Arts & Democracy Project Update

March 2011
Greetings from the Arts & Democracy Project!

Our most recent nation-wide conference call was focused on the role of arts and culture in the extraordinary pro-democracy movements sweeping across North Africa and the Middle East.  The call highlighted how artists, art spaces and cultural organizers in the region and in the U.S. are participating, and how more cultural workers can engage in positive ways. The following is a list of projects, events and resources that provide opportunities to dig deeper into the topic. 

The conference call and resources listed here were co-curated by the Andrea Assaf of Art2Action and Todd Lester of freeDimensional along with the Arts & Democracy Project.

Pro-Democracy Organizing in and with the Middle East & North Africa


"In case we ever thought the arts and politics are separated or that one can operate without the other - we are now completely thrust into engagement in the fullest sense." Khaled Mattawa

drawing by nidal el khairy
drawing by Nidal el Khairy


In the region  

El Mastaba Center for Egyptian Folk Music  

El Mastaba played an active role in the Egyptian Revolution, bringing the groups under its umbrella to Tahrir Square to share their music in five evening concerts on the stages built in the square. See parts of El Tanboura's concert in Tahrir Square.


"At El Mastaba we believe that folk music is the soul of a nation and a transparent reflection of its identity and therefore we continue our journey and our revolution through our music."


Makan House 

An independent dynamic space for contemporary art in Amman, Jordan has opened its doors in response to the electrifying historical days in the region, inviting people to meet, chat, collaborate and make artwork.


April 6 Youth Movement on Facebook 

Begun in 2008, this Facebook group started as a page in support of a planned textile workers' strike in the city of Mahalla al-Kobra and gained momentum as the protests escalated into a nationwide strike.


In the U.S.


Arab Resource & Organizing Center (AROC)

Sponsor of events, protests, and cultural dialogues in the San Francisco Bay Area.


Alwan for the Arts 

Alwan advances Arab arts and culture by presenting a wide range of public performances and events in New York City.




(HE)ART of the Revolution 

An online exhibit displaying art from around the world in support of the recent uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East.


Women of the Egyptian Revolution 

A photographic homage to the women fighting on the streets of Egypt, to those whose voices and faces were hidden from the public eye during the first days of the revolution.





Fabulous February of Freedom  

guest blog by conference call presenter Dalia Basiouny


Rising to shake off the fear in Libya  

article by conference call presenter Khaled Mattawa 


Uprising in Tunisia -a political act of self-immolation 


Revolution in the head and on the page: Writers are waking up to a new dawn across the Arab world 


What's happening in the Middle East: the seeds of revolution 


How to build international solidarity between activists in the US and those in Iran 


As always, we're proud to highlight the great work in this field to support and cross-pollinate an extraordinary network of artists, cultural workers, policymakers, educators, and activists.  Please be in touch, and let us know what you think!
All our best,

Amalia, Caron, Kathie, Jason, Javiera, Lena, and Yolanda
Arts & Democracy Project

Image Credits

Nidal el Khairy (protest drawing - main image)

Coleen AF Venable (podcast image) 

In This Issue
Projects & Readings
Conference Call Audio
Relevant Events
podcast image
Featuring presentations from:
- Dahlia Basiouny (Egypt), writer and theater artist 
- Khaled Mattawa (Michigan/Libya), poet and professor
- Ahmed Issawi (NYC/Egypt) of Alwan for the Arts (NYC/Egypt).

Continue the conversation

The International Coalition for Arts, Human Rights & Social Justice site offers a space for discussion and comment to follow up on issues and ideas raised during the call.



Relevant Events
Diwan Forum


DIWAN: A Forum for the Arts 

March 25-26  


This weekend dialogue, organized by the Arab American National Museum & Alwan for the Arts, brings together Arab American artists, scholars and performers representing myriad academic fields and artistic genres.It encourages audiences to explore the boundaries of art in addressing social issues related to Arab Americans and the community at large.


April Ful Night

April 1, 6-9 pm 

Oakland, CA

The Oakland Museum convenes a communal meal inspired by Egypt's national dish, ful, to gather to exchange feelings and ideas on the spirit of liberation.

Organized by Citizens Laboratory with the Middle East Children's Alliance, Zambaleta, artists and curators.

Eleven Reflections on September 

April 21-May 1

Minneapolis, MN 

Pangea World Theater
A poetry-based, multi-media performance on the ten years since 9/11, with associated events on revolutions in North Africa / Middle East, and more.

In Memoriam
Ahmed Bassiouny


Ahmed Bassiouni died on January 28, the fourth day of major anti-government demonstrations in the current Egyptian uprising.  Born in Cairo in 1978, Bassiouni was a sound and visual artist, musician, and teaching assistant in the faculty of Art Education, Painting and Drawing at Helwan University. 


Songs for Bassiouni 

Radio program dedicated to Egyptian artist and musician Ahmed Bassiouni 


Egypt/Tunisia Poster

 Poster available  

 from Dignidad Rebelde

 "Victory will be attained by    

 the peoples who struggle  

 for their liberation"


Who We Are:

The Arts & Democracy Project
builds the momentum of a cultural movement that draws on a rich history of arts activism, social justice organizing, and grassroots engagement. Arts & Democracy is a sponsored project of State Voices.

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