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Arab, African multidisciplinary artists evoke questioning through Spoken World

In a special performance for the Red Zone Festival and Spring Festival, poets, musicians and a visual artist come together for a hybrid performance in Cairo and Beirut — Published in Ahram Online.

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In a unique performance developed especially for the Norwegian Red Zone Festival, parts of which are hosted by the Spring Festival, Arab and African spoken word artists, musicians and a visual artists came together to bring audiences in Beirut and Cairo a special treat.

Between Friday 2 May and Sunday 4 May in Beirut’s Sunflower theatre and Cairo’s Falaki theatre, poets and rappers Ali Talibab (Egypt), El-Rass (Lebanon), El-Far3i (Palestine/Jordan), along with Dieder Awadi (Senegal) and musician Tibass Kazematik (DR Congo) presented a myriad of arts from poetry to rap to music, against the backdrop of Tunsian visual artist, Ghazi Frini’s images.

The ‘Spoken World’ performance gave a platform for each of the poets to recite their new and previously performed individual work, with music and visuals by the instrumental artists bringing together separate yet intertwined sketches.

The artists only had five days to put the performance together, and with a few individual exceptions it was the first time for them to meet and work together.

The evening at Falaki Theatre started out to the soft guitar strums of Kazematik and El-Far3i, and French poetry recited by Awadi. Merely seconds after the end of Awadi’s piece, El-Rass asserted to the audience that the performance’s purpose was to dissect the concept of revolution.

“All of us on stage believe that revolution needs to happen on an in-depth level to change the human being,” El-Rass told Ahram Online after the performance.

While the microphone shifted from one artist to another, each tackling a myriad of issues relating to freeing one’s mind and body in their own individual way, a few basic concepts knotted the show together: Earth, Fire, Wind, and Water.

“This in depth level [of revolution] requires the rethinking of basic things. To symbolise the return to the original questions, we decided to question the main elements that constitute the universe,” El-Rass continued.

“We needed to open the space for the question mark or ‘the fifth element’,” he said. “Also each of us opened this question mark in a different direction while all pouring back to the simplest thing to be free.”

In the few days the artists had together to prepare for the show, each chose one of the elements and worked on it on an individual level. Artists shared their process with the others for feedback and interventions, only to find meeting points within their work.

During the performance, each of the artists captivated the audience in his own way, with the spoken word element always accompanied by Frini’s immersive visuals. The artists used music and beats to engage the audience who by the end of the evening were on their feet dancing and singing along.

Bits and pieces from Spoken World

Young talent Ali Talibab, who has been participating in different projects on the Egyptian scene lately such as El-Manzouma and Hadsa, excelled in charming the audience. As he moved swiftly on the stage, barefoot, and sometimes reciting lyrics without the microphone, he performed an excerpt from his poem ‘Qaf’ tackling consumerism saying in Arabic:

To them you are simply ink on paper
They want you an addict, a consumer, an addict to the product
So the producer produces less than your consumption
Then the price soars and he eats you
Your weakness suits you
And misery knows you by heart
But the aid goes to their weapon
Aimed from your rooftop
Their weapon beats with your help
Nurtured by your naivety
With all my respect to the peak of your stupidity
They want you as you are ignorant, numb, a murderer
They sell you air and your hand is on your wallet
You listen to everything you are told that has to be heard
You repeat everything you are told that has to be swallowed
You are simply a zero on the left
You are simply the intent of a dictator
My hand is raised with the sweat of the workers

At this point, after a one minute music break, Far3i takes the microphone, skill-fully building on Talibab’s energy with a poem on being a refugee in your own country and how the Palestinian community was breathing an air of possible freedom due to the wave of protests that shook the Arab world. El-Rass then goes on to face the audience with the double standards we tend to live in.

Never give up the fight
My brother never give up the fight
You better never give up
My sister never give up the fight
You better never give up

The musicians sing in unison, encouraging the audience to provide a rhythm by clapping along.

Later, under the element of ‘water’ which El-Rass announced in one word on stage, Talibab takes the mic again singing his popular piece ‘1772’ in which he faces his audience with important questions on the social givens and expectations people live through from authorities, whether peers, religious leaders or the state. 

