If You’re in Cairo: Performances at ‘Occupied’ Culture Ministry

Although there are many cultural events this weekend in Cairo, some of the best may well be in Zamalek, at the occupied culture ministry building:

Music has already been happening. Photo credit: Mohamed Abla.
Music has already been happening. Photo credit: Mohamed Abla.

Ahram Online reports that around 30 artists spent the night in the building, including painter Mohamed Abla, who’s been posting updates to Facebook, and Dar Merit’s publisher, Mohamed Hashem.

The paper, which has been inside with the sit-in since it began on Wednesday, reported that artists are willing to stay for “weeks.” The artists’ core demand is the removal of Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz, although protesters have also called for independence of the Supreme Council of Culture and stated that a political direction should not be imposed on culture.

Starting Thursday afternoon, artists are planning to stage a musical program. Actor Mohamed Galal told AO: “The line-up will include performances of Azza Balbaa, Eman El-Bahr Darwish, Ramy Essam, Eskenderella, among many others.”

According to Al Watan, Eskenderella will be performing at 6 p.m.

Protesters also aim to set up a screen for films and to launch drawing and painting activities for children.

Mahmoud Awad, a director who spent night at the ministry, told Ahram Online that overnight artists contacted more than a dozens branches of the culture minstry. Awad said:

All of those contacted expressed their solidarity with the ministry occupation and protest. Among them are Supreme Council of Culture, the Cultural Development Fund, the Supreme Council of Antiquities, the Egyptian National Film Centre, the National Centre of Translation, the National Centre of Fine Arts, the Academy of Arts, the National Book Organisation, among many others.

Abdel-Aziz has only held his current post for about a month. In that short space, he has managed to create enemies of a record number of artists, poets, novelists, dancers, musicians, filmmakers, and others. The little-known but regime-friendly Abdel-Aziz was appointed on May 6, and he sparked several small protests in his first weeks, including the egging of his car.

Things accelerated on May 28, when Abdel-Aziz fired the heads of Cairo Opera House and Fine Arts Sector.

A report in The Guardian notes that Abdel-Aziz told the Brotherhood’s Arabic-language FJP website: “This talk of ‘Islamising culture’ is a strange expression, as if it is a slur or a charge. The majority of Egyptians practise Islam.”

Certainly, “Brotherhoodization” is not the same as “Islamization.” Also, as the artists contend, culture is not a space of majoritarianism, but of diverse, individual or small-group expressions.

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