‘When It Comes To Issues of…Censorship, the Answer is Still Tunisia!’

A three-day conference on “Theatre and Censorship” — organized by Egypt’s National Centre of Theatre, Music and Popular Arts — wraps up today:

From the conference artwork, via Ahram Online.
From the conference artwork, via Ahram Online.

An early report by performer-writer Dalia Basiouny noted that that “first day of the conference saw sharp exchanges of views by those opposed to and those who support censorship practices.”

The conference comes in an atmosphere of increasing censoriousness: The montly Al-Fann Midan festival seems permanently stopped, and book seizures, burnings, and bannings have taken on a larger role in the public consciousness, particularly with regard to books that have any apparent Muslim Brotherhood tie or those like Walls of Freedom that seem to “instigate revolt.”

But positively, the conference program brings together a wide range of viewpoints, including the Head of the Censorship Directorate, critics, researchers, and theatre professionals from Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, the US, the UAE, Germany, and Sudan.

According to Basiouny, “the discussion proved to be intense and emotional from the beginning, illustrating how hard it is to discuss a complex issue and ask questions which demand unsettling conversations.”

In his speech, Minister of Culture Abdel Wahed El-Nabawy apparently argued that censorship was “helpful to Egyptian theatre as it encouraged artists to create a wide range of theatre forms.”
Gamal Yacout, a writer and theatre-studies professor at Alexandria University, added that “as a society we need censorship at this transitional phase.”

Yet others, Basiouny wrote, spoke against these censorious notions. She cited the Tunisian participants as coming out most in favor of a free theatre: “The clear voice and vision of progressive Tunisian artists seemed to suggest that when it comes to issues of freedom and censorship, the answer is still ‘Tunisia!'”

Read the whole day one wrap-up at Ahram Online.

The complete programme is also available at Ahram Online.

And if you want to support uncensored theatre in Cairo, BuSSy is running an Indiegogo to create a safe, uncensored space.