Egypt's Living Heritage: Community Engagement in Re-Creating the Past

Lead Research Organisation: University of Kent
Department Name: Sch of English

Abstract

'Egypt's Living Heritage: Community Engagement in Re-Creating the Past' explores and promotes the engagement of local communities with their heritage through the deployment of the arts as particularly effective in the transmission of the values and meanings that intangibly inhere in tangible artifacts, architecture and environments. It selects as its case study the area of Historic Cairo, in tandem with the Urban Regeneration project for Historic Cairo (launched by UNESCO-WHC in 2010), in order to address the interface between past and present in multi-dimensional ways. The intellectual research is motivated by questions of what of the past continues in the present and of how the living transmission of the past is effected, as will be explored through workshops bringing together UK and Egyptian scholars and arts practitioners and through the screening of documentaries pertinent to this enquiry. Building on this basis, research by practice will involve communities in the curating of their own artisanal and creative products, together with the cultural memories and legacies attendant on these, through both oral history and specialist ateliers. Conventional approaches will be combined with more experimental methods as the working communities of Historic Cairo and contemporary visual artists, musicians and writers from Egypt and the UK will be brought together in order to create a forum for the sharing of skills and ideas towards, in the first instance, an exhibition, with the further aim of generating new forms of entrepreneurship leading to increased revenue opportunities. In addition, the psycho-geography of Cairo will be explored through the analysis of dreams in relation to Egyptian myths, folk tales and literature as will be disseminated through a short film. The project will serve to realize connections between the traditional and contemporary, between the popular culture of the past and the popular and youth cultures of the present, and between Egyptian cultural heritage and international recipients, with outputs including publications and an insiders' heritage map. In the process of this range of activities, new cultural, social and intellectual networks will be formed towards the establishment of a new research centre and the ongoing preservation of heritage through community engagement.

Planned Impact

It will be of benefit to:
a) the communities engaged with in Historic Cairo. They will be involved in curating their own contributions to cultural heritage through oral history projects and through invited contributions to the planned exhibition. In being introduced to contemporary artists in different fields (visual art, photography, film, music and performance), they will receive opportunities to acquire new skills and new ideas in re-creating the past and in appealing to audiences. This will be of social benefit, mitigating against social alienation, and of economic benefit as the collaborative projects and knowledge transfer will lead to increased revenue opportunities.
b) policy-makers in the field of heritage preservation. The research by practice aims to bring community participants together with contemporary artists in an unprecedented way. Traditional practices and the contemporary arts tend to operate in distinct spheres and this venture will serve to establish new ways in which the preservation of heritage may be conducted, particularly with respect to intangible heritage. Community engagement will be a means of extending the responsibility of preserving heritage.
c) Egyptian citizens and tourists, both local and international. Through the exhibition and insiders' heritage map, awareness of both intangible and tangible heritage will be promoted. This will in turn promote wider citizen ownership of cultural heritage as well as cultural tourism amongst those interested in not only Ancient Egypt but contemporary Egypt, in particular on the part of young, adventurous tourists.
d) Egyptian musicians and artists. There will be opportunities for international curators and audiences to gain greater awareness of modern and contemporary arts in Egypt which will help promote these arts on an international stage. Egypt is under-represented on this stage, as regards international engagement with the MENA region, and Egyptian art and music markets could benefit economically through greater dissemination and wider publicity.
e) Curators of Egyptian arts and crafts, both in Egypt and the UK, especially in that dialogue will be created between curators and communities around the socio-cultural values and meanings inherent in specific arts and crafts. In the UK, contact will be made with the British Museum regarding its new initiative on curating modern Egypt.
f) The education sector. Materials will be produced that could be used on courses in the field of cultural heritage where a greater understanding of intangible heritage in terms of 'the living past' could be used to inform many other projects.
g) Psychotherapists interested in developing culturally grounded forms of psycho-affective analysis.
 
Title A Cultural Map of El Moez Street 
Description The map shows images of the main sites of interest in El Moez Street with descriptions of their significance. It is in Arabic for Egyptian users, while an English translation is being prepared for tourists. It may serve as the basis of an app. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities has adopted the map for use and has requested further work on similar cultural heritage maps for other areas of Cairo. 
 
Title Art Exhibition, Beit El Sinaari, Cairo 
Description A public exhibition was mounted to display artworks produced by young Egyptian artists as a direct response to our project theme: Egypt's Living Heritage. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact There is interest in creating a further exhibition along the same lines. P21 Gallery in London is keen to host such an exhibition if it can be organised. 
 
