This April, the multi-disciplinary Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival brings a series of independent theatre, dance and music performances, visual art exhibitions, film screenings and workshops to venues across downtown Cairo.
Eighty artists will participate in the D-CAF’s diverse programme, hailing from Egypt, Europe and the Arab world. The festival aims to reinstate Egypt’s status as the region’s cultural capital and highlight the importance of the independent arts scene.
D-CAF’s artistic director Ahmed El Attar says the festival emerges to enshrine the place of arts and culture in Egypt’s changing society.
The idea of this festival first occurred to El Attar in 2009, but it only materialised in the spring of 2012. Following a dynamic debut, the events in this year’s contemporary arts festival will also take place in downtown Cairo. The location has been chosen for its historical richness, not to mention its architectural charm. With the iconic Tahrir Square in the vicinity, the festival also materialises against the backdrop of the city’s politically-charged centre, which corresponds with the energy of the scheduled events.
Reflecting the socio-political transformations that have unfolded since the onset of the Arab Spring in the winter of 2010, the D-CAF programme will offer a range of performances and events that do not literally document Arab uprisings, but rather capture the region’s changing energy.
“The idea is not to offer literal or knee-jerk responses to the political and geographic context in which we find ourselves, but rather to take the emotional pulse of the region and see how far we’ve really come along the road to freedom and self-actualisation,” explains El Attar.
Revolutionary singers Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia) and Dina El Wedidi (Egypt) will revive the spirit of rebellion through song. Also politically charged, the performing arts line-up is particularly exciting, with Iranian playwright Nassim Solaimanpour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit
performed by Egyptian actors, and a play that zooms in on Tunisian protests, as highlights. Contemporary dance pieces and experimental art exhibitions will also play out during the three-week programme. The film programme will explore underground and resistance cinema from around the globe, and focuses on contemporary west African films.
Within D-CAF’s Urban Visions programme, which seeks to bring art closer to public spaces, performers from Europe and Egypt will use the streets around Tahrir Square as their stage.
Artistic director El Attar explains the festival is designed to introduce Cairo’s audience to the world of contemporary art by acting as a platform on which independent acts from the region and Europe play out.