El-Fan Midan floods with freedom

Farah Montasser, Sunday 8 Jan 2012

After a month-long pause, following clashes in downtown Cairo between security forces and protesters, El-Fan Midan (Arts Square) returns, Saturday, 7 January

El Midan

The Independent Culture Coalition announced the resumption of their street festival project on Saturday, 7 January, “honouring all martyrs and in support of the revolutionaries”.

Organised since April 2011 on the first Saturday of each month, the December issue of El-Fan Midan was cancelled due to downtown clashes between protesters and the army.

On 7 January, the entire square in front of Abdeen Palace was lit and artists and performers were settled in their spots welcoming visitors. One booth to another featured a small book fair, a small stage for Masrah El-Makhoureen (Theatre of the Oppressed), some jewellery makers, graffiti artists, and art exhibitions including that of Egyptian cartoonist and artist Mohamed Abla entitled Al-Theab (The Wolves), depicting the harsh brutality experienced recently by protesters and ordinary Egyptians. The cultural display leads to El-Fan Midan’s main stage, where musicians, including bands Ana Masry, Eskenderella, and many more, performed all day long.

Art did not only include members of the Independent Culture Coalition who have planned the event and prepared the work displayed; at the Midan, one would notice a number of youth creating graffiti on the ground ... on the street itself.

A young veiled female, carrying a can of black spray paint, wrote on the ground “Down with the SCAF” (the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces). The act attracted the media and a number of other visitors. In a few minutes, visitors and enthusiasts alike shared the spray, each adding a statement of their own.

Abeer Mahmoud Mohamed, a member of the April 6 Movement, was then given back her spray can and ended her message by spraying, “25 January 2012 is the day SCAF will be ousted.”

“I am very proud of this event and have joined my artists friends like Ramy Essam, the revolution singer, to convey our messages through El-Fan Midan,” she told Ahram Online.

Next to Mohamed’s black-sprayed message stood a large canvas that attracted many viewers. On it was beautifully applied a number of profiles of people aligned one next to the other. The faces are unknown, but to visitors and revolutionary youth it represents all Egyptians, and especially those hurt in the revolution, including the martyrs. Dark shades of red, blue, orange captured the eye.

The name of neither the piece nor the artist were given, yet the artwork speaks for itself. It stood as a collage in the Midan for all to convey their own messages, to write their autographs, or to witness something. From somewhere unknown a black painting pen appeared and was shared, in-turn, by visitors and participants to document the piece and add more to it.

As the sun set, following the Ana Masry (I am Egyptian) band performance on the main stage, a number of young men and women started practicing vocals, attracting attendees to the stage. The young performers were the Nas Makan (People are the Place) music group. Nas Makan started off with some of Egypt’s long music heritage of patriotic songs, including by poets like Sayed Darwish. They opened up with “Aho Dah Eli Sar” (This is What Happened), sang and composed by Darwish himself in the 1920s.

This Saturday, El-Fan Midan played a more political role by showing footage in a makeshift cinema on the left side of the Midan that document the brutal attacks perpetrated by the police and army forces on peaceful protestors since the Egyptian revolution erupted. Short films including “Askar Katheboun” (The Lying Soldiers), some of Mosireen’s footage, and Geziret El-Karseya (Karseya Island), carried a strong of political message, condemning Egypt’s ruling armed forces.

Since April 2011, El-Fan Midan has been a post-revolution project highly encouraged by the Ministry of Culture, aiming at spreading the arts and culture throughout the streets of Egypt.

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