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At Bayt al-Sinnari: Art of connecting past and present

Sanaa’ Farouk Mervat Ayad

04 Sep 2016 9:13 pm

The Egyptian proverb goes: Min fat adimoh tah, literally whoever forsakes his past is lost. The saying best expresses the need to preserve and cherish heritage as no mere thing of the past but as a foundation on which today is built and set to thrive. What better title then to use for an event that seeks to promote traditional handcrafts, many of which are rooted in ancient times? The Bibliotheca Alexandrina (BA) did just that; it picked it to denote the annual crafts exhibition it holds to support and showcase traditional handcrafts that are now threatened since they are being steadily driven out of the market by similar modern, cheaper machine-made goods.

This year’s Min fat adimoh tah is the 6th round of the annual festival, and is running from 1 – 8 September at the BA’s Cairo venue of Bayt al-Sinnari, an 18th-century house in the Islamic quarter of Cairo. With its open courtyards, wide rooms and halls, and shady passageways, the stone house of Bayt al-Sinnari is a splendid sample of Islamic architecture, and is now used as a cultural outlet by the BA.

The festival aims to present the efforts of various Egyptian provinces in preserving their heritage and traditional crafts, which is a means of preserving the national Egyptian identity. The Min fat adimoh tah Festival is one of the most important traditional crafts festivals in the Middle East. It is also looked upon as a highly ranking, prestigious event in the field; it promotes threatened handcrafts in Egypt and promotes innovation in traditional crafts through hosting young artists whose works display new ideas of old traditions with a modern twists.

This year’s festival presents numerous traditional crafts such as brass working, textile weaving, pottery making, and stone engraving, all of which go back to ancient Egypt. It also features lectures and exhibitions, activities, events, and workshops on the various handcrafts. The workshops aim to teach younger generations the history of these crafts, connecting the crafts to their ancient past, and introducing them to the tools and equipment that Egyptians used in their daily lives throughout earlier historical periods.
A large number of craftsmen from various Egyptian regions are displaying their works in this year’s festival. The General Organisation for Cultural Palaces and the General Authority For Tourism Development (The Fustat Traditional Crafts Center) are also taking part in the event.
In addition to the focus on Egyptian traditional crafts, the festival has this year hosted Fareed al-Ali, Chairman of the Kuwait Islamic Arts Center, who talked about Kuwait’s efforts at preserving its Islamic heritage arts.

The festival features a number of traditional music and song shows by Egyptian bands. Among these bands are al-Awella Baladi (First is Folkloric), a band formed in 2012 with the express purpose of carrying on the tradition of classic folk singing to the accompaniment of an oriental takht (band) that uses traditional musical instruments. There is also Sohba (Friends) band which performs the renowned and widely popular simsimiya dance for which the people of the east Mediterranean coast of Egypt are famous.

Watani International
4 September 2016

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