As of tonight, Thursday 29 March, until mid-April, the first Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) brings together more than 100 local, regional, and international artists across multiple sites in downtown Cairo, D-CAF curators announced at a press conference.
"The idea of the arts and culture festival came to me back in 2009 and ever since I have been planning the venues and contacting artists and just now we managed to get them all together," Ahmed El-Attar D-CAF artistic director told Ahram Online, emphasising that the event was due to take place at this time as planned in 2009 regardless of the revolution.
"We have been working together since 2009 and choosing downtown venues, major art galleries and theatres … Over the course of the modern history of Egypt, we find any artistic and cultural event initially grew in downtown," Mahmoud Refat, D-CAF music curator told Ahram Online.
Mia Jankowich is D-CAF's visual arts curator and the third of D-CAF's three main partners.
Refat says: "D-CAF is spread all over major downtown galleries and theatres, but what makes this event special is the fact that we managed to reopen some of Cairo's cultural sites that have been closed for years."
Among those neglected historical venues is Radio Cinema, which once stood as Cairo's major and elitist cinema theatre where major Egyptian films were premiered during the first half of the 20th century.
"We are at a crucial juncture in Egypt's development and must recognise the vital contribution that art can make to social and political progress. There has never been a better time to take art out of the studios and into the public space."
Breaking new ground, D-CAF will use non-traditional spaces in addition to its planned art galleries and theatres. Performers will use some alleyways around Tahrir Square as sites for performances and events.
"We hope to engage audiences in these architectural spaces in new and creative ways. We see downtown Cairo as a natural meeting point for artists from East and West … The cityscape, with its melting pot of architectural styles and historic narratives, is an inspirational setting for this kind of cultural exchange," El-Attar said at the D-CAF press conference.
In its first edition, D-CAF is to include an international and diverse programme featuring 14 music concerts, 15 theatre and contemporary dance performances, visual art exhibitions, lectures, film projections and workshops.
Hossam Nassar, deputy head in the Ministry of Culture's foreign cultural relations department says, "Since I took office more than five years ago, it has been my aim to put Egypt on the international festivals agenda and I hope this festival will be our start."
"D-CAF is a great initiative that we could not ignore and therefore [had to] support," Nassar said as he addressed the D-CAF press conference.
Criticising previous Egyptian governments and the current one, Nassar sarcastically comments: "How is it that we, a country of diverse cultures and the richest of heritage, are not as recognised as Morocco and UAE for example?"
"We are given a ridiculous budget of LE16 million annually and are asked to do wonders. In spite of that we play a pivotal role in the cultural scene in Egypt," Nassar told Ahram Online. "We are here to support D-CAF and we hope to challenge authorities with this ridiculous budget, of course to develop the country culturally and give Egypt the status it deserves," Nassar commented.
"Arts and culture is the only thing that has developed and improved since the revolution and must be supported," Nassar told Ahram Online, believing that nothing else has changed following the revolution in Egypt.
"Cultural awareness is a must in order to develop politically," he says. "Egyptians need to be more exposed after being oppressed over decades, given that today they are easily politically driven," Nassar believes.
D-CAF starts tonight, Thursday 29 March, and runs until 14 April
The complete programme can be found here.
To learn more about the festival and its events follow page Ahram Online: Arts and Culture and @AhramOnlineArts