On a winding road leading into Cairo’s City of the Dead, a cartoon mouse with round ears and green eyes adorns the shop fronts and walls of the mausoleums where thousands of Egyptians live among the gravestones.
The path leads to a 15th-century complex built by Mameluk Sultan al-Ashraf Qaitbey, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that has been recently revived as a local artistic hub. In an adjacent courtyard where local boys play football, a mural shows Frankie the mouse putting a leash on a Pharaonic cat.
Contemporary art is bringing life and color into the once-drab necropolis, part of an ongoing project by Polish architect Agnieszka Dobrowolska called “Outside In: the Art of Inclusion”.
“What we want to do is to bring together the old heritage, the traditions of this particular place, with creative contemporary art and with various cultural events to promote diversity. Old meets new, death and life come together in the city of the dead, where we can exchange ideas and culture between east and west,” Dobrowolska told Reuters.
What began as a conservation project for the complex – which includes a mosque, a school and the remains of a drinking trough – grew into the initiative to invite artists from around the world to engage the community and create art inspired by the local culture. It is largely funded by the European Union.
Artists have so far come up with murals, mosaics, sculptures, graffiti and even live performances. Frankie the mouse is the work of a Polish graffiti artist who uses the pseudonym Franek Mysza.