12th Hakawy festival 'more than plays for children,' says director Mohamed El-Ghawy

Ati Metwaly , Wednesday 5 Oct 2022

The 12th edition of the Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children will take place between 6 and 15 October, offering plays and workshops for children in Cairo and Alexandria.



This year, Hakawy is dedicated to Fouad El-Mohandes (1924-2006), the iconic Egyptian comedian who had greatly contributed to the development of arts for children. Not only was El-Mohandes known for Fawazir Amo Fouad, a Ramadan TV Competition watched by children in Egypt and the Arab world, and not only was he behind many songs for children, but also in many of his works he kept passing messages that called for giving attention to children and improving the conduction of those most marginalised.

Renowned actor Ahmed Amin will be the guest of honour. Amin is former editor-in-chief of Saudi Bassem magazine for children. He will hold a talk titled "For a rooted future: On children and the arts in modern day" and moderated by Mega FM host Nevine Mahmoud on 10 October at Tahrir Cultural Centre.

"Though in the past, we paid tribute to Nagy Shaker (1932-2018), the known late Egyptian puppeteer and father of El-Leila El-Kebeera puppet show, the festival has not been shedding enough light on those important figures who have dedicated their careers to children. With Hakawy's 12th edition, we will make sure to highlight those names, hence the name of Fouad El-Mohandes and Ahmed Amin grace this year's festival," comments Mohamed El-Ghawy, the festival's founder and artistic director.

Throughout the festival, children will be offered three international performances and eight Egyptian productions. They are all bound by an underlying theme of environment, and precede the 27th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27) that will take place in Egypt in November 2022.

The young audience will be able to watch Circles by a returning Helios theatre company from Germany, I Glu by a French Collectif a.a.O, as well as Family Portrait by the Barrowland Ballet (UK/Scotland).

The Egyptian performances include a premiere of On Air & Zaki, a music performance by El-Darb El-Ahmar Arts School, the fables by Jean de la Fontaine presented in French and Arabic, and Animals Against Humanity which is making a comeback after their several successful runs, among others. 

In Hakawy's 12th edition, the Egyptian productions make a larger portion of the programming. As El-Ghawy explains, the sheer fact of having eight plays by Egyptian companies shows that the market has a number of interesting offerings for the young audience.

"One of Hakawy's missions is to build an infrastructure for a children's theatre. This year we manage to stress on its actual presence in the country and underline its importance. There are a lot of creators of theatre for children in Egypt and I am happy that many of them present their work during the festival," El-Ghawy comments.

However, the festival's president also points to another factor behind the smaller number of international performances: "We cannot deny that there is a serious problem with funding. There are many changes in grants and funding policies following the Covid-19 pandemic. The war in Ukraine has additionally redirected the funds away from culture (and specifically theatre for children). Priorities have changed. As a result, it is very difficult to bring a theatre company from outside Egypt." 

Despite the obstacles, El-Ghawy remains optimistic, looking at the gains that the 12th Hakawy has to offer to the young audience and a brighter future.

Besides theatre plays, the festival introduces a programme of masterclasses, talks and film screenings, all of which add an important educational component to Hakawy, while boosting the interactive dimension.

The masterclasses will include Barbara Kölling from Helios theatre focusing on “Theatre for Early Years” at Falaki Theatre on 8 October, Natasha Gilmore, the founder and Artistic Director of Barrowland Ballet will present “Intergenerational Practice and Making Work for Young Audiences” at Ewart Hall on 14 October and Hugo Dayot from French Collectif a.a.O will introduce the “Physical Theatre for the Young” at Falaki Theatre on 14 October.

Among the important workshops is “Sexual Abuse Awareness for Parents and Children” which will take place at the Amrenian Room of Tahrir Cultural Centre on 13 October.

This will be paralleled by a “Clothes Upcycling Workshop” that will run throughout the festival’s days at the Tahrir Cultural Centre garden.

While the programme offers many rich components, El-Ghawy clarifies that "Hakawy festival is not only about presenting a few theatre plays for children and holding workshops." He points to the fact that children are part of a family and part of communities at large. 

“While Hakawy focuses on programming for children, we also invite other creators to present works that are suitable for all audiences including children.” 

This concept was obvious in some programme components characterising the festival's previous edition, when the lineup also included Al Nour Wal Amal Chamber Orchestra for visually impaired women musicians or Awtar Quartet, among other artists addressing larger audiences. 

"Hakawy is more than just theatre plays for children. It also sends important messages. The festival is an opportunity for children and their families to come and enjoy the artistic productions. Art is accessible to all ages and all communities and since children are part of those communities. We strongly encourage families, schools to direct them to all forms of art."


Check the festival’s programme below:


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