The twenty-two year old artist of Nubian decent, originally studied to be a Petroleum engineer. Quickly after graduating however, he decided to pursue a different path. He has been performing regularly over the past several months, and is attracting quite a large following on social media sites. He recites to the audience:

Maybe everything goes according to order
Stand in line
Smile to the order
We dress in order
We undress in order
We work for the order
We are dragged for the order
And the price, is collected by the order
So, uh, maybe everything is going according to order

The word “order” translates to nezam in Arabic, thus representing a play on words as its meaning also extends to “the system” or the “political rulers.” The audience was entranced by this mirror of their reality.

El-Far3i strums his guitar and takes the microphone, telling the audience of life under occupation in Palestine, and the cultural imperialism he sees happening from the west onto the minority controlling ruling classes in the Arab world.

I am waking your friends
My words are knocking on your door
You open and you find no one and wonder what came over you
You go back inside but many factors have started intertwining
Egyptian revolutions everywhere as your youth diminishes

And later he continues:

You who love these countries and feel their features are disappearing
I’ve hid an Arab in my coat for you
I will bring him out when I feel the revolution’s fire could be dying
But first, revolution, you have to be purged

The performance continues with the rest of the elements, and ends on a participatory note from the audience with Kazematik, who has to this moment been only singing and playing guitar, asking the audience to get up, dance and sing along to “be free.”

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Passageways redefined: Investigating Downtown Cairo’s in-betweens

Egyptian and Danish artists and architects gathered for four days to present intervention concepts for two pedestrian passageways in Downtown Cairo, raising further questions on the cracks between structures — Published in Ahram Online.
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Eight young Egyptian and Danish architects and artists came together for four days through the Cairo Downtown Passages workshop, closely examining two pedestrian passageways — the Kodak Passageway and the Philips Passageway — to propose artistic and design interventions.

The workshop, which ran 27-30 April, was organised by CLUSTER (Cairo Lab for Urban Studies, Training and Environmental Research), supported by Danish organisations DEDI and CKU.

On Wednesday 30 April, as the audience gathered in one of the empty shops in the Kodak Passageway, the walls of the space had been transformed into lines and drawings. Merely days ago, the location had hosted part of the retrospective exhibition on Hassan Khan within the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), which was also curated by CLUSTER.

Workshop participants presented three concepts for intervention: two in the Kodak Passageway and one in the Philips Passageway.

Following the Hassan Khan show which presented an alternative intervention in the shops, the two groups dreamed further still, and in a more systematic manner.

CLUSTER has been working for a year on mapping Downtown’s passageways, with a focused research particularly on these two passageways. Prior to the workshop, participants of the Cairo Downtown Passages were presented with a design brief built on extensive interviews with several stakeholders from the area: shop owners, residents, building owners, security personnel, nearby art spaces, developers etc.

“We take a stakeholder approach to design,” Omar Nagati, architect and founder of CLUSTER told Ahram Online. “It doesn’t start from an artist’s vision in an abstract way; it starts from interviewing many people in the area — trying to get an idea of what people need, and bridge gaps between the different stakeholders.”

Kodak Passageway

Kodak Passageway during the Hassan Khan retrospective exhibition (Photo: Rowan El Shimi)

Unlike most passageways in Downtown, the Kodak one is very quiet, spacious and uninhabited by vendors. Perhaps this is simply due to the fact that it is located metres away from the Jewish Synagogue.

As such, the participants proposed a project which uses the actual structure of the flooring to create shade, layers and spaces for different activities. The group suggested to plant vertical vegetation and place benches… Shortly, the participants took the approach of trying to retain the serenity of the passageway and render it a “haven from Downtown’s hustle and bustle”.

The Philips Passageway group had much more to work with. The L-shaped passageway is filled with vendors, street cafes, and uneven flooring. A struggle exists between the vendors — who want to retain their businesses — and the Ismailia for Real Estate Development Company which owns the building and seeks to attract high-end businesses. Not to mention the structural problems of the passage itself.

The participants spent an extensive amount of time on location, conducting further interviews with the vendors, and suggested an intervention which included colouring the floors, changing the lighting, and executing creative solutions to attract pedestrians into the passage.

