Saturday, March 05, 2011

Imagining a different Ministry of Culture

Al Masry Al Youm (Mai El-Wakil)

Possibly off-topic, given the recent establishment of a new Ministry of Antiquities, but until last month the Ministry of Culture was responsible for the museums and archaeological monuments and sites of Egypt.

Despite a growing presence of independent and non-governmental cultural centers, art spaces, bands and theater troupes, the Egyptian Ministry of Culture remains the main sponsor of cultural production in the country. But its role is contentious, and over the past month, cultural employees of various backgrounds have been meeting regularly to discuss possible reforms of the ministry, at times calling for its abolition.

A key issue during these meetings was the selection of the minister of culture, should that position be maintained. Theater direcotr Mohamed Abdel Khalek said the state should consult with intellectuals on that critical post, which has been pivotal in setting the nation’s cultural policy.

Last Sunday, more than 100 artists, actors, musicians and writers protested in front of the Ministry of Culture offices in Zamalek against the appointment of Mohamed al-Sawy as the new minister in the caretaker government.

Al Ahram Weekly (Nevine El-Aref)

Despite his success in launching the Al-Sawy Culture Wheel, Mohamed El-Sawy, the newly appointed minister of culture, has not been received with open arms, reports Nevine El-Aref

When the area below the 15 May Bridge in Cairo was converted from a rubbish dump to a cultural centre back in 2003, people thought the initiator of the idea was a genius. Since then the Al-Sawy Culture Wheel has become a venue for daily events, concerts, seminars, plays, poetry and even children's activities.

As a result, when Mohamed El-Sawy, founder of the Wheel, was nominated for the post of minister of culture many people were thrilled, hoping that he could replicate the success nationwide.

Visual artist Magd El-Seguini was enthusiastic about the choice of El-Sawy, for example, describing him as an intellectual brought up in a cultural environment and having a father who had earlier been a minister of culture. With the help of the country's artists and intellectuals, El-Sawy would be able to lead the ministry into a new era, El-Seguini said.

However, other observers have expressed concerns that government service could negate El-Sawy's past achievements and ruin his future, making public their doubts about why he has accepted to participate in a government that has not established its legitimacy among all Egyptians.

El-Sawy's nomination and later his appointment have not got down well with all the country's intellectuals and artists, who believe that the success of the Wheel does not constitute a qualification for the post.

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