The past few months have proven just how important the online community is in keeping people connected not only around the world; but in their own local community. The Egyptian art scene now has its own online platform to promote performing arts and to connect members of the performing arts scene to each other as well as to their audiences.
Meetphool.net is the brainchild of Theatre graduate and entrepreneur Nada Sabet, who came up with the idea of the platform when she was working on her own website and realised that everyone she spoke to in the Egyptian performing arts community had the same problems with designing and maintaining their own sites.
‘I realised there’s a need in the community to have a free online space, where artists can upload their portfolios and have an online presence,’ she told Cairo 360.
Despite being quite a small community, many members of the performing arts scene in Egypt don’t know each other, according to Sabet. With several performing arts initiatives starting up all over Egypt, it seemed imperative to launch a platform where performing artists could connect to these initiatives and to each other.
‘The need for this platform has always been there,’ she explained, ‘People need to put up their work online and connect with broader audiences and other professionals within the performing arts scene.’
Although Sabet began working on the project long before the Egyptian revolution, she believes that people are now less wary of the online world and more interested in the initiative after January 25th.
There’s also a certain presumption among Cairenes that the art scene is completely centralised in Cairo, which is untrue. Meetphool seeks to connect art communities and events in other Egyptian governorates with the Cairo hub to give them proper exposure and support.
Meetphool is not limited to the Egyptian performing arts community; it also aims to include the entire Mediterranean region, as ‘there is a need for proper representation and for people to find each other and work together,’ Sabet explained.
Sabet collaborated with local firm EDG (Environmental Development Group) on the project, and secured a grant from the EU Delegation to Egypt's Cultural Office. Speaking at the platform’s launch at Darb 17 18 on July 6th, Antonio Crea, the minister councillor of the EU delegation’s social cooperation sector, reiterated the EU’s enthusiasm for Meetphool.
‘This project was relevant before the revolution, and now it’s even more relevant after the revolution,’ he said.
The launch event included improvised performances by contemporary dancer Shaymaa Shoukry, graphic artist Ganzeer, puppeteer Ahmed Abdel Naim and clown performer Ali Sobhy.
‘We weren’t interested in the nature of the performances at the event, but we wanted to showcase what exists in terms of talent here,’ she added.
The name Meetphool can be interpreted in several ways, but according to Sabet, 'meet' is a Pharaonic word for a small community (think meet ‘okba, etc) and 'phool' signifies the theatrical fools in the performing world, such as the clowns, the Shakespearian fools, and so on. It was important for Sabet to insert the ‘ph’ into the name to represent performance hub.
The aim of Meetphool is to connect members of the performing arts sector across continents and provide a safe environment to share their work and collaborate on future activities. Blogs, discussion boards, videos and e-books can be uploaded, which can then be rated and commented on by readers.
Aside from publicising their work and upcoming events, members will eventually be able to sell tickets, merchandise and other resources such as music, e-books and toolkits via meetphool.net.
Furthermore, RSS feeds from various arts newsletters, sites, blogs and newspapers will keep the perfoming arts community up-to-date with a constant stream of information about the scene’s developments.
‘I hope that the platform can one day stand on its own two feet and become self-sustainable as an independent entity,’ said Sabet.
If everything goes according to plan, Meetphool could very well become the connection that brings the region’s performing arts talents together for a richer, connected community.