Title Musical Heritage Concert, Makan, Cairo 
Description The concert brought together a range of musicians from Cairo and the Oxford Maqam band from the UK to showcase Egypt's musical heritage (classical, folk and popular) from the Nahda period onwards. The venue was packed out for a 4 hour event. 
Type Of Art Performance (Music, Dance, Drama, etc) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The collaboration proved illuminating for the musicians involved in it. For example, Egyptian singers learnt a new style from Oxford Maqam on the basis of Oxford Maqam's historical research that has uncovered techniques from the study of wax cylinder recordings. In a more intangible way, it was an educative and inspiring experience for the audience, some of whom were writers and artists. 
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QezEVAm8CQohttps://www.facebook.com/events/384093655293723/
 
Title Naguib Mahfouz Walking Tour 
Description This is cultural map of places of significance to the writer Naguib Mahfouz. 
Type Of Art Artefact (including digital) 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact The local bookstore in El Moez Street wishes to stock the map, and tour guides have shown enthusiastic interest in it. 
 
Title Soundtrack for doucumentary 
Description I worked with Egyptian musicians from Oxford Maqam to create a soundtrack for England Times Palestine. 
Type Of Art Composition/Score 
Year Produced 2017 
Impact So far, the film has been screened at the Institute for Islamic Studies at McGill (Montreal), and the audience commended the soundtrack for its original renditions of classical songs. 
 
Description The workshops and ateliers on documentary film and on literature have demonstrated how Egyptian filmmakers and writers engage with the notion of 'the living past' in terms of the transmission of widely shared continuous cultural values. There will be two further workshops on visual art and music to develop this work, alongside a concert and two exhibitions. This material will lead to a book offering new perspectives on intangible heritage and popular/ folk culture. Discussions have focussed on the inadequate translation of Egyptian terms for what is at stake towards a clearer concept of 'living heritage' as interpreted across the arts. A new module is being developed from this material to contribute to the MA in Cultural Heritage at the French University of Egypt in that 'the living heritage' angle is considered to be a methodological innovation. In addition, there have been debates on how universities might draw more widely on the resources of documentaries in the teaching of socio-cultural history.

The sessions on dream interpretation served to bring together Arab and European approaches to such. In particular, they entailed drawing on dream interpretation exercises used by the London Freud Museum to engage with the public followed up by visits to the shrine of Ibn Sirin (the foremost dream interpreter in Egypt, and mentioned by Freud in his The Interpretation of Dreams) in order to make contact with the keeper of the shrine, Sheik Moustafa. Following on from this, two dream interpretation gatherings were convened with Sheik Moustafa and members of the UK-Egypt team, the second of these at an El Moez Street location enabling the participation of local workers (shop-keepers and cleaners) and local students. The sharing of dreams across divides of class, nationality, gender and age proved to be an illuminating process, as an article in progress will explain. Amongst other findings, it generated a sense of community and thus it has been proposed to offer a new scope for the oral history side of the project. That is, it is envisaged that inhabitants of the area may be willing to share their dreams of it as well as memories of it.

Community engagement has been effected by means of the above workshops, through documentary screenings at an El Moez Street venue and through the oral history project. In addition, memorabilia exhibits have been collected from people in the area towards an upcoming exhibition, and two cultural maps have been produced: one on the landmark buildings of the area and one around the life and writings of Naguib Mahfouz (Egyptian's most important writer who grew up in the alleyways off El Moez Street). There have been skills workshops conducted on photography and curation, with an upcoming one on re-performing music from the past. These activities have entailed collaboration between UK and Egyptian researchers, artists and curators.
Exploitation Route The research findings will taken forward in the programmes of those involved in it, as discussed above. Graduate students are interested in doing further work in the area of the grant and the research is seen as offering new approaches to cultural heritage that can be taught to others. The findings are also being taken forward and used in ways covered by the impact narrative below. The work is also of significance to those interested in curating modern memorabilia as the exhibition of such will show.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

 
Description The cultural map of the area is of interest to the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities which has adopted it, and this map together with the literary Naguib Mahfouz map are of use to tour guides who are keen to adopt them. El Moez Street's main bookshop has agreed to stock the maps. At the moment the maps are in Arabic and aimed initially at Egyptian cultural visitors to the area, while English translations are being prepared for the tourist market. The art exhibition showing new works of how artists interpret the 'living heritage' theme will initially be in El Moez Street, while the Egyptian Educational and Cultural Bureau in London have agreed to host the exhibition in the future as means of promoting the work internationally. Collaboration has taken place between the ICA's Masafat Festival and Egypt's Living Heritage through an exchange of public talks, and this may lead to further collaborative ventures involving Egyptian contemporary artists. Connection has also been made with Oxford Maqam's wax cylinder recording project as a means of pooling expertise on musical heritage and the material conditions of its transmission. We are also working with the Governor of Cairo towards the establishment of a Naguib Mahfouz Centre, and towards a film of the project to disseminate the living heritage explored. There has been media interest in the project as it has been reported on in several Egyptian newspapers and in Egypt's leading literary journal. The project is seen as making a contribution to the regeneration of El Moez Street through new community-based interpretations of literary heritage of interest to the general public.
Sector Creative Economy,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal

 
Description Citation on 'Social Mobility and the Arts' in AHRC Review
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
 
Description Policy Late Creative Arts Event (PaCCS)
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Membership of a guideline committee
 
