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Art Moves Africa – Retracing Roots and Tracing New Routes: Mobility and Touring in North Africa

A study by Lara Bourdin for Art Moves Africa, October 2019

A study by Lara Bourdin for Art Moves Africa, October 2019

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57<br />

Country-Specific Information<br />

In the absence of well-ma<strong>in</strong>ta<strong>in</strong>ed government<br />

facilities, private organizations have set<br />

up arts spaces <strong>in</strong> Cairo <strong>and</strong> Alex<strong>and</strong>ria. The two<br />

cities are home to a large number of galleries <strong>and</strong><br />

multidiscipl<strong>in</strong>ary arts spaces as well, of which<br />

the Townhouse Gallery, Darb 1718, Medrar <strong>and</strong><br />

Contemporary Image Collective (CIC) are some<br />

of the best-known on <strong>in</strong>ternational circuits <strong>in</strong><br />

Cairo, <strong>and</strong> Al-Mad<strong>in</strong>a <strong>and</strong> MASS are some of<br />

the best-known <strong>in</strong> Alex<strong>and</strong>ria.<br />

—<br />

MOBILITY TO/FROM EGYPT<br />

—<br />

Despite Egypt’s position<strong>in</strong>g at the crossroads of<br />

geopolitical <strong>and</strong> cultural areas, mobility patterns<br />

to / from the country are not equally distributed.<br />

Most respondents agreed that arts mobility cont<strong>in</strong>ues<br />

to have Europe as a centre of gravity.<br />

However, as <strong>in</strong> other <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>n countries,<br />

this situation is chang<strong>in</strong>g due to visa restrictions<br />

enforced on Egyptian nationals.<br />

Cultural actors are more likely to travel to<br />

Middle Eastern dest<strong>in</strong>ations than <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>n<br />

ones, due to geographic proximity <strong>and</strong> historical<br />

ties that have connected Cairo <strong>and</strong> Alex<strong>and</strong>ria<br />

more closely with Beirut <strong>and</strong> Amman than Tunis<br />

<strong>and</strong> Casablanca. Most cultural actors who have<br />

had <strong>in</strong>ternational travel experience have been to<br />

Beirut <strong>and</strong> Amman, as Lebanon <strong>and</strong> Jordan have<br />

easy visa regulations for Egyptians <strong>and</strong> are also<br />

important seats of cultural activity.<br />

In <strong>North</strong> <strong>Africa</strong>, exchange is most active with<br />

Morocco <strong>and</strong> Tunisia. Both countries are associated<br />

with lively cultural scenes <strong>and</strong> political<br />

stability. Only two respondents mentioned<br />

attendance at an event <strong>in</strong> Algeria <strong>and</strong> only one<br />

mentioned a cultural project <strong>in</strong> Libya.<br />

Exchange with other <strong>Africa</strong>n regions is<br />

fairly weak <strong>in</strong> contrast with the volume of exchange<br />

with Europe, the Middle East <strong>and</strong> <strong>North</strong><br />

<strong>Africa</strong>. Most respondents stated that Sub-Saharan<br />

<strong>Africa</strong> simply is not on the radar. For artists who<br />

have pursued connections to the South, the most<br />

active channels are those that connect Egypt to<br />

South <strong>Africa</strong>, Ethiopia, as well as hubs <strong>in</strong> West<br />

—<br />

E<br />

G<br />

Y<br />

P<br />

T<br />

—<br />

—<br />

QUOTE:<br />

« There are big gaps between the<br />

communities. I always talk about this;<br />

the problem is the media. There is no<br />

news show or program talk<strong>in</strong>g about<br />

<strong>Africa</strong>n issues <strong>in</strong> Egypt. We’re try<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to get people <strong>in</strong>terested, to close this gap.<br />

Most of these communities stay<br />

together because they’re afraid; they<br />

don't feel <strong>in</strong>volved <strong>in</strong> Egyptian society.<br />

I say let’s meet through music. It’s a<br />

place where we can come together. »<br />

Ahmed Omar,<br />

Bassist <strong>and</strong> founder of AfriCairo,<br />

Cairo<br />

—<br />

<strong>Africa</strong>, most prom<strong>in</strong>ently Dakar <strong>and</strong> Lagos. Accord<strong>in</strong>g<br />

to AMA’s statistics, Egypt has had the<br />

most exchange with South <strong>Africa</strong> <strong>and</strong> Ethiopia<br />

(10 applications each), followed by Nigeria <strong>and</strong><br />

Cameroon (8) <strong>and</strong> lastly by Kenya (7). These<br />

connections can likely be expla<strong>in</strong>ed <strong>in</strong> terms of<br />

cultural <strong>and</strong> l<strong>in</strong>guistic ties <strong>in</strong>herited from colonial<br />

times, as well as geographic proximity <strong>and</strong> availability<br />

of flight connections <strong>in</strong> the case of East<br />

<strong>Africa</strong>.<br />

A number of <strong>in</strong>itiatives have nevertheless<br />

been promot<strong>in</strong>g <strong>Africa</strong>n arts <strong>and</strong> culture <strong>in</strong><br />

Cairo <strong>and</strong> Alex<strong>and</strong>ria, especially through music.<br />

Makan <strong>–</strong> Egyptian Center for Culture <strong>and</strong> <strong>Art</strong>s<br />

has been work<strong>in</strong>g to promote Egypt’s traditional<br />

musical heritage, offer<strong>in</strong>g a platform <strong>in</strong> particular<br />

for Sudanese <strong>and</strong> Nubian communities. On the<br />

side of contemporary music, AfriCairo is offer<strong>in</strong>g<br />

a venue for <strong>Africa</strong>n musicians liv<strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong> Cairo to<br />

meet <strong>and</strong> perform, with a small record<strong>in</strong>g studio<br />

<strong>and</strong> a performance / jam space. The <strong>in</strong>dependent<br />

Luxor <strong>Africa</strong>n Film Festival is also an important<br />

event on the annual arts calendar, with year-round<br />

tra<strong>in</strong><strong>in</strong>g <strong>in</strong>itiatives <strong>and</strong> programmes to support<br />

the production <strong>and</strong> promotion of <strong>Africa</strong>n c<strong>in</strong>ema.

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