Leaving marks – the D-CAF Festival in Cairo

This is a short medley of three great concert nights at the shabby/cool Sherazade Nightclub in Cairo: DJ Khadafi Dub (USA) – Electronic / El Rass & Muna (Lebanon) – Hip Hop / SADAT (Egypt) – Mahragan/Shaabi Music as part of the D-CAF 2013 programme.

In Cairo, you can hardly distinguish a club concert from a shop opening – have a look at this short video. Still, the music programme, curated by Mahmoud Refat from 100copies, was excellent.

2013-04-11 23.45.26The second edition of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival D-CAF in Cairo took place from April 4-28 2013. I was lucky enough to attend both this and last year’s D-CAF. In 2012, it happened on the background of preparations for the first free (or so) presidential elections after the 2011 revolution.

In 2013, the city and the people were even more worn out by the post-revolutionary events, and festival director Ahmed El-Attar emphasized “courage” in his editiorial to the programme. He has a clear idea of what he wants to establish through his festival. The “Urban Visions” section, for example, uses public space for performances in order to encounter different audiences, and to place art in public space:

One brilliant performance of the Urban Visions was “Line engravers” by The100hands from Holland.

2013-04-05 16.24.43Two Egyptian male and one Dutch female dancers performed their piece in the “Borsa”, the pedestrian area around the Egyptian stock exchange, running down the streets, between the plastic chairs of the street cafés, spectators, and passers-by.

2013-04-05 16.18.58It was as if they were measuring the place, occupying space, stirring it up, adding more – and faster – movement to this already very lively street. They caressed the tired stones on the ground and the old walls of the surrounding buildings.

The choreographer and dancer Mojra told me how much she enjoyed working in Cairo and how she observed differences:

Ahmed El Attar was clear about art and culture in Egypt needing full freedom of expression, and therefore he was very concerned about threats to journalists, bloggers and activists who are attacked by conservative religious forces – verbally and legally.

2013-04-17 19.30.26

Striking back? Ahmed El Attar using a slingshot from the “SMS slingshot” project.

The political future of Egypt seems unclear at this point, and though D-CAF wasn’t a target this year, planning D-CAF 2014, Ahmed El Attar is very much aware that the freedom the cultural scene is enjoying at the moment may be a temporary phenomenon only, and he emphasizes the importance of art and culture for change:

And – it does look like the Egyptian arts scene actually is next on the list, with the minister of culture just having been exchanged. Protests are happening against this move in the light of a suspected “brotherhoodisation” of arts and culture.

2013-04-17 19.31.43

“SMS slingshots” leaving messages on a Downtown Cairo wall. Fun, but not that interesting regarding omnipresent messages all over the city’s walls.

For the time being, culture is thriving with new spaces and festivals being established in Cairo and beyond.

And Ahmed El Attar has again directed an exciting festival, alongside his co curators. In the performing arts section which he curated, he managed to bring some interesting international theatre productions to Cairo – for example the Dutch company Hotel Modern with “The Great War” and Nassim Soleimanpour’s witty monologue “White Rabbit Red Rabbit”. His main idea is to bring performances to Cairo that most of the audience could not see otherwise. In order to leave a mark on the Egyptian scene. May it have lasting effects.

You can listen to my talks about D-CAF 2012 here and D-CAF 2013 here – on German radio, in German.

About reisendesmikro / travelling mic

Unterwegs im Selbst-Auftrag. On the road - self-commissioned.
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