Besides the participants’ presentations, the space’s walls included previous inquiries into Downtown’s passageways that have been spearheaded by Nagati and CLUSTER through work with university students and commissioned research that the non-profit company worked on.

Nagati explained to Ahram Online that the process of mapping and inquiring into Downtown’s passageways is far from over. In the next six months, they are set on choosing one or two very specific ideas to use as interventions within the limited budget they possess. “After negotiating with the different stakeholders, we hope to have a more lasting intervention not an exhibition or a screening,” he commented.

Nagati’s interest in passageways started a few years back, around the time he was looking to co-found CLUSTER. He explains that it was all part of the same idea of “in-betweeness,” a condition that the country seemed to be following after the revolution: when one order collapsed and a new one was about to begin. This grey area we live in creates a state where nothing is clear – and thus everything is negotiable. Here emerge possibilities that allow several practices to renegotiate what the new order will look like.

“The passageways is a very focused project that refers to larger questions on contestation and negotiation,” he says.

On the long run, CLUSTER is working on a website to map Downtown’s passageways, along with another website which is a walking tour of Downtown.

“It’s much more pleasant to experience downtown through passageways,” Nagati asserted.

His words sound very true once we realise how the chaos of traffic, vendors, pollution and Cairene shoppers can turn a simple walk through Downtown’s streets into a nightmare. The passageways present an escape from the overwhelming reality and allow for faster movement through the neighbourhood.

Nagati also hopes that this inquiry into the passageways will not just help map them, but create a dialogue of what the actual purpose of these passageways may be in light of the development of Downtown as a whole.

“You can almost look at Downtown passageways as alternative spaces for development: book fairs, vegetable markets, bike lanes, all happening in these little cracks without compromising traffic or security,” he said, admitting that these ideas are, for now, only dreams but could one day become a reality.

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D-CAF third edition: On performances, public space and the future

As the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival’s third edition comes to a close, Ahram Online reflects on the event’s celebrations, challenges and aspirations — Published in Ahram Online.
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The third edition of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) came to a close on Friday 11 April in Shehrazade with La Voix est Libre, a multidisciplinary performance — or mini-festival, rather — which reflected the event’s very essence.

Translating to The Free Voices Festival, La Voix est Libre began in 2005 in Paris’ Bouffes du Nord Theatre. In Cairo, the French artists worked with their Egyptian counterparts putting on shows at the Falaki Theatre, the French Institute in Alexandria and, finally, the Shehrazade Nightclub.

With that evening bringing this year

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Children of Egypt’s Darb Al-Ahmar share their stories through arts

Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School presents the stories and aspirations of its children and youth through a circus musical on El-Geneina Theatre — Published in Ahram Online.
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In a new theatrical performance, the children and young people of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School bring Lost and Found to Cairo audiences. The play was performed at El-Geneina Theatre on 3, 4 and 5 April and debuted in February on the American University in Cairo’s Falaki stage.

With the scenography by renowned Luxor-based artist Ammar Abo Bakr, the troupe showcases its theatrical abilities, brought to life by director Hanan Haj Ali to a crowd left in cheers, laughs and tears.

The script of the play is a result of a storytelling workshop hosted a year ago, during which the children shared their day-to-day struggles, expressed their emotional connection to the political situation and other burning questions.

As such, the characters’ personal stories, dreams and troubles are unveiled in Lost and Found through the story of Sara, a young girl who runs away from home on a quest to find other youngsters.

The performance begins with a narrator introducing the characters to the audience in jubilant traditional circus fashion. We then learn that Sara, the protagonist played by 10-year-old Fatma Ibrahim (known as Atouta), is mistreated by her parents and has no freedom – a reason of her escape from home.

Her brother, cousins and other neighbourhood children embark on a mission to find her, taking the audience through traffic, on to Tahrir Square, and exploring the city’s cafe culture. In the meantime, deciding to impersonate a boy, Sara cuts her long hair and has her own adventure.

The children sing, perform circus stunts, and even dance to shift through the layers of the story, unveiling a social issue at every turn and tackling themes of domestic violence, inequality, police brutality, revolutionary woes and secret romantic relationships.

