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El-Fan Midan evokes Revolution nostalgia on 2nd anniversary

Audience tells Ahram Online art celebration for 2-year anniversary of El-Fan Midan brought back spirit of first 18 days of Egypt's 2011 revolution

Farah Montasser, Monday 8 Apr 2013
El-Fan Midan
Samah Anwar's Cartoon Exhibition (Photo: Bassam Zoghby)
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With spring blossoming in Egypt and, as scheduled on the first Saturday of every month for the past two years, El-Fan Midan (Art is a Square) is back with massive celebrations at its launching site, Abdeen Square in downtown Cairo in addition to many more across ten governorates of Egypt.

On Saturday 6 April, El-Fan Midan took off with a small art workshop for children to be followed by a number of concerts by Egyptian artists Dina El-Wadidi, Mado, El-Maghna Khana, Aly Talbab and Aly Kandil, who has been recently released from custody following accusations of allegedly insulting the Egyptian president and contempt for Islam.

Besides the many concerts, El-Fan Midan also featured a small theatre performance by El-Banat group, in addition to the screening of the documentary Al-Thawra Khabar (The Revolution is News) by Bassam Mortada, produced by the newspaper Al Masry Al-Youm. The documentary reveals the stories of six Egyptian journalists during the Egypt's 2011 revolution. The film was originally screened at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival.

Furthermore, the entire premises around Abdeen Square was decorated with the largest artworks by independent artists and caricaturists of Egypt, including Mohamed Saad's Sabaa Banat (Seven Girls) and Samah Anwar's cartoon gallery that portrays the Egyptian society and their daily struggles for survival and poverty. She also mocks politicians, especially Islamists.

El-Fan Midan
Mohamed Saad's Sabaa Banat Exhibition (Photo: Farah Montasser)

The day saw the biggest turnout in its two years of existence during its massive celebratory programme; mostly youth and children from all social strata.

El-Fan Midan also had a nostalgic vibe for the initial 18 days of the revolution, as many of the attendees described. "I have been here before, but this is the first time El-Fan Midan reminds people of the revolution, unlike its previous events," Nourhan Fahmy told Ahram Online. Nourhan Fahmy (15) accompanied her female friends all the way from Maadi, a Cairo suburb 40 minutes away, to downtown Cairo to take part in El-Fan Midan festivities.   

"It feels like the first El-Fan Midan event, exactly, but way bigger," she said. "All artists are back, focusing on the Egyptian demands and saying 'the revolution continues.'"

Without revealing her name, Fahmy's friend says: "I have been here three times but I feel that this is the biggest and most supportive event for the revolution, from artworks to film screenings and concerts." Although neither Fahmy nor her group of friends know any of the performers at El-Fan Midan, they still enjoyed the programme and can relate to the many artists on stage.

El-Fan Midan
Revolutionary singer Mado (Photo: Farah Montasser)

"There are some new faces on stage and there are those who I have seen before at El-Fan Midan but I don't know the names or specific songs," Fahmy reveals, while her friends nod in ascension.

At Anwar's cartoon gallery, a moderate-looking man stood with his six-year-old daughter, staring at each and every cartoon. The man had a lot to inform his daughter about the cartoons and what they say about Egypt and what has become of the society following the revolution and the Muslim Brotherhood regime. Refusing to speak to Ahram Online, he only said: "All those with long beards, who claim to be 'Islamists' are liars."

El-Fan Midan
Samah Anwar's Cartoon Exhibition (Photo: Farah Montasser)

Another major art piece was by Egyptian artist Mohamed Abla, whose series of contributions to El-Fan Midan are known to all followers of this monthly event. This time, the artist displayed a large canvas of Egypt's President Morsi pointing his finger during one of his speeches; a gesture that was highly criticised by Egyptian media. Abla wrote a call to action underneath: "Iktob Resala Ila Morsi" (Write a Letter to Morsi). His simple yet interactive art attracted many youth and children; all gathered around the small square table underneath to write their letters to Morsi. Abla stood next to his piece in silence witnessing what a simple canvas can do!

Among the participants of Abla's initiative were youth and children and their common letter supposedly sent to Morsi was: "Leave, Leave, Leave." There were also expressions of deep disappointment. Some young women asked, without batting an eyelash: "Momkin nishtim?" (Can we swear?)

El-Fan Midan
Mohamed Abla's "Write A Letter" (Photo: Farah Montasser)

The atmosphere of El-Fan Midan this year seemed to be the search for the revolution and the doomed glory of Egyptians of 2011. Most visitors were not from Abdeen Square but from all over the city, walking around with their children, exploring what members of the Independent Culture Coalition had to offer.

On its second-year anniversary on Saturday, 6 April, El-Fan Midan spread to ten cities across Egypt, aside from Cairo, including Luxor, Suez, Alexandria, and Fayoum, among others.

El-Fan Midan was launched in April 2011, almost two months after the January 25 Revolution, by Independent Culture Coalition, a community seeking to find tools and platforms for dialogue through art and to disseminate culture to all Egyptians. 

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