Five years have passed since the 25 January Revolution, an important turning point that led to significant transformations in Egypt’s modern history. In addition to being a place for rebellion against oppression, injustice, and inequality, Tahrir Square also became a platform to rediscover many independent talents and introduce them to an audience of millions.
Many underground musical bands found a chance to perform in front of large numbers of people and many graffiti artists expressed their opinions on the walls of the streets of Egypt.
On 25 January 2016, a group of young Egyptian artists launched a campaign on Facebook called “Fanan Msh Mashoor” or ”Unknown Artist” to help create a space for the unknown Egyptian artists in different fields to post photos and videos for their artistic works and get closer to the audience. This included artists in a diverse range of fields, such as drawing, dancing, photography, sculpture, handicrafts, cooking, acting, graphic design or even beat boxing.
A large festival will be held under the name “Egypt Art Festival” in April to showcase the works of the best artists. A large number of journalists, and TV channels will be invited to cover the event, which marks the first of its kind in Egypt. Poetry and other literary works will be collected in a book with all the contacts for the writers so publishers can easily communicate and keep in touch with them. The festival will be held in the Cinema Palace in Garden City, where four theatre halls and two exhibitions will be allocated to display various artistic pieces.
“The whole idea came to our minds last year when we launched Alwan festival to present young talents in the fields of art, literature, poetry, and cinema,” photographer Mohammed Saed, one of the main organisers and the administrator of the Facebook group, said. ”With the help of artist Omar El-Baghdady, we decided to give a chance for new people to present their talents and perform in front of large audiences.”
During the days of the festival, 50 painters, 50 photographers, 24 comic artists, 12 singers, and three musicians will be allowed to present their artistic works. In addition, the festival will also provide a large number of training workshops for novice artists who want to improve their skills and learn new techniques. “There are 12 photography workshops, four drawing sessions, four comic training courses, and many other training sessions in cinema and theatres will open their doors for those who want to learn in return for symbolic fees,” he said.
Among the outstanding artists who participated in the event are Mohammed Waheed, who has grabbed attention with his unique talent of creating art using collage. Although collage art is relatively new in Egypt, Waheed uses all the materials he can find, including coloured papers, pieces of cloth, leaves, or even nuts to make beautiful pieces of art.
Participating in such an event will be an opportunity for him to introduce this kind of art to larger audiences, and to teach others how to do it.
Rania Mohammed is another artist participating in the event. “At the beginning, I used to check the amazing talents on the page and I was proud to find that large numbers of people started to resort to the different kinds of arts as a cathartic way for escaping from the reality. However people encouraged me to share my drawings and handicrafts and believed that the event would be a great chance to recharge my artistic battery and share my work with others,” she said.
Yasmine El-Sayed also shared her unique experience of playing football and challenging the social constraints imposed on girls in Egyptian society. Through the event’s page, she shared many photos for herself playing football professionally. “Participating in such an event will help me convey my message to a large number of girls who believe that football is a ‘men’s only’ sport and that the veil can be a barrier in the face of the girl who loves this sport,” she said.
Eslam Mohammed, 25, is photographer from the governorate of Menufiya and encountered many challenges and difficulties to convey the experiences of low-income citizens through his photos. He was eager to participate in the event, which to him represents a way to convey his messages and to improve his skills.
Although the event carries the name of Egypt, many Arab artists also expressed interest in participating in the event. “We’ve already contacted some artists who will be allowed to participate and present their literary and artistic works. I do not consider the festival a competition; it is rather a chance for young artists to get closer to audiences and exchange their experience with other artists in the same field,” Saed said.
Despite being mainly dependent on the efforts of young artists, the organisers hope to be able to receive some support from the Ministry of Culture and the General Authority for Cultural Palaces.
“We intend to contact the related governmental institutions after the anniversary of the revolution and we hope they will be urged to cooperate to launch the first Egyptian cultural festival for unknown artists because this would be an added value for us,” Saed said.