Hundreds of culture lovers mingled with Abdeen residents Saturday 7 May in the second Al Fan Midan (Art is a Square) event. Held in Abdeen Square, it again struck all the right notes. By paying homage to our heritage while promoting revolutionary young artists striving for freshness, the event manages to embody the spirit of the revolution across a wide spectrum of the highlights of Egypt’s cultural scene.
The event is set to run the first Saturday of every month and is organised by the Independent Artists Coalition, born during the revolutionary period. The festival was one of many identical events simultaneously held in cities all over Egypt, including Alexandria , Assiut ,Suez and Port Said.
Belal Hanafi , one of the volunteers who helped organise the event, told Ahram Online that “it’s an open space for anyone to come express themselves as well as a place for underexposed artists to showcase their work – the coalition makes an effort to bring different artists every time and anyone who wants to take the stage is welcome.”
And many street performers seized on this opportunity; there was never a quiet moment between music sets as mimes, puppeteers, Al-Tannoura Troupe dancers and others kept the crowd entertained throughout the day. Children and art students added to the atmosphere by painting revolutionary slogans and images on the asphalt. An excellent marionette show by Ahmed Naimallah was repeated in response to popular demand from the young attendees.
There were also vendors, many charitable institutions, theatre troupe El Warsha and small business owners selling a variety of handcrafted items, paintings and books. Amongst the participants was first time vendor Ziad Ibrahim, owner of small printing press Dar el Yasmeen, who was very enthusiastic about the event.
Two stages were erected in the square, one exposed and the other beneath a covered tent reserved mostly for performers of traditional music like the excellent El Ga'afra music troupe from upper Egypt and the always popular Hasballah band which played for a full four hours.
The exposed stage was reserved for underground musicians: Taxi band, City band, Ahmed el Haggar and the Cairo Choir Project – or the Utopia choir which is a group of amateur singers performing original, and often very funny songs, about life in Egypt. No wonder the choir won an instant favour of the crowd.
With all artistic activities and a wonderful fresh spirit, Al Fan Midan feels like Tahrir Square, especially with the heavy police and army presence. It is definitely an energising cultural experience that is both well organised and feels uncontrived and authentic, unlike many 'Street Festivals' or revolution themed events.
Photos: Bassam El Zoghby