Lost and Found
‘Lost and Found’ by Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School. (Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

As we walk through the story, the young actors engage the audience by stepping off the stage and reappearing in the various corners of the auditorium, at times even sitting among the viewers. At one point colourful flyers drop from the sky onto the crowd to aid them in finding Sara.

“This play was made to achieve our dream, we are very happy with it,” Atouta tells Ahram Online. “The stories in the performance are part of us; we are the ones who wrote it.”

According to Atouta, the production of Lost and Found was based on a collaborative effort, from the storytelling workshop onto the theatre stage.

A recurrent motif throughout the workshop pointed to girls wishing to become boys in order to experience freedom. Naturally, this idea became the point of departure of the entire piece, with the other stories fitting into the mould.

Lost and Found
‘Lost and Found’ by Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School. (Photo: Bassam Al-Zoghby)

Lost and Found is the first play ever prepared by Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School. Although the students have performed several times in Egypt and abroad, their performances were limited to circus tricks and percussion shows.

For over five years Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi (The Culture Resource) has been working with the community of Al-Darb Al-Ahmar, by providing education through percussion and the circus arts school for its children and youth. The community resides in the vicinity of El-Geneina Theatre, a well-known stage in Al-Azhar Park and an open air theatre that hosts many of Mawred’s music performances.

“In 2005, when El-Geneina launched its activities, we were not paying so much attention to the neighbourhood,” Basma El-Husseiny, founder and director of Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi told Ahram Online after the Lost and Found performance. “After a while, we started noticing that the youth and children were climbing on the fence, shouting from the building rooftops, cursing and throwing things at us. So we tried to engage them through workshops of painting, mask making, puppetry. It didn’t work at first and the relationship continued to be rocky.”

This is when El-Husseiny and the team started to reconsider their strategies in running the activities and invited the children from the neighbourhood to come to the theatre.

“We thought that the best thing was for us to go into the community instead of asking them to come to us,” El-Husseiny explained. “We decided to open a school which we called Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School.”

Launched in 2010, the school offers three focal points: percussion, circus arts and brass instruments. Through a two-year curriculum spread over 15-20 hours a week, all the children take percussion classes, but then they specialise in one of the three main branches. The school also offers English classes, computer studies and cultural courses, all topped with excursions.

Today, Al-Darb Al-Ahmar Arts School has now gained recognition, with 47 graduates from the community.

“Some [of the graduates] work commercially in weddings, birthday parties or shop openings. It is really important, since it becomes an alternative income source for these young people,” El- Husseiny asserts.

Following its success with the Cairene audience, Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi hopes to take Lost and Found on a tour throughout Egypt’s governorates.

Violence Liontaine

Violence Lointaine: Performance captures the aesthetics of violence

D-CAF hosts the world premiere of the audio-visual dance performance ‘Violence Lointaine,’ a co-production of artists from Egypt, Congo and France, this weekend — Published in Ahram Online.
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Upon reading the title ‘Violence Lointaine’ (Distant Violence) — part of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) programme — one is not necessarily inclined to make it all the way to Talee’a (Al-Talia meaning avant-garde) Theatre in Attaba. “Why would I go see a performance about violence when I am surrounded by it in Egypt, where bombings and violent dispersals leave hundreds dead, let alone the everyday harassment and struggle that infuses Cairo’s dusty streets?” These thoughts crossed my mind.

However, artists Omar Ghayatt (Egypt), DeLaVallet Bidiefono (Congo) and Maxime Denuc (France) manage to present an alternative side to violence through their audio-visual dance piece. Through movement, sound and minimal text, ‘Violence Lointaine’ transcends the cliches associated with the concept of violence and allows the audience to experience “violence” in an entirely novel way. Through exploring the violence we don’t seem to notice, the creators strive to find beauty in a new aesthetic concept.

The 60-minute performance takes us to the morning after a party, as we find a messy floor, filled with confetti, empty bottles, and chairs and other objects thrown around. Denuc, a composer, electronic musician and sound artist, disseminates loud sounds and the three performers start running back and forth on the stage, until one by one they fall. Contemporary dancer Bidiefono is the last one to drop to the floor.

The performance then goes on to show the audience glimpses of the party we seem to have missed. The three artists use dance, a reading of the constitution with a muffled microphone, a gradual invasive sound, and other methods to invite the audience to find their own interpretations of violence.

