Through the fire and flames
The restoration of the National Theatre in Azbakiya and preparations for the Tunisia International Book Fair are the highlights of official culture this week, reports Nevine El-Aref
Four years after the closing of the National Theatre in Azbakiya, the facility will be open to the public in December. In September 2008, the theatre was on fire for two hours and its main hall was completely destroyed. No injuries were sustained as no one happened to be on the premises; and investigations at the time revealed that an electrical short circuit had triggered an explosion in the air-conditioning system. Attempts to reopen the theatre had failed due to lack of budget until the January revolution.
Early this week during an inspection tour, Culture Minister Saber Arab announced that the problems standing in the way of the restoration and renovation of the National Theatre have been solved and that works will be resumed. He added that a new, up-to-date restoration scheme is now provided and the Ministry of Culture is searching for sponsors to carry out the work: "The ministry will knock on all doors to help in financing such a great Egyptian landmark." The minister vowed to officially address the ministries of International Cooperation and Finance as well as the Ministry of State for Antiquities (MSA) requesting their assistance.
Mohamed Abu Saeida of Cultural Development Fund (CDF) says the ministry had officially addressed the MSA to help in financing restoration work as a section of the National Theatre is on Egypt's Islamic Antiquities list. Since the outbreak of the January revolution and the separation of Antiquities Department from the Ministry of Culture, the MSA stopped handing 10 percent of its income to the CDF as had been the custom. "They only gave us a LE1 million out of LE70 million." But, according to Abu Saeida, the department is required to pay the 10 percent by presidential decree. Restoration work, on the other hand, is to be resumed on a LE80 million budget Òê" and those parts of the work that require it will have the supervision of MSA archaeologists. "We are using photos taken of the theatre during the shooting of one of Ismail Yassin's films, released in 1952, in order to be sure of the original look of some decorative elements," said Magdi Alaam, the head of the construction organization carrying out the restoration works. It has seen the likes of Salama Hegazi, Naguib El-Rihani, Samiha Ayoub, Zaki Tolaymat and Um Kalthoum, whose monthly concerts took place there.
The National Theatre was last restored in 1986.
On 2-11 November, Egypt is to be the guest of honour at the Tunisia International Book Fair, the first to be held there after the Jasmine revolution. Ahmed Megad, the head of the General Egyptian Book Organisation (GEBO), says Egypt's 250 sq m pavilion will display the work of many Egyptian presses besides GEBO. A cultural programme including exhibitions and folk performances will accompany the display. Worth noting is that Tunisia was the guest of honour of Cairo International Book Fair this year. The Tunisian fair hosts 1527 publishers from 32 countries.
In the pipeline is a trip to the UAE to participate in the Sharjah International Book Fair, also as a guest of honour.
During the opening of the exhibition Agyal I or "Generations I" at the Picasso Gallery, Arab announced that the Ministry of Culture will document the graffiti of the revolution drawn on Mohamed Mahmoud Street, neighbouring Tahrir Square. The graffiti made by protesters during and after the January revolution was painted over by the Cairo Governorate a week ago Òê" prompting disgruntled protesters and artists to paint the walls once again.
The exhibition puts on display 50 pieces of art by 25 young contemporary Egyptian artists including Mohamed El-Sharqawi, Alaa Abdul Hamad, Ali Hassan and others. The celebrated artist Samir Fouad is the exhibition's guest of honour; and he contributed two of his works: An Egyptian Girl and A Vase of Flowers. It runs through 23 October.