Update on Trouble for Artists in Egypt

by Nehad Salaiha

in Activism,Global Citizenship

Post image for Update on Trouble for Artists in Egypt

(Dancers from the Cairo Opera Ballet Company performed excerpts from Zorba the Greek on the street outside the Ministry of Culture in Zamalek to protest the attack on arts and culture.)

(Ed. note: To learn more about the evolving trouble facing artists in Egypt, and how you can help, read the original post and letter, and Dr. Selaiha’s recent article, “Lessons in perseverance”.  The following news and eyewitness report come from, and are translated by, Dr. Nehad Selaiha, the leading theatre critic for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo.)

On Sunday, 9 June, 2013, the national Al-Akhbar daily newspaper reported the following on page 2:

“In a plenary session held on 7 June, the general assembly of the Acting Professions Union issued a unanimous statement in support of the occupation by artists and intellectuals of the headquarters of the ministry of culture, describing it as a noble, daring act in defense of the Egyptian culture and arts against those who seek to reverse the march of progress.”, 9 June, 2013, p.2.

“For the fifth day running, artists and intellectuals continue to occupy the headquarters of the Egyptian ministry of culture. They stress that the issue ‘is no longer one of  confrontation between intellectuals and a minister, but has developed into a battle for liberation waged by creative minds all over Egypt, in the capital and provinces, against a regime that seeks to divide Egyptians, thus threatening the country’s independence and cultural identity.’ ‘In Egypt’s future, there is no place for a tyrant,’ they added.”

“A number of prominent Arab intellectuals and artists, including leading Iraqi theatre director/actor Aziz Khayyoun, have expressed solidarity with the Egyptian artists occupying the ministry of culture. Khayyoun said that this action is a clear example of the leading role played by Egyptian artists in national liberation movements, adding that every Arab artist is proud of what Egyptian artists are doing and that Egypt will always be free and in the lead.”

An eyewitness report, also partly published in the above quoted source:

“Every evening, artistic activities are held on a makeshift stage opposite the ministry. These have featured a concert by the Iskenderella pop group, screenings of ‘Uyoon Al-Horreya (Eyes of Freedom) and 18 Days (two films about the Egyptian revolution), performances of the ballet Zorba the Greek and Verdi’s Aida theatre, and street performances by artists from Ismailia city. Other planned activities include art exhibitions and a grand mural painting on the walls surrounding the ministry.”

Zamalek, Cairo on 9 June 2013: In defiance of the Islamist regime and its Minister of Culture, the sit-in protesters in front of the Minister’s office invite artists to perform in the street, as a message of defiance and survival. Islamists have recently openly attacked ballet, calling it a vile Western art that encourages licentiousness through its display of the “naked” female body.

Dr. Nehad Selaiha is the leading theatre critic for Al-Ahram Weekly in Cairo.