Fighting Extremism With Arts

Troupe ‘confronts’ extremism, ‘roams’ Egypt
Audience attending a show by the Confrontation and Roaming Theater troupe held in Halayb town, Red Sea Governorate. Photo Credit: Mohamed El-Sharkawy, the Director
People attending a show by the Confrontation and Roaming Theater troupe in Beheira Governorate, in the northern part of the country in the Nile Delta. Photo Credit: Mohamed El-Sharkawy, the Director
A crowd gathers to watch a show by the Confrontation and Roaming Theater troupe in a village in Fayoum governorate, 130 km south west of Cairo. Photo Credit: Mohamed El-Sharkawy, the Director
A crowd attending a show by the Confrontation and Roaming Theater troupe held in a village of Qena Governorate in Upper Egypt. Photo Credit: Mohamed El-Sharkawy, the Director
Children are interacting happily at a show by the Confrontation and Roaming Theater troupe held in a village in Beheira Governorate, in the northern part of the country in the Nile Delta. Photo Credit: Mohamed El-Sharkawy, the Director

An Egyptian theatrical troupe was established in 2018 to tour the country and to correct wrong perceptions and dispel harmful thinking.

The “Confrontation and Roaming Theater” is affiliated with the Culture Ministry’s Artistic House of Theater, which produces the shows.

“We want to achieve cultural justice among Egyptians and combat all ideas of extremism and terrorism,” Mohamed El-Sharkawy, Director of Confrontation and Roaming Theater, told the Majalla.

“Terrorism does not mean those who carry weapons and frighten people, it means also bullying and violent behaviors,” he added.

El-Sharkawy said that the troupe has performed over 350 shows to date outside of the Egyptian capital, including the villages covered by the Haya Karima “Decent Life” presidential initiative.

Haya Karima is an initiative endorsed by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in 2019, with the aim of upgrading the quality of life in the impoverished rural communities within the framework of the Sustainable Development Strategy: Egypt Vision 2030, through decreasing multidimensional poverty and unemployment rates.

El-Sharkawy is also a Member of the Youth and Decent Life Committees at the Ministry of Culture.

He added that these efforts came in cooperation with a number of ministries such as Youth and Sports, Social Solidarity, and the Interior.

He added that in coordination with the non-governmental organizations, they reach the rural areas and hold performances for its people.

SELECTING TOPICS

Before the troupe prepares to go to an area, the members select the topics of their shows according to the nature of the place and its problems.

“When we go to Upper Egyptian rural and underprivileged areas, for example, we hold shows about the overpopulation problem in addition to women’s rights of inheritance, because Upper Egypt still has cultural norms and traditions that are ingrained with sexism,” he explained.

“We also shed light on the sectarian strife in some Upper Egyptian towns like El-Minya,” he said.

Children have the right to be entertained as well, he said.

“In towns that have big numbers of children we please them by performing the famous Egyptian puppet operetta “El-Leila El-Kebeira” (The Big Night), which dazzles the children and their families alike,” he added. The play was written by poet Salah Jahin and composed by musician Sayed Mekawy in the 1960s. The 40-minute show combines Egyptian folklore in a funny depiction of the moulid by showcasing the activities done in an Egyptian village.

El-Sharkawy added that in areas that overlook the Mediterranean Sea, the troupe performs shows related to the danger of illegal immigration.

“For the areas that are located on borders, we present shows focusing on army sacrifices and heroism,” he added.

VENUES

El-Sharkawy said that most of Egypt’s big theaters are located in downtown Cairo compared to those located in other governorates.

 “So we want to reach all Egyptians, even those living in rural and underprivileged areas,” he said, adding that the crew numbers about 1000 persons, of the 400 artists and 200 workers.

“We perform the shows either in theaters, youth centers, schoolyards, or any open-air area we can turn into a cultural venue,” he said, adding that the shows are free.

El-Sharkawy said that the shows provide a golden opportunity to people in addition to entertaining them and raising their awareness about certain issues.

“At the shows, the residents of any town have the opportunity to meet their governor, who attends the shows, and ask him freely about their needs,” he said.

El-Sharkawy and his team are delighted by the reactions of people after they attend the shows.

“One of the comments that touched me the most was that of an old woman in an area in the Upper Egyptian governorate of Qena. After we finished the show and removed the decor and lighting equipment, she said ‘No don’t leave. Leave the light here.’”

By her humble words, she summarizes our mission “Culture lightens Life.”


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