Description Presentation on the Arts and Social Mobility towards an AHRC policy document on UK policy priorities and how the arts and humanities can help to address these
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description Masafat Festival, London and Cairo 
Organisation Institute of Contemporary Arts
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The PI collaborated on the curation of the Masafat Festival with Matt Williams, suggesting potential contemporary Arab artists for it. As a film-maker, she also took part in a Festival session at the ICA on the filming of Arab urban landscapes.
Collaborator Contribution Matt Williams from the ICA gave talks on the Masafat Festival at two Egypt's Living Heritage workshops.
Impact We are in consultation with the ICA over an arts exhibition we are mounting in Cairo which may transfer to London.
Start Year 2016
 
Description AHRC TV Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event brought together grant researchers and television professionals to explore potential future collaborations.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Akhbar Al Adab feature on Egypt's Living Heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The journal Akhbar Al Adab featured an account of the 'Egypt's Living Heritage' project, together with photographs from its workshop on literary sources, in its March 2017 edition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Al Qahira report on 'Egypt's Living Heritage' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The 21 February 2017 edition of Al Qahira carried a half page report on the literary workshop of Egypt's Living Heritage
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Art and Heritage Workshop, Cairo 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event brought leading Egyptian artists and younger artists together to discuss the notion of how 'the living past' was important in their work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Cultural Heritage Atelier 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact Cultural heritage experts delivered talks on the El Moez Street area and on museums based on famous people. Project partner Fekri Hassan conducted a cultural tour based on the new Naguib Mahfouz map of the area. A professional tour guide and local bookshop owner attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Dream Interpretation in Cairo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Two sessions were organised on dream interpretation bringing together the Egypt's Living Heritage team with local residents and two Sheiks who are experts on the Ibn Sirin tradition of dream interpretation. The sessions of approximately 3 hours each brought together people from very different backgrounds to explore how dream interpretation serves to create communication across social divides. One member of the Egypt's Living Heritage oral history team will use the methodology in her future work.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Egypt's Cultural Heritage workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact I acted as academic lead on 'community engagement' at this RCUK STDF event in Cairo. The audience included Archeologists, Museum Curators and Egyptologists, and it served as the springboard for a grant call to fund projects on the preservation of Egypt's cultural heritage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Exiled in Language Workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event was convened by a psychotherapy study group to bring together psychotherapeutic practitioners and poets to explore how socio-political displacement is articulated in different uses of language. I gave a poetry reading at this event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Invited lecture (Brussels School of International Studies) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The lecture offered a critique of the use of Arendt in readings of the Arab Spring to an audience of postgraduate students and lecturers. It has initiated on going exchanges between myself and some of those who attended. It brought an Arts perspective to International Studies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Je suis le reve/ I am the dream 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Patients, carers and/or patient groups
Results and Impact A talk at the Freud Museum on the topic of collective dreaming in relation to the Egyptian revolution to an audience primarily consisting of psychoanalysts, particularly from France.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.freud.org.uk/events/76330/je-suis-le-reve-i-am-the-dream/
 
Description Literature and Living Cultural Heritage 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The role of literature in the transmission of cultural heritage was debated by leading Egyptian writers and Egyptologists, together with the firmer minister of Culture, and the event was reported on in Al Qahira newspaper and in the prominent cultural journal Akhbar El Adab. It served to generate interest in future planned developments concerning using literature to promote cultural heritage awareness.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Moving Images and Community Engagement, Cultnat Screenings 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The event consisted of screening contemporary Egyptian and British documentaries on popular heritage and community engagement to an audience connected with the regeneration of El Moez Street in Cairo. It served to foster a sense of local communal ownership of cultural heritage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Moving Images, Cairo 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event consisted of a series of presentations and discussions on the ways in which Egyptian documentary films serve to record modern and contemporary cultural heritage. Attended by university policy makers, film makers, the media and graduate students, it issued in a decision to incorporate the study of documentary film into courses on Egyptian cultural heritage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Musical Heritage Workshop, Makan, Cairo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact The event primarily brought together musicians from the UK, Europe and Egypt to share expertise on how they were working with musical heritage. It was held at Makan, Cairo's leading venue for musical heritage and we were able to view videos from the Makan archive. It was followed by a public concert involving the musicians present.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Newspaper covering of Moving Images event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The Egyptian newspaper Al Masry Al Youm reported on the PI's visit to Cairo to explore the role of documentary film in preserving and communicating cultural heritage. British readers picked up on the article and requested further information. Al Ahram newspaper also carried a report of the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description PaCCS Policy Late Event 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Approximately 40 colleagues attended this event on increasing impact through creative collaboration.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
 
Description Re-Imagining the Urban in Arab Film 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A talk by 3 contemporary film-makers on the ways of representing Arab urban landscapes in their work was followed by a Q&A with the audience. The audience, including artists, discussed the social and aesthetic significance of the new approaches presented to them.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL http://masafat.thirtythreethirtythree.com
 
Description White Flags Screening at Culnat in Cairo 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact My film was screened to explore community engagement through the arts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016