“Violence is aesthetically beautiful,” Ghayatt explained to Ahram Online after one of the dress rehearsals. In a small yard outside the theatre the invasive sounds from Attaba market murmured loudly in the background. “You reach aesthetics if you exclude the negative side of violence or its results,” he clarified quickly.

‘Violence Lointaine’ is a point of departure for a collaborative project between three artists who came together through a programme hosted by the French Institute in Brazzaville. The artists decided to work on the theme of “distant violence” as they sat in a protected French compound in the Congo while civil war raged a few hundred metres outside.

When working on the play, the creators had in mind Western audiences, which consist of viewers to whom violence can seem very far and whose only relation with it is manifested through watching and listening to the news or seeing action films. The artists wanted to explore those minds and reveal that, in fact, distant violence hits extremely close to home.

In the scenes where the artists run back and forth, they dissect the competitiveness of the capitalist system dominating most Western societies. For the artists, this exhaustion of the body through the simple act of running is an act of violence, an act that is only stopped on stage when — without being tied to a specific agreed upon timeframe — they simply feel too exhausted to continue running.

“We use running as a metaphor for the ongoing human struggle,” Ghayatt explains. This struggle is not only on the societal level, as “violence on the state level is rooted in competition, in a struggle to be the most powerful, in a struggle to control,” he continues.

In another scene where Ghayatt runs from side to side and Bidiefono dances on stage, Ghayatt changes his posture, belly size, and clothes. As such the artists confront the audience with the internal violence we place on ourselves and that is placed on society through our perception of our body image.

“I notice that people do sports not just for enjoyment but also due to their consistent stress that they have to have a certain look because other people are the ones who set the standards of beauty and thus fashion,” Ghayatt comments. “Especially young people are always striving to have this ideal figure that someone else decides for them.”

“And so people are always running, hoping to get closer to this ideal of beauty,” he concludes.

While the artist admits that these forms of violence might be more relevant to European society, they are also connected to the lives of a significant number of people in Cairo. The constant stream of advertising in Egypt plays a role in setting those same standards of beauty that are inflicted upon people in Europe. It is even to a point where it goes beyond weight-loss and ideal figures; it is also about selling people the idea that their skin colour needs to be lighter to be considered more beautiful. Naturally, this highly competitive sensibility is also found within young professionals in several fields, especially the corporate world.

One of the most interesting — yet problematic — elements of ‘Violence Lointaine’ is the stage it takes place on. Talee’a Theatre is located in Attaba, an area congested with street vendors. In fact, Ghayatt finds that this setting serves the purpose of the performance. “It is hidden violence,” he says. “Many questions arise in just the few metres it takes someone to walk from the metro station to the theatre. If I had an artistic dream this would be it; that the audience have this experience before experiencing our performance.”

This, along with the performance itself, makes it worth the hassle of going through the market to get to the world premiere of ‘Violence Lointaine.’

‘Violence Lointaine’ is an independent production on Talee’a Theatre’s main stage. Talee’a Theatre itself operates under the Department of Theatre of the Ministry of Culture, and as its name indicates the original aim of the theatre was to present avantguardist performances and introduce texts by experimental playrights. As the years passed, the theatre hosted a mix and match of theatrical productions — classical and experimental — performed by both independent and governmental troupes.

As such ‘Violence Lointaine’ is an interesting revival of the core mission of this theatre.

Photo by Mostafa Abd El Aty

Dutch, Egyptian dancers take on Downtown Cairo, Alexandria

D-CAF’s Urban Visions programme brings dance to the streets of Cairo and Alexandria; Dutch troupe The 100Hands return with a new performance featuring Egyptian dancers — video published on Ahram Online.

In Cairo’s Alfy Street, and in a passageway next to Alexandria’s Abo Ragab Cafe, Dutch troupe The 100Hands, presented their newest performance, ‘Running Nucleus,’ as part of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival’s (D-CAF) Urban Visions programme bringing several contemporary dance performances to public spaces.

Returning for a second year, The 100Hands once more work with Egyptian dancers to produce the piece. This year they are performing with Mohamed El-Deeb, Mohamed Yousry (Shika) and Shaymaa Shoukry.

