Fathi Hassan was born in Cairo in 1957 to Nubian and Egyptian parents. His family were forced to leave their homeland of Nubia when the Aswan High Dam was built in 1952, flooding a vast area now under Lake Nasser. Whether in photographs, paintings, installations, drawings or, often, directly on walls, his texts are deliberately illegible intended to highlight the plight of lost languages and oral history as a result of colonial domination. In his early twenties he obtained a grant to study at Naples Art School and, after graduating in 1984, he continued to live for many years in Italy. Latterly working between Italy and Great Britain, he finally took up residence in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 2018. In his work Hassan experiments with the written and spoken word, exploring the theme of ancient languages erased by colonialism. With invented Kufic-inspired scripts, he plays with the symbols, textures and calligraphy of his Nubian heritage to explore the space between graphic symbolism and literal meaning in vibrant colours and collage. Forms are often given to these texts which can become as important as the text itself. These tend to be the organic forms of the natural world: the human face, leaves, plants, flowers, animals, the universe and its heavenly bodies. For many years Hassan also experimented with the vase form in his highly regarded series of Containers.
His work is in the permanent collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum and the British Museum, London and the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington DC and Farjam Collections among many others. He is the subject of numerous publications and writings by major critics, curators and experts, from Rose Issa, Achille Bonito Oliva, Maurita Poole and Liliane Karnouk to Kathleen Goncharov, Francesca Petracci, Elizabeth Harney and Enrico Crispolti. He also features in the recent book“Lumieres Africaines” published by Langages du Sud, (2018).