The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) is Egypt’s only international multi-disciplinary contemporary arts festival that takes place over three weeks in March-April each year, at multiple sites in Downtown Cairo.
Downtown Cairo was once the epicenter of Egypt’s cultural and artistic movements. With breathtaking architecture, wide streets, and an abundance of cultural venues, this area of Cairo has long been witness to the artistic and intellectual development of Egyptian society. In the past century, particularly in the aftermath of January 25th 2011, downtown has been the epicenter of not just an artistic movement, but also a social and political one, calling for, amongst other things, a wider arena for self-expression. With it’s rich history and heritage spaces, downtown is the perfect setting for a festival that aims to make contemporary art relevant and accessible to the public.
While definitions vary, and the terms ‘contemporary’ and ‘modern’ are sometimes used interchangeably, they are not one and the same. Essentially, contemporary art is that produced during our lifetimes, and is characterized by its interactive nature, and its more socially conscious approach to artistic creation in a world which is culturally diverse, technologically connected, and constantly evolving. Contemporary artists use their chosen medium(s) (much contemporary art is multidisciplinary) to comment on pertinent social issues, and react to the changing world around them.
The AAF is a biennial event taking place during the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), in which delegates, producers and programmers from around the world are invited to experience a dense program of performances and works in various disciplines, all created or co-created by Arab artists.
The overall objective of the focus is to support the development of a sustainable professional contemporary arts sector in the region, one that will allow young artists to show their creative work in front of programmers from all around the world.
"The entire idea of it was to blend the familiar and unfamiliar into one. There are a lot of things in our life that might be strange, but we’re used to them, and vice versa. So it’s really about perception. We tried to relate that to contemporary art in the sense that it always attempts to view reality in a different light. There’s a lot of distortion and strangeness there, but also a lot of romanticism and affection.
That’s a message that we tried to nail in our posters. In one of them for instance, you see a giraffe in the street. That’s obviously very strange, but the way we blended and edited it into our visual concept made it look very natural to the viewer. Contemporary art always tries to do just that, alienating the familiar and challenging our reality. D-CAF has always been all about that. "
Ahmed El Attar