The Clonmel Junction Festival Blog features musings from a variety of characters regarding the organisation, improvisation and success of the Festival. Posts from Festival Staff, goers and artists will offer a flavour of the Festival, the work that goes on behind the scenes, and the reaction on the streets to Clonmel Junction Festival 2013.
By David Teevan, Artistic Director, Clonmel Junction Festival, on his recent trip to Egypt
This week started just like any other, shaking off the weekend and getting into the office where I had a chat with the Clonmel Junction Festival team about what they had been up to over the weekend, before settling into the main job at hand, which at the moment is writing and editing the text of the brochure and website for the festival’s thirteenth edition this July. What was markedly different yesterday was that I had taken the metro to Sadat station, beneath Tahrir Square, ascended into 38 degree heat and passed the striking graffiti on the walls of Mohamed Mahmoud Street en route to the Press Office of the D-CAF Festival, where I had been offered a desk for a couple of days so that I could keep up with the preparations for Junction Festival while in Egypt, and my conversation with my colleagues in Tipperary took place over Skype.
I was in Cairo at the invitation of Ahmed El Attar, the Artistic Director of D-CAF (Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival), whom I had met at the Caravan event at Brighton Festival in 2012. This year was the second edition of D-CAF, which finished on Sunday 28th of April.
On my first evening I saw the Egyptian premiere of Le Prince Séquestré written and directed by French director Francois Cervantes and performed by the acclaimed Egyptian theatre director, Hassan El Geretly and Boutros Raouf Boutros-Ghali. The piece, performed in French with Arabic subtitles at D-CAF, will soon be redone in Arabic and will tour throughout Egypt. I greatly enjoyed the performance which owed much to the French clowning tradition, which was suggested in the piece by the oversized white noses worn by the actors. François Cervantes’s text also owed much to its creator’s namesake, Miguel de Cervantes, in the Quixotean relationship of the two central characters.
From Le Prince Séquestré I went on to attend a double bill with Egyptian chanteuse Dina El Wedidi and her Tunisian peer, Emel Mathlouthi performed at Qasr Al Nil Theatre, reopened for the concert after a period of several years dormant. Both women have come to prominence since the events of January 2011 and a political edge infuses both singers’ verses. While El Wedidi, a great favourite in Cairo, performed a superb set (note to the lighting technician – less is more), it was Mathlouthi, the more experienced of the two, who set the evening alight. The diminutive Mathlouthi delivered her set with a power of conviction and vocal clarity, combined with a mesmerising and energetic stage presence. It was a performance that will live long in the memory of both the audience and the musicians and I expect will be spoken of in legendary terms by the D-CAF organisers in years to come.
Over the following days I saw Franco-Tunisian duo, Marion and Ghazi’s live art collaboration “I am Nobody’s Shadow”, and Alice both work by emerging artists which showed the promise of work to come.
I was intrigued by the Interlab/Tele-exhibition multimedia exhibition by the Egyptian artists collective, Open Lab Egypt and the German group Kaboosh!, as Junction festival will have a multimedia artists’ café as part of its participatory arts program this year. While the ideas in this exhibition were fun, offering a range of participative opportunities to the viewer and might even have been perceptive or insightful, they were when I visited only partly working and it was only with explanation from the curator that I had a sense of the intent of the work. This was disappointing, but does present a warning about the issues a multimedia venture offers and suggests a need for constant surveillance and upkeep.
The final event on Sunday was an evening of contemporary dance with 8 short dance piece choreographed by emerging Egyptian choreographers and two longer pieces one choreographed by Ahmed el Gendy (Xero) from Cairo and the other by Nonne Mai Svalholm from Denmark. The eight short dances were the outcome of a programme run by Svalholm called MAKE YOUR MOVE aimed at training and offering opportunities to young Contemporary Dance choreographers. There was much to admire in the performances. Circuit choreographed by Dalia El Abd and performed by Mohamed el Yousry (Shika) was a beautifully controlled and focused piece of work. Sara Hassan showed great agility and grace in her presentation of her own chorography, Salvation. However, of the eight short choreographies, it was Masculinity, choreographed by Ezzat Ezzat and performed by Ezzat Ezzat and Ibrahim Abdel Hamid, that had the greatest impact for me. The simple repetition of strong, even forceful movements in unison by the two dancers drew the viewer into a world of masculine posturing and power.
In “Thought and Practice of Cultural Exchanges in the Mediterranean”, a round table discussions that I attended in the American University on Saturday and Sunday, coordinated by the Fondation René Seydoux, the gathered academics, sociologists and cultural actors discussed the political, social and economic crises which are unfolding both in Europe and the MENA region. Central to the discussions was the realisation that we are at a watershed in many ways both in Europe, where the economic crises has forced us as nations to look at fundamental issues of social, political and moral significance and in North Africa where the Arab Spring has disturbed the balance of power in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, and stirred up debate throughout the MENA region.
Cultural actors, whether graffiti artists, theatre makers or musicians have a vital role to play in stimulating this debate, as do festivals like D-CAF and, though in a very different context, Clonmel Junction Festival.
It is for this reason that I have chosen the theme of “The Journeys we Make” for the 2013 festival in Clonmel. In selecting work that responds to this theme and producing new work responding to it, I hope that all who attend the festival will be, if even only a little bit, more enlightened about their journey after their participation and attendance at the festival, as I certainly am after my short visit here to Cairo to attend D-CAF.
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