Egyptian Artists Band Together to Demand a Voice in the Formation of the Country's New Constitution

Egyptian Artists Band Together to Demand a Voice in the Formation of the Country's New Constitution
Egyptian filmmaker Khaled Youssef

A loose coalition calling themselves the Front for Creativity has denounced the criteria established last week for the formation of Egypt's new Constituent Assembly as insufficiently representing the country's cultural and intellectual interests. At a meeting on Saturday at the Trade Unions Club, Front members lamented the near-monopoly held by the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafist Nour Party on the assembly that would produce Egypt's new constitution, arguing that the writers and artists who contributed to the protest movement in Tahrir Square that led to the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak's government deserved a seat at the policy table. "Today," reads a statement released to the literary organization PEN International, "writers, literary figures, poets and artists of this nation were at the forefront of the Egyptian society that addressed the system of tyranny, and corruption of the former regime."

As Egypt struggles to maintain political stability and form a new government, many have struggled to hear the demands made by the Front for Creativity in an optimistic light. Signs of a grave rift between the cultural and political establishments were already visible this past spring, when when officials at Cairo's well-regarded art center El Sawy Culture Wheel interrupted the 7th Monodrama Festival after deciding that one performance art piece was "insulting religion." In March, the Front openly criticized the cancellation of a screening of the Iranian film "A Separation" at Cairo University, which Islamist students described as inappropriately sympathetic to Shiite Muslim and secular ideas. "We find it useless and energy consuming talking about the role of cinema in enlightening the people," the Front told the news site Ahram, citing such classic films as "Al Ard" ("The Land," 1969) and "El Naser Salah el Dine" (1963) as vital expressions of patriotism and social justice in Egypt. 

While the Front for Creativity has no published membership, the filmmaker Khaled Youssef was among the attendants at Saturday's two-hour conference. Celebrated for his brash camera style with nods to cinema verité, Youssef was nominated for a Golden Lion at the 2007 Venice Film Festival for his film "Heya fawda" ("Chaos, This Is"). The 47-year-old filmmaker made headlines earlier this week when he announced that he had broken professional and personal ties to the accomplished actress Ghada Abdel Razek because of her support for Mubarak during the 2011 revolution.