Art Dubai

Art Dubai Coverage | Photography & Video

Two videos produced during my stay in Dubai to attend the 8th Edition of the Middle-East’s biggest art fair Art Dubai — published in Ahram Online

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The 8th Art Dubai, hosted in Madinet Jumeirah, features works by over 500 artists estimated to be worth $40-45 million.

The works on display are divided between Modern, Marker and Contemporary halls.

There are more than 70 galleries exhibiting new works in the Art Dubai Contemporary exposition hailing from the world over. Marker, a dynamic programme of invited art spaces that is dedicated to showcasing a different theme or geographical location each year, and which focused on West Africa in last year’s edition of the fair, zooms in on art from Central Asia and the Caucasus. Markeris curated by Slavs and Tartars this year.

This year’s fair programme features an unprecedented showcase of Middle Eastern and South Asian modern art dating back to the twentieth century. Art Dubai Modern,features 11 galleries, includes Cairo’s very own Karim Francis gallery, which showcases the works of painter Hamed Abdalla and sculptor Adam Henein.

The photography coverage I produced was a set of 20 photos of the event, published in Ahram Online.

This is a one shot video retimed to give a glimpse into the main contemporary hall of the fair

The second is a walk-through the non-profit section of the fair with the curator of the Art Dubai Projects

Re-Act

Re-Act: Photo Publication by Noon documenting their project Hara TV 2

Re-Act is a publication by Noon Creative Enterprise to use 50 photos of audience reactions from their play Hara TV 2 that toured Egypt. I was commissioned by Noon to write the opening statement to the publication which launched in March 2014

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Hara TV 2: Keep it Real (Kolo Beyetla3 del Ghaseel) engages people all over Egypt

Traveling across fourteen governerates all around Egypt: from Alexandria to Sohag to Qena to Aswan and going east to Ismailia and Port-said among other places, Hara TV 2: Keep it real (Kolo Beyetla3 fel Ghaseel), Noon Creative Enterprise’s latest project hosts 55 performances on streets, in youth and cultural centres, and in schools and universities.

Hara TV 2: Keep it real (Kolo Beyetla3 fel Ghaseel) could sound like an unconventional title for a play. Nonetheless that makes complete sense as this production, which toured the country in the second half of 2013, has nothing conventional about it.

Set as a television show, three actors Sherine Hegazy, Ahmed El-Sawy and Mohamed Samy Negm present a 30 minute performance to the audience as part of the television programme, and within this programme they incorporate skits that deal with social issues that potentially affect the audiences wherever the tour takes them in spite of the obvious audience diversity.

What sets Hara TV apart from regular theatre is the point of interactivity; the purpose of the performance is to host a discussion afterwards. It is not regular art per se that is meant to ask questions, evoke an emotional response and inspire; Hara TV offers a platform for discourse for the audience to continue being part of the play’s events after the actors are done.

As the actors finish their scene, Nada Sabet, Artistic Director of Noon, takes the stage with her handy waist bag and microphone, and invites the audience to reflect on what they have seen. She asks the members of the audience to recall the issues Hara TV presented, and once a basic level of understanding is reached she, along with the actors, who are still in their characters as Hara TV producers, host a discussion from these experiences shared on stage.

Targeting youth between the ages 15 to 20, these performances invite the youth to be part of the show, however, bringing their real stories and suggestions into the equation. While the performance itself merely lasts half an hour, the experience takes 1.5 hours to complete, and in this time the audience become the main actors in the experience through these meaningful conversations they have regarding the piece.

In a society where there is very little space to host these meaningful conversations neither in schools, universities, in youth centres at home or among friends – and a dire need for these spaces to achieve any sort of social development – Hara TV hosts these small interventions to give people around the country the opportunity to really vent and discuss their issues.

Hara TV 2 chooses four topics: domestic violence against children, double standards towards girls and women in society, romantic relationships between men and women and finally discrimination based on religion, exterior appearance or race.

While these topics are limited compared to the many social ills that exist in Egyptian society, they definitely touch upon focal points that could potentially open a conversation on other issues that relate to them even in the periphery.

