Artists' protests against Egyptian culture minister reach Alexandria

Ahram Online, Sunday 16 Jun 2013

Ongoing protests against newly-appointed culture minister and alleged 'Brotherhoodisation' of culture spread to Egypt's second city

Protesters occupy Bayram el-Tunsi Theatre (Photo: Alexandria's Strike of Intellectuals and Artists Facebook Page)

As Egyptian artists and intellectuals continue to occupy culture ministry headquarters in Cairo's Zamalek district, dissent against the minister and his controversial decisions has reached Egypt's second city Alexandria.

The coastal city has witnessed several meetings by independent artists involved in the theatrical arts to discuss the cultural scene in light of the ongoing protests in Cairo.

In keeping with the 'Brotherhoodisation' of culture, several issues concerning Culture Minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz were discussed.

The underlying components of discussion revolved around institutional corruption of governmental spaces and palaces of the arts, mismanagement and centralisation.

The discussions provoked artists to issue a statement on 15 June announcing a sit-in in Alexandria's Bayram Al-Tunsi Theatre.

Consequently, a demonstration in solidarity with the Zamalek sit-in – which has now gone on for 12 days – was organised by members of the Socialist Popular Alliance Party in front of Alexandria's Sayed Darwish Theatre.

The demonstration, which calls for the removal of the minister – who, according to protesters, aims to 'Brotherhoodise' culture in Egypt – has joined forces with the Bayram Al-Tunsi Theatre sit-in.

According to culture activist Ali El-Adawi, tens of likeminded activists spent the night at the theatre, but hundreds were on the scene in the evening which featured several cultural performances.

On 16 June, artists formed a committee to administer the sit-in, threatening to escalate until their demands were met. The committees plan to organise and coordinate cultural events everyday inside and outside the ministerial buildings.

As a part of what protesting artists have dubbed 'Festival of Dissent,' the sit-in will include several artistic events, including a concert by Alexandria's Massar Egbari – one of Egypt's leading independent bands – slated for Sunday, 16 June. 

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