interviews

09.03.11

Artist Voices - Voices from the Middle East

Two young artists give contrasting views of how the current political events are affecting their practice

"I watched it all unfold from here. Glued to every portal and news channel. I watched the people running, swathed in clouds of teargas, to secure Tahrir Square. And then I watched as they built a glimpse of the Egypt they hoped for within it. With pride, unity, intelligence and humour they reclaimed their country. The essence of what they were fighting for, distilled into the action of one moment. It was an inspiration to watch, one which belongs to everyone. One which will stay with me, and inform the way I write about a country which I feel closer to now than ever before."

Abla El-Sharnouby, Egypt

The ordinary emergency response

"Socio-political unrest in Lebanon is "Normal". what I mean by "Normal" is that we never have more than a couple of months without a political crisis, social tensions, protests, and more often than not armed conflicts; whether between communities or with our neighbouring countries. It has been like this in Lebanon…forever.

The cultural sector has to deal with this situation on a daily basis. That's what makes our job difficult but also exciting and challenging. You have to be prepared all the time, come up with quick responses to the constant changes and tensions, and most important try to never lose your vision knowing that if you dare to plan ahead, things will never go as you initially wanted them to.

The unrest in the region also triggers a greater will to voice the frustrations and realities we have to deal with. So I guess, before long, we will see a series of works and productions expressing whatever we are currently going through. At times nothing is going well that's when you really feel the urgent need to create, to express, to inspire people around you, to escape the reality...but that's also when you need to be innovative, to find ways to make yourself heard when nobody is really listening.

I suppose in terms of cultural response whether at the national or regional levels there is always a reaction that leads to more creativity; knowing that our daily work is influenced by a constantly changing –and very violent- environment. But I really wonder when we will be able to choose leaders who won’t be fighting over power but working for the people and allowing our nations to grow. What is happening throughout the region gives us hope. Hope that maybe things can be different…"

Lea Chikhani, Beirut

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