Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)
Tuesday,23 April, 2019
Issue 1378, (25 -31 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Music season

Flautist Ines Abdel-Dayem, the newly appointed minister of culture, has been too busy to breathe. But Nevine El-Aref managed to snatch a few minutes of her time


Inas Abdel-Dayem
Inas Abdel-Dayem

This month flautist and chairperson of the Cairo Opera House Ines Abdel-Dayem became the first woman to hold Egypt’s cultural portfolio since the ministry was established in 1958. The decision was part of a cabinet reshuffle that also affected the ministries of development, tourism and business. Abdel-Dayem had been offered the post in 2013 as part of Hazem Al-Biblawi’s government but she withdrew her acceptance at the last minute.

“My first mission after holding the post is to make good preparations for the 49th Cairo International Book Fair, which will be open to the public on 27 January,” Abdel-Dayem told Al-Ahram Weekly, pointing out that she will continue what former minister of culture Helmi Al-Namnam and current General Egypt Book Organisation Director Haithem Al-Hag have done for this round; she is very keen that all the different sections of the ministry should participate in such a major event.

“One of my top priorities,” she went on, “is to pay attention to the Cultural Palaces Authority and to remove the obstacles in its way so that it can achieve the goal for which it was created: to bring art to the largest possible segment of the Egyptian society and reach such remote places as Halayeb and Shalateen. Culture should be brought out of closed chambers, and all the different sections of the ministry should cooperate to achieve this goal.

“My ambition has no limit but I’d rather say no more until I’ve swept out the dusty corners, opened up all the files and started working. In my view,” she asserted, “all the files in the ministry need of immediate intervention. It is very important to formulate strategic plans to improve and develop Egyptian culture to bolster up our resources — soft power — and contribute to the war on terrorism, which requires the expertise of the ministries of culture, youth, endowments and education.” Abdel-Dayem was equally keen on cultural justice and the provision of cultural across Egypt, using not only books but all the arts as well, and utilising new and unconventional ideas. “Culture is not only about festivals and celebrations. It is much deeper and relates to areas such as education. Cultural services must target children and young people in the context of an integrated community policy.”  

A graduate of the Cairo Conservatoire, Abdel-Dayem earned her PhD at the École Normale de Musique in Paris; in 1982, she won first prizes from the Federation Nationale des Unions des Conservatoires Municipaux and the Concours General de Musique et d’Art Dramatiqu. She has performed in, among many other countries, the United States, Italy, Germany, Spain, Greece, the Czech Republic, Morocco, Tunisia, Syria, the UAE, Japan (where she was honoured at the Kobe International Flute Competition) and South Korea (where she received the Festival of Arts prize). At home she received, among others, the Creativity Prize from the Academy of Arts and the State Merit Award. As of 2003 she held a number of important positions: director of the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, dean of the Cairo Conservatoire and vice president of the Academy of Arts. In February 2012, she was appointed chairperson of the Cairo Opera House. Her tenure was abruptly terminated in May 2013 by the Muslim Brotherhood’s culture minister Alaa Abdel-Aziz, but she was reinstated by Minister of Culture Saber Arab. Represented by Abdel-Dayem, Egypt won the President of the Arab Music Complex seat in December of the same year.

“I am very happy and proud to be the first woman to take this post,” Abdel-Dayem said, praising the fact that this cabinet has an unprecedented number of women: six. “I hope that I will live up to the responsibility.”

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