After making the decision to continue the hunt for the perfect building for our residency project, my ‘business partner’ and I at the very least succeeded in establishing a Turkish LLC. So now it’s official–we have a business marriage.
Having been invited to the Cairo Residency Symposium sponsored by the Dutch Fonds BKVB we were considering ourselves pretty legit. I won’t completely deaden your senses with describing the symposium when I can just abbreviate:
The Dutch and the Swedes have way way too much money and nothing to spend it on in their own countries. Egyptian male artists (and probably males in the general population) are extremely arrogant. There are organizations in the Caucasus and sub-Saharan Africa who are doling amazingly creative and inspiring things with little money or support. If I hear the words “intercultural” or “mobility” one more time I will gouge out my eardrums. But it was engaging and informative and we learned a lot.
The symposium was hosted by the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, which is from the outsider’s view, quite impressive. Founded by an American 20 or so years ago, it is an enormous art space which has insinuated itself into the local landscape of auto repair shops and shishe cafes. Used to a steady parade of foreigners by now, the neighborhood has embraced the profit that can be made with this arrangement, and now participate to some extent in the Townhouse projects. But there will always be naysayers–and when we were in Alexandria we found some. But their jealousy was transparent so we didn’t give their arguments much weight.
In any event, the entertainment provided at the symposium was top-notch. The first night featured a fancy catered garden party on the tidy lawn of the Dutch Embassy, which offered a little ordered oasis in the midst of a filthy and chaotic city. The following evening they packed us into a brick trash-compacter of a building where we were treated to a show of traditional zar music, which was tremendous. There we ate homemade Egyptian food, which seems like a blend of Ethiopian and Indian and Mediterranean. I hadn’t considered the cuisine of Egypt before setting out, as I was too focused on what I had to do in Istanbul to be able to research or plan anything.
The close of the symposium welcomed a complete drunken rager at the residence of Egypt’s Spanish cultural attache. This man is renowned for his parties and this time he didn’t disappoint. The headlining entertainment was an ex-Cirque du Soleil artist who arrived dressed in stilettos and wearing a prostitute’s burqa, and ended in a Dance of the Seven Veils that would put a woman to shame. Though he completely freaked out the Egyptians, the foreigners were seduced. He was a beautiful mover and knew it. By the wee hours he had charmed several macho men to dance the tango with him. Drunkenly weaving our way to the hotel in an international bunch, as the sun rose over Cairo, I was struck by the thought that the Dutch could spend their money on me anytime.