Cultural Spring without a theatre
babelmed - 31/03/2006
Al Mawred Al Thaqafy has been organising concerts and cultural events in the wonderful decorum of El Genaina Theatre of the Al Azhar Park in Cairo since April 2005. Cultural operators and artists in the Mediterranean rejoiced, at the time, at the opening of a new and challenging Cultural space in Cairo. However, the Cairo Governorate closed the theatre on the 23d of February…An appeal.
All events on the Spring again poster were supposed to take place on El Genaina Theatre, Azhar Park, but because the theatre was closed by the Cairo Governerate on the 23rd of February, Culture Resource decided not to give up the planned program and have it presented in other venues.
What happened in Al-Genaina Theatre at Al-Azhar Park:
1. On Thursday, February 23rd, the management of Al-Azhar Park (the Agha Khan Cultural Services Company) received a phone call from the office of the Deputy Governor of Cairo, informing them of the cancellation of the concert of “Nagham Masry” band, which was supposed to take place in El-Genaina Theatre at Al-Azhar Park in a few hours. And that, they said, is because the security has some reservations on the content of the songs performed by the band.
2. On the same day, the Deputy Governor verbally informed the management of Al-Azhar Park of his objection to the existence of a Theatre in the park and the organization of any musical concerts in it.
3. Later the Deputy Governor verbally confirmed that the cancellation has nothing to do with the content of the band’s songs.
4. On Saturday, February 25th, he stated in press interviews that the Governorate decided to suspend the activities of the Theatre because such gatherings can be a threat to security. He made an association between the Theatre’s cultural activities and smoking shisha in cafes, and said that this conflicts with the Governorate’s efforts to fight pollution.
5. Up till Monday, February 27th, neither the management of Al-Azhar Park nor Al Mawred Al Thaqafy Company (the organizer of the cultural events on El-Genaina Theatre) have received any written instructions from the Governorate, or any security body, that has to do with the cancellation of the abovementioned concert or the suspension of the Theatre’s activities, or even any justification for any of the decisions.
The current situation:
1. We have prepared a diverse cultural program that starts in mid March and continues until the end of October; one of its major activities is the Spring International Festival, which starts at the end of April and consists of music, dance, and poetry performances from various countries. We are not sure whether the Cairo Governorate will maintain its stance towards the cultural activities in Al-Azhar Park or if it is possible to rectify this decision to the benefit of the visitors of the Park and the lovers of culture and arts.
2. We beseech the media, the press, cultural and artistic organizations and foundations, NGOs, intellectuals and artists, to call for the reopening of the Theatre as a source of enlightenment and culture. We ask all these active powers in the society to support the theatre’s existence and the continuity of its activities, in the face of prohibition and closure policies which only lead to increased distrust between citizens and governmental bodies.
What is El Genaina Theatre?
1. El-Genaina Theatre is an open-air Theatre consisting of a Roman Theatre and a mobile stage, equipped with lighting and movable chairs, and is located near the Ayyubid wall west of Al-Azhar Park.
2. The Theatre, and also another Theatre allocated for children shows, is sketched in the approved blueprints of Al-Azhar Park, and it is part of the comprehensive idea of the park as a cultural body that enables the citizens, especially youth, to enjoy the park, improve their cultural awareness, and interact with others in a comfortable, open, and organized atmosphere.
3. Al Mawred Al Thaqafy Company for Artistic Production, Consultations, and Training organizes and presents cultural and artistic events on the Theatre, according to its contract with the Agha Khan Cultural Services Company, and is responsible for the technical preparation of the Theatre and the organization of its programs, with the approval of the Agha Khan Cultural Services Company.
4. The Theatre was opened in April 2005, and since its inauguration it presented nearly 50 theatre, music, and dance performances such as: the singer Ali Al-Haggar, Al-Nil Folkloric Troupe, Al-Nil Troupe for Religious Chanting, Al-Tanboura Troupe (from Port Said), Aragid Nubian Troupe, the singer Wagih Aziz, the poet Bahaa Jaheen, the poet Sayyed Hegab, the poet Amin Haddad, Al-Sheikh Abdel Nabi Al-Rannan, and many other musical bands and folkloric troupes, in addition to performances from Switzerland, Palestine, Lebanon and Britain. The last performance presented at El Genaina Theatre was “Longing to the Sea” by Al-Hara Palestinian Theatre on the 27th and 28th of January, 2006.
Babelmed editorial team