With 14 Egyptian artists missing due to concerns over security during the country’s Revolutionary transition period, 6 American artists (including a few visiting professors) were included to help build the final number of participation to 12.
The group was welcomed by Fayoum Art Center’s founder, Mohamed Abla. Abla explained how the Center was merely a dream ten years ago, “And like most things,” he said, “I had an idea, so I began to work towards making it happen.”
In 1978, Abla was the youngest founding member of the Egyptian National Arts Syndicate, which acts as a kind of Union to the Ministry of Culture. Since its inception, Abla helped build the Syndicate to hold over 5,000 major entities, representing all walks of art in Egypt along the way.
“But it was not easy,” he said, “there is a reason for this revolution.” The Ministry had a strangle-hold on development, receiving kick-backs and embezzling funds to prevent young leaders from attaining maturity in their craft. The Syndicate fell into this powers structure, isolating visionaries like Abla from building a real national sensibility for the arts.
“This does not represent art in Egypt,” Abla stated firmly. “There were lots of people not doing what they were supposed to, but we finally have the courage to make our country great again.”
The Fayoum Art Center was founded in 2005 after Abla was able to secure finances through his career as a political cartoonist. The Center was opened a year later, operating internationally since 2007. Recently, Abla opened the Middle East’s only Cartoon Museum featuring his very own personal collection. Abla’s final words, “We don’t need to be perfect because we learn from each other,” encapsulated his vision for the Center, which acted as the perfect introduction to the Firefly Tunnel workshop.
The afternoon was charged with excitement thanks to acknowledgement of the Egyptian Revolution, which Tavia La Follette hopes will inspire Americans to become more active in their governmental process. “What an incredible time to be working with Egyptian artists,” Tavia expressed, “we are honored to have this opportunity to work alongside of you at such a poignant moment in time.”
Artists will spend the next two days practicing their newfound skills in making performance & installation art in preparation for a live street demonstration in Tahrir Square, Friday, March 11.
Artwork made during this workshop and demonstration will be included in a dual exhibition at Atelier, a small studio/gallery in downtown Cairo. The show opens Sunday, March 13, 2011.
For more information about the Exhibit, see the event’s Facebook page HERE.