Linguistic Codification

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An Art Center in Egypt Restricts Freedom of Expression!

Translation of “Hanetkalem” statement: A clear violation against freedom of creativity: El Sawy Cultural Wheel prevents a show from participating in a theater festival.

Urgent statement

The theater group, “We Lessa” (And Still) for theatrical shows, was subjected to clear violation against freedom of thought and expression, during the event of the seventh festival of El Sawy Cultural Wheel for monodrama. The jury objected on a sentence in the show, so the jury stopped it, didn’t allow the show go on and excluded the show from the festival. The organizations and the groups signing on this statement consider this to be dangerous with regards to inspecting the intentions of artists and putting rules for creativity, especially in an independent cultural organization as El Sawy Cultural Wheel which was a haven for creative artists, males and females, especially the youth, which provided a free open space for creativity and innovation.

The details of what happened are: during the melodrama show, “Autobus”, during the event of the festival of El Sawy Cultural Wheel for monodrama, after it was agreed between the actor (Mina Ezzat) and the director of the show (John Milad) to do an improvisation at the beginning of the show, in which the actor would do a role of an actor who is unsatisfied with the show and acting, then he would make nervous acts including displacing some of the decorative pieces, vilify the show and its elements, showing that this actor became bored of acting which he considers as not changing the society, so he is forced to act against his will, and of these emotions he expressed it saying in the Egyptian spoken language, literally: “I’ll spoil the mother’s religion of the show” (which is a common Egyptian expression expressing contempt). So, the jury just stopped the show, apathetic to any exerted efforts after less than the first 3 minutes after making rehearsals continuing for months and preparing for that day since last March, almost a year, after claiming that the actor “slandered religion”.

After many attempts from the director of the show with the jury, they agreed to make the show again, but the administration of El Sawy Cultural Wheel totally refused. Also, some members of the jury tried to make the show again after the director of the show gives a written apology, at the end of the show, but he refused, saying, “I’m not a preacher, I’m an artist, I present art, the audience and the jury have to evaluate this art”.

The organizations and the groups signing this statement, consider the times of confiscation and banning had ended. No one has the right to inspect the artists’ intentions. The space should be provided for everyone to express their opinions freely and by all possible means, without putting limits on creativity under any designation. They demand the administration of El Sawy Cultural Wheel to explain their stance of freedom of thought and freedom of creativity for everyone, with allowing the monodrama, “Autobus”, making an appropriate apology for the ones responsible.

To see the signature of organizations and groups and to sign, please refer to the original post of “Hanetkalem”.

Related links
• John Milad, the director, writes: A Lie and Slanders of El Sawy Cultural Wheel Center. (Arabic)
Interview with the director, John Milad, mentioning the issue. (Youtube video, in Arabic)
• Egypt Independent: El Sawy Culture Wheel interrupts performance for ‘insulting religion’
Coverage of the case in Egyptian media: condemnation by 18 human rights organizations. (Arabic)
• Ahram Gate: “Innovation Front” Criticizes Stopping of the Show “Autobus” and Demands El Sawy to Apologize. (Arabic)
• Civic Egypt: Mohamed El Sawy, the salafi businessman
Intellectuals refuse El Sawy as minister of culture. (2011, Feb, 27; Arabic)

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