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Arts & Culture

El Fan Medan: Egypt Takes to the Streets for Culture & Fun

El Fan Medan: Egypt Takes to the Streets for Culture & Fun
    written by
    Zainab Magdy

    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
    anything else.

    ‘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.