Spanish matadors and Indian belly dancers.


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