DUBAI: A few years ago, a new cultural event, named the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), took shape in Cairo. It was to be inaugurated in 2011 but had to be postponed after Egypt was swept up in a massive revolution that year.
But the revolution gave birth to a freedom of artistic expression that hadn’t been seen for a long time in the streets of the Egyptian capital, which gave D-CAF an even more meaningful purpose.
“The art scene in Egypt definitely revived a hundred times after the revolution. It changed a lot in a good way,” Basma Hamed, D-CAF’s public relations manager, told Arab News. “People started to feel different things so they started to do art by painting, performances – everything.”
As a result of the pandemic, D-CAF was cancelled in 2020, but it is returning for the ninth time on Oct. 1 to 22. A series of accessible talks, workshops, performances, exhibitions and virtual reality experiences created by more than 50 artists from 10 nationalities will take place in 10 spaces around a historically significant area of the city.
“Downtown Cairo was a hub of art and culture in the ‘60s and ‘70s. All the theatres, cinemas, and venues are there,” explained Hamed. The D-CAF team even opened up and renovated blackbox theatres, apartments and rooftops of abandoned buildings to host art exhibitions and site-specific performances.
“It was very important to revive this area and to tell people to come back and see Downtown differently. It’s not old-fashioned anymore. They can attend the coolest festival in Cairo,” she said.
Some anticipated happenings of the festival include a 15-minute VR documentary installation. “X-Ray Fashion,” by MANND Studio (Denmark), takes participants into fast fashion’s dark and eye-opening impact on the environment. “Cairo Sound Tour,” a sound performance occurring in a bus ride, allows people to experience the various sounds of everyday life in Cairo, thanks to sound artist Benoît Renaudin and stage director Isis Fahmy. The exiled Syrian poet Rasha Omran will also be making an appearance at D-CAF by performing for the first time a French-Arabic stage adaptation of her collection of personal poems, entitled “The One Who Lived in the House Before Me.”