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Contemporary dance programme in peril

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Independent artist Karima Mansour gives her point of view on Egypt’s art scene.

Karima Mansour during her students’ debut performances last March at the Cairo Opera House (Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

Karima Mansour during her students’ debut performances last March at the Cairo Opera House
(Photo by Thoraia Abou Bakr)

By Fanny Ohier

The career of Karima Mansour, a contemporary dancer, choreographer and teacher, has spanned over 15 years in Cairo, starting in 1999 when she founded the Egyptian Independent Contemporary Dance Company. She is currently the artistic director of the Cairo Contemporary Dance Centre (CCDC) at the Creativity Centre of the Egyptian Ministry of Culture, yet she faces an uncertain future.

The CCDC was recently threatened with closure by the Cultural Development Fund (CDF,) which offered to merge the specialised 3-year artistic programme that Mansour had established, with a range of short-term workshops, she explained.  She characterised the programme proposed by the CDF as “poor” and “lacking vision,” and one that would “dilute the CCDC.”

Working with the ministry was not always easy.  “Since its launch in January 2012, after the revolution, the CCDC has been fought and resisted by all the old regime employees of the Ministry of Culture that have no understanding or appreciation of what we do and its requirements.” She stated that her arrival after the revolution made her an outsider, since she represented what “they have resisted for years now.”

Mansour has been active in many political demonstrations; she protested with her students outside the Creativity Centre on behalf of the CCDC, calling for the continuation of their 3-year training program and she has also attended political demonstrations like the Zamalek sit-ins, she added.

The future of the CCDC is still uncertain, Mansour explained. “It is a wait and see situation at the moment. The CCDC is closed for the summer break all of July and August, and we are technically in the middle of negotiations. It is not clear if we can continue or not.”

As an artist, Mansour considers demonstrating “her right and duty.” She continued, “It is the right and duty of anybody who has a project, vision, voice and is living in this country. I hope that eventually the desired outcome will be freedom of expression, respect, co-existence, and development.”

Assessing the future of the artistic scene in Egypt, Mansour said that 90,000 employees who have 30 years inside the Ministry of Culture still stand in the way of artistic progress.  “We have still a long and winding road… The artistic scene has suffered and still does from monopolisation, bad management, lack of vision, painful bureaucracy, corruption and misuse of resources…We need a total restructuring of this system, we need to start fresh from zero.”


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