Saturday, January 26, 2013

Egyptian arts: Two years after the revolution"

Throughout the past two years new names have climbed the ladder to fame in the visual arts and music, and yet the film industry was left behind. Attacks by Islamists, lack of artistic education, and a lack of variety and creativity, in addition to the depressive atmosphere we live in today, claim many artists, has infected the entire arts and culture scene Egypt with despair.

Islamists' dominance of the country is believed among artists to be a main challenge now. Arts in general have witnessed a new Islamist-centred censorship drive in the street, including Islamist marches on El-Fan Midan, the monthly street art fest organised by the Independent Coalition for Arts, and the barricading of Cairo Media City last year. Meanwhile, Islamist leaders filed lawsuits against actress Elham Shahin (a suit she won in September), and Adel Imam (which he won in April), raising concerns across the culture field.

Last year, in particular, saw dozens of examples of where Islamists challenged artists, interfered in or completely halted artistic events or productions in the making.
The new censorship

Among all artists today, the attacks of Islamists on the arts is being taken as a new form of censorship replacing Mubarak's police state. Resisting this censorship is understood as a major challenge.

"Freedom of expression and speech are being terminated with the street censorship we witness today by Islamists," Hanan Abdullah, a documentary filmmaker, stated referring to Islamist marches and their attacks on cultural resources.

Abdullah continued: "Once all governmental institutions and authorities are set, censorship will take over and we will see more limitations in all fields."

Egyptian actor Nabil El-Halafawy concurs, adding: "How can there be art and creation in an environment full of depression, fear and disturbance?"

In interview with Ahram Online on 17 January, El-Halafawy said the arts in Egypt were under challenge by radical Islamists dominant in government. He underlined: "I haven't seen any progress since the revolution."

Actor and political activist Khaled El-Sawy added his concern at the state of the arts under Islamist rule. "We will continue to fight to protect Egyptian art," El-Sawy said on Twitter.

In interview with Al-Ahram Arabic back in December 2012, theatre director Galal El-Sharkawy declared that theatre is constantly deteriorating. "But this is due to the Mubarak regime; what we witness today is a continuity of ending the arts in Egypt," he said.

Artist Mohamed Abla believes that Islamist rule by nature is a threat to the arts. "Islamists see the arts as the work of infidels — an imitation of the West that has nothing to do with the Islamic nature of Egypt," he told Ahram Online. "The only response is for artists to take their art to the street and never stop....more