Cairo's biggest arts festival to start this week

Rowan El Shimi, Sunday 31 Mar 2013

Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) brings theatre performances, music, film, digital visual art and workshops to Cairo between 4 and 28 April

D-CAF 2013 Downtown Festival
100Hands rehearsals (Photo: Courtesy of D-CAF)

In its second edition, the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) takes over downtown Cairo during April for a month of events across multiple disciplines.

D-CAF this year brings together 80 artists from all over the world.

"At D-CAF, we're not presenting a single art form or a single trend. Rather, we're trying to give Cairo audiences a snapshot of what is available worldwide in contemporary art today," festival founder and director Ahmed El-Attar says. "We're trying to make the festival as varied as possible to cater to the widest possible audience."

El-Attar has been travelling worldwide over the past year to select the participating artists for this year's event.

He says he considers this year's event to be the first edition, with last year's being the "zero edition."

"We've learned a lot from last year's event," El-Attar tells Ahram Online, adding that one of the main lessons learned was to expand the duration of the festival from two and a half weeks to a month to allow audiences to integrate the festival into their daily lives.

The festival will include Egyptian, regional and international artists showcasing their work in the fields of performing arts, music, film, visual arts, urban visions (a collection of events in public spaces), and 'edutainment' (workshops).

Programme details

The performing arts programme will launch the festival's events on Thursday 4 April with a contemporary dance performance called Anatomia Publica by Man Drake with choreography by Tomeo Verges (Spain/France).

The programme will continue with other theatre performances including White Rabbit, Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran) which is basically a text given to an actor on stage to improvise a monologue. Actors featured will include Khaled Abou El-Naga, Aly Sobhy, Ramsi Lehner, Salwa Mohamed Ali and Sayid Ragab.

The programme will also feature performances of Alice by Sawsan Bou Khaled and Hussein Baydoun (Lebanon) along with Le Prince Sequestre by Compagnie L'enteprise (France) which will include collaboration by local theater troupe El-Warsha, Hassan El-Geretly and Boutrous Raouf Boutrous Ghali.

D-CAF will also take several events to the streets of downtown Cairo. The Urban Visions programme will be performed in several public spaces such as El-Bursa, on the courtyard of 10 Alfy Street, and on the shop front of 11 Mahmoud Bassiouny Street.

The performances include a circus performance by Al-Khayal Al-Shaabi called Traffic, a contemporary dance performance by Tomeo Verges (France) featuring Egyptian dancers, In the Midst of Confusion by 100HANDS (The Netherlands) among several other local and international performances.

This year's music performances, along with the performing arts, are the only events which require tickets, with the rest offered for free.

The music programme, curated by Mahmoud Refaat, founder of 100copies music space (studio and label), brings street culture from different corners of the world to the stage on Thursday nights throughout the festival. The first event, on the opening night of D-CAF, will feature trash pop by Weterbots <3 Bosaina (Egypt) and electronic music Byetone (Germany).

The two middle Thursdays will bring hiphop selections by DeeKay (Syria) and Khadafi Dub (USA) then SADAT (Egypt) and El-Rass & Munma (Lebanon). The final Thursday, will feature Middle Eastern female singers Emel Mathlouthi (Tunisia) and Dina El-Wedidi (Egypt).

The film programme will feature several themes. The Fridays of 5 and 19 April will feature the 'All Night Cinema' programme, each night with a different theme. The first of which will be dedicated to West African cinema and curated by Philippe Lacote (Ivory Coast) portraying West Africa today through the eyes of young directors featuring three films back to back, which will also be screened later in the programme.

On 19 April, the night is dedicated to documentary films about peaceful social movements and civil disobedience around the world.

The three films shown will also be showcased separately the following week.

Finally, the event will show films by two Egyptian directors. Blind Ambition by Hassan Khan is an experimental film shot entirely on a cell phone, while Selma El-Tarzi's Underground/On the Surface is a documentary following the rise of Shaabi music in Egypt with a focus on the artists Okka and Ortega who have taken the music scene by storm.

Visual arts will take an interesting twist this year. Curated by Medrar for Contemporary Art, the programme will focus on digital arts with a focus on interactivity and the audience playing a role in the art work itself.

Kicking off on 6 April in both Medrar's space in Garden City and Hotel Viennoise in downtown, Egyptian-German collaborative project, InterLAB invites audiences in both spaces to interact with each other through several platforms created by media artists and computer scientists. The project was showcased earlier this year in Medrar where audiences in Cairo and Dresden used prototypes to interact with each other.

Another project, Augmented Airspace, takes place in Bursa. It is a collaborative project between Egyptian artist Dia Hamed and Spanish artist Lot Amoros. It uses a small helicopter and invites audience to look at the city from a bird's eye view.

German project SMSligshot invites audience to create digital graffiti on the city's walls with messages about their desires.

Egyptian visual artists Ganzeer and Yasmine El-Ayat will present a collaborative project on a Mahmoud Bassiouny shop front window. Finally, French-Tunisian project I'm Nobody's Shadow at Hotel Viennoise will create illusions in their performances using lights and shows.

Last but not least, the 'edutainment' programme brings a series of workshops geared at children and adults. All workshops need prior registration by sending an email to [email protected].

Starting on Friday 5 April, Olga Sasplugas (Spain) offers stand-alone sessions of Dancing with the Family which will be repeated. Children aged 4-7 years old are invited to take part in 'The Incredible Book-Making Workshop' by UK company Bootworks, who are also putting on several shows in the performing arts programme.

Some workshops will be geared towards professionals, such as the Blackbox theatre workshop and the contemporary dance workshop 'Make Your Move'. Inspired by Hassan Khan's film, there will be a workshop on filmmaking with your mobile phone, the results of which will be shown on D-CAF's closing night.

Find D-CAF's full programme here on Ahram Online.

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