Sunday,15 July, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)
Sunday,15 July, 2018
Issue 1367, (2 - 8 November 2017)

Ahram Weekly

A cultured Upper Egypt

The head of the Cultural Development Fund Ahmed Awad spoke to Nevine El-Aref about the newly launched Southern Valley initiative

A cultured Upper Egypt
A cultured Upper Egypt

Egypt is rich with its cultural diversity and the government has always believed strongly in the importance of culture as soft power in development. Culture could create a rich and strong tapestry for spreading liberal thoughts, fighting racism, terrorism and radical ideas as well as being an engine for sustainable development for individuals, communities and countries.” 

Thus Ahmed Awad, the head of the Culture Development Fund (CDF). Speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly, he said this could be achieved through the newly launched initiative by the Ministry of Culture to develop the culture scene in Upper Egypt and the country’s border cities.

“The initiative’s key idea is employing Egypt’s vivid cultural diversity to support social dialogue,” Awad said, adding that artistic expression can help form a sense of identity and self-esteem, particularly for young people looking to the future.

The initiative has already started on a budget of LE200,000. It will initially focus on training women in traditional handicrafts as well as choir singing, drama, poetry and drawing in 36 village communities.

“This initiative is a dream come true,” Awad pointed out, adding that it will no doubt contribute to cultural justice, one of the main goals. 

“We also dream of breaking down Cairo and Alexandria’s centrality and presenting all kinds of arts in all the Upper Egypt governorates,” he went on. “It is possible to change society’s perception of Upper Egypt and discover its talents and creative energies” by providing cultural services there.

Luxor will host the third round of the Arabic Calligraphy Biennale with workshops on art, calligraphy metal work and jewellery.

“This biennale is but the first item on the CDF’s agenda,” Awad asserted, explaining how the main programme of the National Film Festival is not being screened in Cairo but in Luxor, Minya, Sohag, Mansoura and Alexandria. 

Minya is the second location, where 11 villages are targeted. In collaboration with the Minya governorate and university, the National Council for Women and the Youth Ministry, an eight-day training programme is to be organised to teach 75 women in Minya traditional handicrafts in a bid to help them earn some extra money as well as preserve these crafts for the future. An exhibition to sell the goods will be organised. 

Over the last three days, a CDF team visited Delga, Deir Abu Hens and Al-Karam villages in Minya where a series of cultural services were provided including musical performances, drawings, handicraft and art workshops for children, youth and adults.

“In a primary school there children in the fifth grade do not know what drawings and colouring are,” Awad exclaimed, saying that they only found out about them when the CDF team offered them colouring books and pencils.

“I feel guilty and responsible for those children but they’ve encouraged me to continue what I started.” He feels that the Minya programme has achieved its goals as 41,000 people have attended the daily performances and concerts held or participated in cultural activities.

Sohag governorate is to follow with musical performances by renowned musician Hani Shenouda and the famous harpist Manal Mohi Al-Din together with a handicrafts training programme. The CDF has also allocated a budget to developing border city libraries — for now.

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