Cairo’s new creativity

March 7, 2011 1 comment

Nawara Belal is involved in various community projects in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, including the Rising Voices Exploring Taboos project. She also writes and is playing a prominent part in Cairo’s exploding post-revolution cultural scene.

Nawara and I first started talking about this interview back in January, but events in Egypt took over and we had to postpone it for a while. A lot has changed since then. Here’s Nawara’s take on blogging, feminism, Egyptian literature and how life has changed in the past few weeks.

Whereabouts in Egypt do you live? Could you tell us a little bit about it?

I live in Cairo, the capitol. Cairo is the heart of Egypt, that’s where you will find most of the cultural events, protests, parliament and center of the rule and economics and the dream of every Egyptian.

You’ve describe yourself as a feminist. What does that mean to you? And what does it mean to be a feminist in Egypt?

I do consider myself as a feminist, in the sense that I believe that as a woman I have an identity relating to my gender, an identity that I need to preserve, fight for, and conquer with it the patriarchy practised on me.

In Egypt, if I’m going to talk about feminism, I will have to talk about pre and post 25th of January. Pre the 25th of January, being a feminist was more like going against the norm, being liberal in every sense and aspect – even those you are not liberal about. I was considered someone who does not conform, and I’m fine with that, but I was not fine with being labeled what I am not.

Post the 25th of January, being a feminist means, being a woman who fought in the revolution along the sides of men and not being scared and not treated as a second citizen and having a chance to voice an identity that is not particularly demeaned.

Whereabouts in Egypt do you live? Could you tell us a little bit about it?

I live in Cairo, the capitol. Cairo is the heart of Egypt, that’s where you will find most of the cultural events, protests, parliament and center of the rule and economics and the dream of every Egyptian.

Why do you blog?

I blog because I have an urge to voice myself, to shout out in a space even a vacuum one where I know I’m free to express myself either non-fictionally or fictionally who I feel about myself as a woman, and how I conform or not to my society and how my sexuality is being expressed and dealt with.

On your blog, some posts are in Arabic and some are in English… Why do you write in English and how do you choose which language to write a post in?

I write in English because I consider myself bilingual and sometimes I want to channel my words to a larger audience or foreign friends. At the same time I sometimes feel that I know the feeling more in a certain language concerning the linguistics of it, or the proverbs, or the ease of talking with a tongue less of me that it wouldn’t affect me as much as writing it in Arabic.

What is your dream for your life?

To win the Booker Prize for the unique writing of a discourse analysis on the MENA feminist Dialogue ☺

Regarding other Egyptian writers, Alaa El Aswany and Naguib Mahfouz are some of the most popular ones outside Egypt. Are these authors popular in Egypt too?

Well I can tell you that authors like El Aswany and Mahfouz are famous in Egypt as well as outside. Considering other writers there are lots of writers who are famous in the Arab region and are also famous in Egypt, I just don’t have names in mind at the moment, but you might consider Bahaa Taher, or Youssef Idress, for example. There is also Sahar El Mougy, Son Allah Ibrahim and Samar Ali.

What is the most common stereotype about Egypt from foreigners?

That we live in tents by the Pyramids and ride camels.

How has life changed for you since the revolution?

Generally, I feel more patriotic and have more faith in the power of the people and more trust in my abilities being met with fair chances. As a feminist, I feel that I myself have the power to be. To live to be an be artist that can actually be an artist: heard and seen and appreciated and believed in. I believe that I can walk tall and protect my feminist identity in terms of sexuality and gender rights.

What do you want the rest of the world to know about Egypt?

It is also related to the 25th Revolution. The world must know that we are not as weak or humble as people might think. The Egypt of today is strong and determined as never before.

***

Nawara writes a mixture of fiction and non-fiction on her blog Nooning.

Thanks to Eddie Avila of Rising Voices for organising this interview.

About the author

Lucy (Liz) Chatburn
Lucy is English and first ventured out of the UK she was 19. Since then she has lived in 4 different countries and tried to see as much of the world as possible. She loves learning languages, learning about different cultures and hearing different points of view.
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1 Comment

  • It’s been a pleasure working with you on this interview Nawara – thanks again. Wish you all the best in reaching your dream!