El Fan Medan: Egypt Takes to the Streets for Culture & Fun
As Hasabala Band walked through
the streets of Downtown Cairo and Abdeen, people watched out of their windows
and shops and some even followed them to the Square right in front of Abdeen
Palace. An old woman asked if Mubarak had died, as she witnessed the spirit of
festivity spreading in the square: music bands, clown performances and workers
setting up two stages.
That was April 2nd, the first
Saturday of the month. Now, approaching the first Saturday in May, the
Independent Culture Coalition is preparing for El Fan Medan Art Festival on
Saturday, May 7th.
‘The name says it all really,’ says
Karima Mansour, dancer, choreographer and one of the event’s organisers. The Coalition is a group of artists from all mediums who have come together to work
on reshaping the Egyptian cultural and artistic scene. El Fan Medan is one of
the fruits of their efforts as they try to create a more independent artistic
scene, free of government control and supervision.
El Fan Medan (Arabic for art is a
square) translates the goals and ambitions of the Coalition better than
‘The festival aims to open up
spaces for independent and underground artists to present their work, to
recreate the relationship that once was between people and art,’ says Mansour. ‘It’s
about re-appropriating the artistic space – art doesn’t happen behind closed
doors or in black boxes only.’
The festival takes place in
important squares all over Egypt, which also ‘decentralises the idea of Cairo
only being the place for art.’ This Saturday, the event will take place in
Cairo, Alexandria, Portsaid, Assiut, Suez and Luxor.
‘All the people who organise the
event are volunteers, and so are the artists,’ says Mansour. ‘We are insisting
on maintaining the spirit of art without being controlled by an organisation or
‘The choice of the street as
space for performance is very important as there is a socio-political statement;
we are reclaiming the street, and its meaning, freeing the art scene and
voicing an opinion.’
Anyone can apply; there is an
open call for artists and a simple application process. The committee choosing
the applicants always tries to select new artists to give them exposure.
This Saturday, starting at noon,
El Fan Medan will be held at Abdeen Square. There will be music and theatre performances,
film screenings, and art exhibitions. Performers for this Saturday are Baraka
Band, Mustapha Said, The Choir Project, Ahmed El Haggar and others. A theatre
performance by Laila Soliman will also take place as well as a screening of
Islam El Azazi’s four-minute film.
With the April weather shaping up to be like summer, take advantage of a sunny Saturday afternoon and enjoy the festival in Abdeen Square.