Marilyn Batte has fallen in love with the desert. The 31 year old Kitchener native and graduate from CHCI, presently living in Cairo, was so moved by the beauty of the desert landscape that she gave up the teaching job she went to Egypt for and has become a full time painter.

On Saturday she will mount a 10 day showing at the Cairo Opera House Art Gallery , which is Egypt 's National Gallery. Canadian's ambassador to Egypt , Michael B. Bell and Egypt 's Minister of Culture will officially open the exhibit.

"It started with photographs," says Batte in an interview from Cairo . "I couldn't resist taking pictures every time I went near the desert. Then one day I decided to do a version in paint of one of the photos and once I started, I couldn't stop."

Alex Tait, former Head of Art at Cameron Heights , remembers her well. "A very quiet, sweet young lady," he recalled, "but I never would have pegged her as one of the ones who would actually become an artist. But you never know-some of the brilliant students in high school never do anything with it and others blossom later. I'm thrilled for Marilyn."

After graduating from CHCI Batte did an Honours B.A. in architecture and art history at Carleton University in Ottawa , then did her Bachelor of Education in Visual Arts at Queen's University. After accepting a teaching position as an art teacher in an international school in Cairo , Batte soon caught up in the mystery of the desert, and her life began to change.

"I have more than one thousand photographic images of Egypt ", she said, "From the Mediterranean to Upper Egypt , from the western White Desert to the Sinai."

A brief painting course in Zamalek, Cairo , didn't work out, partly because of the language barrier, so Batte went it alone. "Soon if I wasn't teaching, I was painting," she said.

Then painting took over, and she made a major decision to continue her life as an artist, delighting in the photo-realism of her work.

"I enjoy the challenge of transforming a blank canvas into a space that viewers feel they could step into", she said. "I don't know if I did the wise thing in becoming an artist because I know how precarious the life is. But I didn't want to be 60 or 70 years old and regret that I hadn't tried."

After a solo exhibit in Cairo at the Atelier du Caire in 1995, followed by another in Alexandria later that same year, and Maadi in 1996, Batte seems to have the immediate future in the palm of her hand.

"I'll be remaining in Egypt for some time, but I'll be home to Kitchener for a visit in August", she said.
The desert, unforgiving to many, seems to have become a life-giving oasis for Batte.
  Currie, Harry "Egyptian desert casts spell over Kitchener painter." The Record, 11 Feb.1997:B7