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Upcoming Cairo conference to discuss culture, politics and the state

Three-day conference to be held in October to draft new cultural policies for Egypt

Ahram Online, Monday 23 Sep 2013
El-Beblawi and Arab
Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi (r) and Minister of Culture Mohamed Saber Arab (l)
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A conference entitled "Egyptian Culture's Current Standpoint" will tackle issues that pertain to the contemporary dynamics of Egypt's cultural scene from 1 to 3 October.

The organising committee of the conference features film-makers Magdy Ahmed Aly and Essa El-Sayed, visual artist Mohamed Abla, publisher Mohamed Hesham, poet Shaaban Yousef, and Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Culture Said Tawfik.

The organisers have committed to using the conference to draft a new cultural policy that is better suited to contemporary times, whilst working towards freeing intellectuals from the bureaucracy and restrictive policies that hinder freedom of expression and creativity, and setting the foundations for a new age of Egyptian culture with broader horizons.

The conference kicks off on Tuesday 1 October at the small hall of the Cairo Opera House, with opening speeches by Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, Minister of Culture Mohamed Saber Arab and Secretary General of the Supreme Council for Culture Said Tawfik, honorary director of the conference writer Bahaa Taher, and novelist Sahar El-Mogy.

A series of sessions and roundtable discussions will be held at the Supreme Council of Culture's headquarters. They will be run by artists and intellectuals, with the participation of prominent figures from the cultural field.

The first session, scheduled for Tuesday 1 October at 2.30pm, will tackle: "The role of culture in facing the marginalisation of thought and creativity," and will be run by Magdy Ahmed Aly.

The following session will debate: "The role of intellectuals in laying the foundations for a modern civil state," and will be run by Amina Zidan.

The third and final session of the day, which will be managed by Ibrahim Abdel Magid, will discuss: "Activating the role of popular culture."

In parallel, a round-table discussion from 5pm to 9.30pm will revolve around: "Independent civil action and its role in cultural life," and will be mediated by Mohamed Abla and Fareed Zahran.

The second day of the conference will kick off with a session entitled: "Culture and the identity of the state, the civil state, citizenship and historical consciousness," to be led by Anwar Mogeith.

The following session will be run by Mohamed Adl, and will discuss: "Activating the role of art and creativity as Egypt's soft power."

Legal restrictions on Egypt's cultural system will be discussed in the following session, titled: "Laws restricting freedoms and censorship," which will be run by Sameh El-Sereity.

Another session tackling: "Independent civil action and its role in cultural life," will be run by Shereen Abo El-Naga.

The fifth and final session of the day will question the role of religious institutions in contemporary Egypt: "The role of Al-Azhar and the Church in re-inventing religious discourse."

The final day of the conference will open with a session on: "The role of the Supreme Council of Culture in liberating cultural policies," and will be run by Yousef El-Qaeed.

The second session, led by Ahmed Sheeha, will address: "The role of educational institutions in confirming cultural identity."

The remaining sessions and roundtable discussion will engage the topic of: "Youth and the future of culture."

A concluding meeting will be held in the small hall of the Cairo Opera House, and will announce recommendations and decisions resulting from the conference.

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