Coming back for another round of remarkable shows, ranging from dance to music, film, literature and visual arts, the seventh edition of Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) will kick off on March 9 with a special “women-dedicated” edition and cutting-edge performances that shed light on the ever-developing Arab arts.
For the very first time, Egypt’s only multi-disciplinary, international contemporary arts festival will be inaugurated outside the downtown Cairo area, with the opening music concert set to take place at Al-Azhar Park. And as it sets off on International Women’s Day, this year’s event has been planned as a special women’s edition, D-CAF Founder and Artistic Director Ahmed El-Attar tells Egypt Today.
“The opening concert will feature outstanding local, regional and international female musicians from different genres,” Attar reveals. On top of that, the festival provides a 50 percent voucher for all female attendees.
Established in 2012, D-CAF has been held for three weeks in March and April for the past five years and is now in its seventh edition.
“What makes this year special,” he adds, “is that the festival offers free tickets of theatre, dance and musical concerts to civil organizations for refugees, disabled people and orphans, giving them a chance to come and see these events.” A crowd-funding campaign has been launched to help offer free shows and affordable tickets for D-CAF performances.
From Arab Arts Focus, to directors forum, disability shows and much more, D-CAF’s unique program is taking place in some of the most spectacular downtown theatres and cinemas, as well as renowned historic and cultural locations in the centre of the city, such as the recently restored Maq’ad of Sultan Qaitbey and Al Alfy Bey Street in Downtown. “Performing in streets would enable all Egyptians to see different contemporary arts shows, spreading this modern art among them and reviving it,” Attar says.
Aiming to shed light on cutting-edge Arab talents, the festival is once again featuring the Arab Arts Focus section, where gifted Egyptian, Moroccan, Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian actors are invited to present their stories through unique performances, including Egyptian actor Ramsi Lehner and Syrian actress Nanda Mohammad.
The festival is also hosting, for the fourth time, a four-day Arab Contemporary Art Forum, where international fim and theater directors are invited to witness Egyptian and Arab arts, to eventually “market Arab creativity across the world,” Attar says.
Pursuing its long-term mission to use the power of art in breaking misperceptions toward persons with disabilities and raising awareness of their great ability, the 2018 edition is offering several street performances by dancers and actors with disabilities. The festival’s film and literature program also includes an Irish film, Sanctuary, shown in Egypt for the first time, and two symposia about the concept of disability, given by national and international experts.
“In last year’s edition, Europe’s oldest band of persons with mental disabilities introduced a sparkling international dance show, which the crowd cheered in appreciation of, as they felt like anything is possible [for anyone to do],” Attar says.
“When we present the arts of people with disability in streets, to be watched whether by interested audiences or a passerby, we correct the misconceptions in our community about those people by showcasing their talents,” he adds.
The festival is also cooperating with Medrar Institution for Visual Art to organize a “Meet the Artist” open studio, offering a six-month training program for eight young Egyptian artists under the supervision of professional artists, giving them a chance to acquire creative skills in contemporary arts, Attar says.
“This is a new experience, as we will continue working after the festival. Their works would probably be presented in September. But, during the festival, audience members interested in visual arts could pass through the studio to see them while working,” he explains.
With its distinguished international contemporary arts in genres ranging from interactive and dance theater, visual arts and more, D-CAF has managed to attract more and more followers over the years, mostly youth who relate to the opinions, visions and performances they witness in the festival.
“Holding the events in different places such as streets, apartments and rooftops, along with cinemas and theaters. allows for a variety of audiences,” Attar notes. He cites the example of a special show that is now in the sixth edition, where 15-year-old children performed on the roof of the Greek Campus, expressing their vision for the next 20 years.
Despite its successive accomplishments, the festival is still facing some challenges as it struggles to preserve its position among international contemporary art festivals, Attar reveals. One of these challenges is funding, as the festival does not receive any governmental support, especially in light of the economic upheaval Egypt is facing. “To resolve this problem, we cooperate with many embassies to cover the expense of the international artists and performers,” he concludes.