Panel 5

” Between Remembering and Forgetting: Artistic Practices of Post-Revolutions”

(All informations below are from the website of the Scuola Normale Superiore)

Date and time: Thursday 1st December 2022 | 12:00 – 13:30 PM

Room: Simone del Pollaiolo

1.) Discussant: Sophie Chamas – Centre for Gender Studies, SOAS, University of London

2.)” Revolution’s Field Notes: On the Sudanese revolution and its micro dynamics”

Wini Omer – Farida Feminist Magazin

On my last visit to Southern Kordofan, while I was lounging in the centre of the city, Kadugli, I noticed graffiti on a wall near the market. The drawings are portraits of Al-Faki Ali Al-Mirawi, Youssef Koha, Ali Abdel-Latif, and other features bearing the face of John Garang. Those are political leaders linked to the long struggle of the Nuba people against historical cultural and political oppression. These graffiti act as political statements. The previous regime of the Islamist had always worked to exile and separate the people of the Nuba Mountains from it.

This was a very inspiring moment for me, a moment in which I understood how the revolution has liberated people to reclaim their collective memory and histories. It also reflects the aesthetics of the revolution, where being used to restore the sense of collective identities, that have been marginalized. December revolution introduced graffiti as part of the daily life. political statements in every corner, for people to reclaim their own narratives.
The major transformations in the public sphere during and following the first phase of the Sudanese revolution (December 2018- April 2019) and the second phase of the revolution (October 2021- up to date), can be traced in many different levels.

This ethnographic autobiography captures some of the transformations and trends that occurred on the micro-level: the emerging artistic practices, emotions, and collective expressions that appear in different sites as part of/led by the revolution, the changing relationships with the sites of memory; the right to the city and the new political imaginaries that emerged during more of 20 sit-ins organized and led by the local communities to push for their local agenda during 2020 and 2021; the political emotions; songs, poems and music as part of the protests.

The paper aims also at building conceptual frameworks around these practices to better understand them and their transformative nature.

3.) “Narratives of a Genre: Poetry Under Duress”

Reem Hatem Badr – American University in Cairo

Egyptian colloquial poetry has historically been conceived of, by practitioners and onlookers alike, as a politically committed, subversive, resistant practice. Through ethnographic entanglements with the genre’s practitioners and its poems, this paper aims to explore how this poetry struggles to inhabit the realities of post-revolutionary Egypt, marked as it is with the failure of the political as such.

Colloquial poetry in the years following 2013 is marked by duress, I argue. Examining the poets’ narratives of the genre and how they came to be part of it tells of a temporal response to this duress, a stepping out of time, a retreat to the past in the face of an uninhabitable present. This makes for an aging genre, marked by nostalgia, having given up its capacity to change, to move, to act. This temporal retreat, however, necessitates a denial of the poetry that continues to be written, and of whole strands of poetry, particularly commercial ones that have declared themselves personal and apolitical. Looking at these dismissed strands tells of a different retreat, a retreat from the public into the intimate, an abandonment of the political.

This retreat is also never complete. Built on a denial of violence irrevocably witnessed, of the essential publicness of colloquial poetry, this strand of poetry is just as stuck. Rather than temporal stuckedness, its stuckedness is affective, shown in its bizarre valorization of melancholia, nakad, and its derision of other shades of feeling.

Looking at Egyptian colloquial poetry attempts at retreat reflect a wider disillusionment with ‘resistance’, and hints at the ways in which the political is being refused, negotiated, and reconfigured in contemporary Egypt.

4.) “”Stranger making” : Embodied arts practices as new forms of political mobilization in exile Case study of Egyptian artists in Berlin.”

Ophélie Mercier – Ghent University | Centre Marc Bloch

After Abdel Fattah El Sissi came to power in 2013, the strengthening of censorship, new laws on foreign funding, as well as pressure on some cultural organizations have taken their toll on the cultural effervescence that followed the revolutionary momentum initiated in 2011. As a result, many artists are moving outside the national borders, some as a result of pressure from the state, others following opportunities provided by previously established international networks, and others joining a partner settled in Europe. For most, these different aspects are intertwined.

This paper proposes to examine how the imaginaries and subjectivities of Egyptian artists that emerged following their participation in the Egyptian revolutionary event are transformed in the migratory context. Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted during 6 months in Berlin, this paper analyzes the life trajectories of Egyptian artists (re)settled and/or exiled in Berlin as well as their artistic productions. This work shows that the revolutionary experience does not necessarily lead to political mobilisation according to conventional forms, but rather allows for a form of sensitivity and reflexivity towards the experience of exile that finds an echo in decolonial movements and queer activism.

Following Sara Ahmed who considers the process of exploring new representations of the body as the politics of ‘stranger making’, this proposal will show how bodies become foreign, how they become visible and different (Ahmed, 2012). This theoretical framework through a bodily approach allows us to show how Egyptian artists define themselves in this otherness/strangeness in their new context of installation and how this becomes the object of a political and artistic engagement in exile.

This engagement can then take different forms: either through the productions and creations of artistic works that embody these political reflections, or through the places and spaces in which their works are presented or by engaging in collectives mobilized around queer and/or decolonial issues.

These forms of mobilization in exile are not specific to Egyptian artists. They find in these spaces common causes that are the transnational echoes of the revolutionary movements that took place in the SWANA region and more generally in the countries of the Global South. These encounters between intellectuals from the South allow for the creation of connections and forms of politicization through which issues related to labellisation and categorization encountered in Europe are discussed.


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