A Dead Belly Dancer Attends an Art Exhibition

By Yasmine El Dorghamy

Rebelling against the system, Yasmine El Dorghamy signs her name as belly dancer Bamba Kashar on her way into the Museum of Modern Art when it reopened after 10 years of closure in November 2020. In a country where art and culture are ingrained in people, the sector has struggled in Egypt over the past decade- and as Covid-19 lockdown began to take over the world, the cultural scene in Egypt came to halt in March 2020. Some artists used this time to revisit old ideas and projects- to slow down from a frenzied lifestyle. But soon, it became obvious that the lockdown would continue and sales from art galleries online surged as people turned to online shopping.

Pandemic or not, the art ecosystem in Egypt is not a healthy one. Artists are finding their work forcibly caught between commodification, to make it in the art market, and necessary self-censorship to avoid problems with the government’s tightly guarded institutions. To make a living, they must either pander to the bureaucratic machine or to socialites guided by their interior decorators. In both cases their art needs to be inoffensive, unprovocative, and safe.

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