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30 January 2012
Forum on Culture & Politics-Cairo
ImageCairo, 12 December 2011: A Forum on Culture and Politics organized by Goethe Institut Kairo in cooperation with the Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy) was held on Wednesday the 7th and Thursday the 8th of December 2011 at Goethe Institute in Cairo. More than100 researchers in cultural policy, artists, writers, cultural directors, and representatives of
governmental institutions from Egypt, Tunis, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Turkey, Greece, Spain,
Germany and the Netherlands participated in the forum.
The conference began with a keynote address by the Egyptian writer and novelist Bahaa
Taher, who emphasized in his speech the relation between culture and social justice, and the
German writer Norbert Niemann who pointed to the need for separation between democracy
and capitalism. And in his opening statement, Gunter Hasenkamp, the Director of Cultural
Programs at the Goethe Institute, talked about the importance of the historical moment that
Arab revolutions provide, and the relation between this historical moment and the idea of
the Forum on Culture and Politics. Through the course of two days, the Forum attendees
discussed several issues associated with the current status of cultural policies in the Arab
countries undergoing democratic transitions, by introducing a number of international and regional
visions that would reform the systems and structures of cultural work in the light of current
situation. Basma El Husseiny, the Managing Director of Culture Resource, presented an
alternative vision of cultural work which included detailed concepts on the restructuring of the
Egyptian Ministry of Culture by transferring its main sector to independent local institutions.
She concluded her speech saying “We demand the independence of culture, as well as the
judiciary and the media, because cultural work needs to be independent from the power so
as not to be in its service”. Also Attia lawgail , Libyan Minister of Culture in the national Transitional
Council, and Emad Abu Ghazi, the former Egyptian Minister of Culture, discussed the
needs and challenges during the democratic transition.
On the second day of the conference, the Turkish Sarhan Ada has offered the example of an
important initiative of analysis and critique of the cultural policy in Turkey, which was carried
out by civil society organizations with the participation of 185 researchers. The young Tunisian
artist Zied Hadhri presented the experiences of Ahl Al Kahf movement, which considers
the art as a part of the political movement in the street. The experiences of the civil society
movements during the uprisings in Spain and Greece also shared. On the final session of the
conference, participants discussed the cultural relations between Europe and the Arab world
in the light of the political changes in the region. The Ambassador Marco Franco, The EU
ambassador in Egypt, referred to the role of concepts of identity which guide these relations.
Gemma Abarell explained the role of the Anna Lindh Foundation, while the noted filmmakers
Hala Galal and Tamer El Said referred to the importance of having a real dialogue about the
points of agreement and difference between both parties.
The Forum included a wide range of culture professionals from Arab countries and from European
Cultural organizations: the cultural activist Hanane Hajj Ali (Lebanon), Murad Kadiri (
Morraco), Rana Yazaji ( Syria), Huda Lotfi ( Egypt), The filmmaker Viola Shafik (Egypt), the
novelist Lila Hourani (Palestine), Habib Bel Hedi (Tunis), Philip Dietachmair (the program
manager at the (ECF) in Amsterdam, Maria Rudio, Lupe Garcia ( Spain), Marilana  Simitis and Kostas Spiropoulos (Greece) and others.