Minister seeks to turn culture into water and air for Egyptian citizens

Sayed Mahmoud Salam, Thursday 17 Jul 2014

In a meeting with the Theatre Committee, Culture Minister Gaber Asfour announces ambitious plans for Egypt's theatre sector among other projects

Culture Minister, Gaber Asfour (Photo: Ahram Arabic)

Egypt’s International Experimental Theatre is to make a comeback, as approved by the country’s recently appointed Minister of Culture Gaber Asfour during his meeting with the Theatre Committee. Additionally, The Night Traveler and Laila and the Madman are to feature in the National Theatre Festival set to take place for two weeks starting 10 August.

Meeting attendees also agreed to adopt a new motto based on a quote by Taha Hussein in which he said that “Education is like water and air – a right for every citizen”. The minister and the committee agreed to replace “education” with “culture” and operate under this new banner. Among the first steps in line with the new motto, additional theatre shows are to be hosted.

The minister also stressed that the lighting equipment of state-owned theatres necessitated improvements and that the numerous obstacles that currently stand would need to be braved. Asfour added that these renovations would be implemented with the return of the 10 percent budget input from the Ministry of Antiquities to the Ministry of Culture.

Among the projects envisaged to bolster this culture of culture, work on Al-Samer Land has already been launched in 6 October City. It involves an 11-storey complex which will host several cinema screens and theatre stages, as well as the national circus which is scheduled to be moved from Agouza.
In this complex, the ministry plans to hold several competitions around the theme “The Secular State” which will be run by the National Centre for Theatre, in coordination with Egypt’s Culture Palaces, to provide the needed support for artists.

The project will also entail discounts on state theatre tickets, with both students and ordinary citizens entitled to a theatre card costing LE10. The Ministry of Culture is also coordinating with the Ministry of Higher Education to host free shows for university students.

Asfour has also agreed with the minister of finance to regain 90 percent of the Art House Theatre revenues, which had been relocated to the Ministry of Finance. Furthermore, Asfour is coordinating with the Ministry of Interior to enhance the smoothness of the security process in theatres. Finally, he is also in conversation with the minister of youth to set up cinema screens and stages in youth centres and public spaces.

Asfour highlighted that he is adamant that ministry employees who will be made responsible for overseeing the scheduled renovations – along with a civil engineer -- refuse to accept any final work until all the terms and conditions stipulated for the protection of the public have been executed.

Other state theatre projects include hosting youth workshops around topics such as the secularism of the state and terrorism. The theatre’s technical staff, along with other youths, will be trained to re-open the Cultural Managers Training Centre -- previously operating under the Cultural Palaces -- and transform it into a central unit under the ministry.

In cooperation with a consultant from the Ministry of Planning, the Ministry of Culture will also be focused on restructuring. The 100 Villages project, as well as a colour festival in Mahalla and workshops for writers are among the prominent ideas on the table.

Asfour also vowed to offer the ministry’s support to independent theatre. “Supporting independent theatre is both their right and our duty,” he said, adding that he wished to meet the youth involved in independent theatre to address their issues.

The ministry is also keen on helping successful plays perform overseas, he added. 

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