Mahmoud Mokhtar has long been regarded by art historians and critics as the founder of modern Egyptian sculpture- and rightly so. His recurring conscientious depiction of the Egyptian fellaha (peasant woman) in his oeuvre helped to not only elevate the status of the often-oppressed Egyptian woman, but shed light on the integral role she played in Egypt, particularly in the domains of agriculture and rural society. Mokhtar's devotion to the symbol of the fellaha was one of the earliest acts of support to the Egyptian feminist movement in his recognition and celebration of her contribution to Egyptian society.
Mokhtar portrayed the symbol of the fellaha in various roles, most famously in his magnum opus Nahdet Misr (Egypt Awakening), executed between 1920-1928, that has presided the entrance of the University of Cairo since 1958. It serves as a reminder of Egypt's modernist awakening referring an intellectual and social renaissance that was intended to capture the spirit of a nation keen on identifying a unique artistic aesthetic in the 20th century that combined references to the monumental sculptures of its ancient past with elements of its present.
In On the Bank of the Nile, the woman carries a traditional water jug in her right arm, caught in the action of filling it. This water jug alludes to the Nile River, a leit motiv in the sculptor's oeuvre. She holds back with her left arm her melaya- a traditional modest wrap worn by rural countrywomen- protecting it from being soiled by the thick mud on the riverbank, hinting to the land's fertility and agricultural activities.
The late Egyptian art critic (and nephew of the artist) Badr El Din Abou Ghazi claimed that this statue as was intended to represent the Egyptian people, symbolized by the harmonious lines which achieve a structural balance throughout the statue. There is no discontinuity or gap between each part of the statue, resulting in an elegant symmetry. The intelligent and calculated use of vertical lines with limited corrugation reveals the sculptor's compositional ingenuity and artistic skill. Mokhtar's ability in blending abstraction with classical figuration, and in reconciling the glory of his nation's history and culture with the fellaha's simple daily ritual of water-gathering, was ground-breaking in the visual arts of the Arab diaspora and is beautifully embodied by the present sculpture.