The main problem with the issues presented is they are so embedded in the culture that people often overlook the need to even address them. Smacking children as a form of discipline is a norm, so is making fun of someone if they are different that the expectation of society in anyway. Women get bossed around by everyone around them while men get a larger freedom of choice and mobility, and in romantic relationships girls are expected to be nagging and jealous and boys to be dominating and bossy towards their significant other.

As these topics are put in the show, in a simple, relatable and sometimes even funny way – it forces the audience to take a look at themselves somehow – admitting to these issues and suggesting solutions. However, most of the time the solutions do not appear right then and there. One can only hope the Hara TV experience would offer a new set of questions that could potentially reach these solutions. It certainly is a unique attempt to help formulate these questions that will continue to erupt in different corners of the country.

In this photo book, Noon Creative Enterprise invites us for a short trip around Egypt to see faces and reactions from the audiences who attended the different performances and moments of their interaction with each other and the team.

Zawya Arthouse Cinema Cairo Egypt

Zawya brings alternative films to Odeon Cinema, Cairo

On Wednesday evening, Misr International Films opened its new Zawya initiative in the Odeon Cinema, bringing alternative and art house films to Downtown Cairo — Previosly published on Ahram Online.
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Misr International Films (MIF), founded by late Egyptian director Youssef Chahine and the company behind the always eagerly awaited Panorama of the European Cinema, has launched Zawya, an initiative bringing art house and alternative films to one screen at Downtown Cairo’s Odeon Cinema.

With an illustrious cinematic heritage, one would expect in Cairo to be able to find internationally acclaimed films from all over the world in at least some cinema halls. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Cinemas either host Hollywood blockbusters or Egyptian films — and often not even all Egyptian films. Commercially produced films tend to fall short on the artistic front, with only a few exceptions each year.

This is where MIF decided to intervene, reserving one screen in the Odeon Cinema for the Zawya project, showing alternative films, starting Wednesday, 12 March, with Saudi Arabia’s “Wadjda.”

Wadjda, the first Saudi film to be directed by a woman, Haifaa Mansour, was the Kingdom’s official entry in this year’s Academy Awards. It has been featured in several festivals and has collected a number of awards and critical recognition.

The film follows the young Wadjda in Ryiadh, an alternative rebel who dreams of having a bicycle like her male friend. Through her struggle to get that bicycle, in spite of financial burdens and societal pressures, viewers are invited into the world of women in Ryiadh and Saudi society at large, dealing with realities from segregation to the driving ban on women and other gender based discrimination.

Wadjda will be showing in regular cinema hours this week, and might be extended for another week. Zawya will also screen other art house films and independent productions from Europe, the Arab region and the rest of the world.

Local independent productions as well as international classics will also be screened.

Besides regular film screenings, Zawya will also host talks, special events, retrospectives, film discussions and master classes.

While Zawya is starting with only one screen in Odeon Cinema as a pilot, MIF hopes to spread the initiative to other screens in the capital, and other cities in Egypt.

Behna Film Selections Alexandria Film Art

VIDEO: Wekalet Behna fuses visual arts, cinema, film heritage in Alexandria

What was once the office of one of Egypt’s largest film distribution companies is now a contemporary workspace for audio-visual arts in Alexandria — Published in Ahram Online.

Last Friday saw the official opening of Wekalet Behna, an art space focused on audio-visual arts in Alexandria.

The space was once the office of Behna Films Selections, one of Egypt’s largest cinema distribution companies between the 1930s and 1950s, and hosts a substantial archive of the county’s cinematic history, selections of which will be exhibited at the venue.

Wekalet Behna will also serve as a workshop, production, and exhibition space for independent cinema, video, and visual art in Egypt’s second largest city.

The first of a series of opening nights hosted three exhibitions by three generations of artists: Ali Ashour presented a painting exhibition featuring never-exhibited works from the start of his career, Amr El-Sawah presented experimental photography, and Yara Mekkawi showcased a video art project.

The event also featured a film screening of Onshoudet El-Fouad, one of the first ever spoken films in the region which was recovered by Basile Behna and his sister, Marie-Claude, the heirs to the Behna legacy and the owners of the new art space.

Find more information on Wekalet Behna’s month long opening events here.

Read more on the history of Behna Films Selections here.