In Cairo the contemporary arts scene has traditionally been confined to certain galleries, theatres and spaces. Artists and art lovers swarm there, mingling, admiring and chit-chatting and one always sees the same faces. However, perhaps things are changing with so many new initiatives reaching out from the inner circle of the usual arts scene.
The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival, or quirkily named D-CAF, is one of these initiatives and will take place this spring from 29 March to 14 April, aiming to reach a wide range of local audiences as well as establishing this annual event as a regional contemporary arts festival with worldwide appeal.
The independent initiative D-CAF aspires to capitalise on downtown Cairo's social, cultural and political heritage, taking advantage of the freedoms gained in the revolution to bring a contemporary vision of Egyptian culture. D-CAF will use cultural venues along with unique spaces like historical sites, building rooftops and alleyways to bring culture to the Egyptian public and build a bridge between Egyptian and Arab artists and international audiences and curators.
The festival is co-organised by some of the most vibrant curators and artists from Cairo and abroad encompassing a wide range of artistic expressions and disciplines, including 150 artists presenting 14 music concerts, 15 theatrical and dance performances, in addition to exhibitions, film screenings, seminars and talks.
With regards to music, the diversity clearly shows where one festival combines regional and international musicians along with Fathi Salama, Bikya Band, Neobyrd and DJ Wezza, and Okka and Ortega with their hit shaabi (popular) rap tunes.
Performance arts planned include contemporary dance, theatre and experimental stage performances with local and international artists taking the stage.
Visual artists and curators will hold exhibitions and talks across various venues during the two weeks. Among the most notable exhibitions will be in the Townhouse Gallery's factory space under the banner, "I'm not there." The works of participating artists will be absent and instead the gallery's empty walls will showcase why this artwork was censored or removed.
Another component of the festival is 'Edutainment' where a series of art films and documentaries will be shown. The most interesting of which is 'Tracks from Cairo,' playing on 2 April in the Radio Theatre, which documents and gives insight into the music scene across Egypt's revolutionary year.
The festival has various partners including the Contemporary Image Collective, Studio Emad El-Din Foundation, 100 Copies Music, Falaki Theatre, and the Townhouse Gallery. The initiative is supported by a number of embassies, cultural sponsors, private companies, the American University in Cairo and media actors.
"We dedicate this first edition to those who have died for freedom since 25 January 2011 to the present day," Ahmed El-Attar, artistic director of D-CAF writes on the initiative's website.
A full programme of the two week festival is available online
Viennoise Space (11 Mahmoud Bassiouni Street), The Greek Campus of the American University in Cairo (33 Mohamed Mahmoud Street), Radio Theater & Radio Cinema (24 Talaat Harb Street.), The Townhouse Gallery (Hussein El-Meamar Pasha Street. off Mahmoud Basyouni Street), the Egyptian Stock Market (4A El-Sherifien Street), Falaki Theater (AUC Falaki Campus, 24 Falaki Street. off Mohamed Mahmoud Street),Studio Emad Eddin & Orient Productions (18 Emad Eddin Street), Goethe Institute basement (5 El-Bustan Street).