Screen shot of Artspine website
A pair of university students launch Egypt’s first talents portal, bringing together up-and-coming artists, photographers, writers and musicians.
CAIRO - 10 June 2017: Fayrouz Khaled and Rana Ashraf are two aspiring young writers who recently launched Artspine, a talents portal aiming to connect artists in one place. Frustrated at the lack of encouragement from older generations when it comes to arts and creativity, the social media-savvy pair—who are both freshmen at MSA—began building their own dream to raise awareness of the importance of fostering talent.
“We’re trying to raise awareness of a certain community that is invisible to generations who are older than us. So for example some people like to draw but their families refuse to allow them to enroll in arts and design classes, believing that this major is not serious enough,” begins Khaled. “Sciences and these majors are already around, but the arts community is afraid to make an appearance. So Rana for example, though her writing is really good, never used to like reading her work in front of people. A space like Artspine could motivate her so that in the future she writes novels or develops her work in say movies, in screenplays, to do something she loves. Just the same way others love computers so they choose to study computer science and become developers then sit at a computer all day—why should that be seen as normal or acceptable whereas someone who paints or photographs is not allowed to follow their talent?”
Ashraf shares the same frustration. “Our society and culture do not appreciate photography, painting or writing, all these things are underestimated. It’s rare that talent is recognized—in the end a photographer is just a mosawaraty. Artspine is a collective space where talented people can come together and where they feel they can fit. When others click on the website it’s not as if they’ll see the world from a different angle, but people’s horizons can be broadened by appreciating talent.”
The notion of appreciation, or lack thereof, is one of the factors that got the girls thinking about launching the hub. “We started meeting people on Twitter. Both of us love to write and I noticed how these people all write and what they share brings in 300 to 400 likes. But then they go into recents and then they disappear, as if they never wrote anything and everyone forgets. These people have created something emotional, something that has come from within and in the end all they get is some likes that are then forgotten” says Khaled. “So we thought of bringing all these people together in one space. We started with writing, because me and Rana like to write, then we thought this person draws, another photographs, another sings. We began to communicate with people from all over on Twitter, then on Instagram so we could follow these people’s social media, the work they do and the followers they have.
Both girls are quick to point out that the number of followers isn’t what their gauging as much as it’s the quality of someone’s work. “Some people have very few followers but their work is better than others who have followers in the millions. Twitter is a community where everyone knows the other users, but no one really knows the real person behind the handle,” they say.
Although Artspine is an open platform, Ashraf and Khaled stress that they do not accept just anyone’s work. “It depends on quality. Some people think they have a great voice but in reality they can’t sing or need voice lessons and training. The same with writing and art. We give ourselves time to evaluate before we respond and other the team members sometimes help us to assess and select. We have a vision for the type and quality that we want our portal to be, and based on this we make our decisions,” says Khaled.
Today there are about 40 talented artists from Cairo and other governorates in the Artspine community across fields including writing, painting, photography, typography and singing. “We still haven’t launched a Youtube channel though,” says Khaled who explains that short movies and other media are shared on Twitter and Instagram for now.
Egypt Today is proud to partner with Artspine to power our Artist of the Month section every month. This edition, we talk to photographer of the stars Omar El Amroussy about photographing everything from the Milky Way to capturing the enchanted skies of Siwa Oasis. Follow artspine on facebook at facebook/artspine, on Instagram @artspine1 and on Twitter @Artspine1 • www.artspine.net