Pro Helvetia Cairo is celebrating 30 years of cultural exchange between Switzerland and the MENA region. We would like to take the 30th anniversary of the office as an occasion, not so much for complacent celebration as for a short retrospective and above all a look ahead at future plans. That is something we all need from time to time if we are to be able to stand back from the hustle and bustle of daily life and ask ourselves: what do we actually want? In how far we reached our goal and how could we do even better in the future? Do we still want the same thing that we did wanted years ago?
“Culture Exchange” is the general heading under which a great many internationally active organizations do their work. Each one of them strives to inject meaning into, or lend new significance to the phrase with every new project it tackles. Will its activities lead to authentic encounter between host country and home country? Will it foster personal relations and greater mutual understanding? Questions that are particularly central to Pro Helvetia Cairo, seeing that it’s located at the crossroads of two different, yet related cultures.
We understand culture exchange as more than an opportunity to showcase our own achievements, that’s why getting to know one another is one of Pro Helvetia’s key concerns. We want to provide ample latitude for reciprocal encounters. Exhibiting works of art and ranging them against each other may produce an unusual confrontation- but the process only becomes interesting, creative and alive in the literal sense of the word, through human encounters. When people meet people, prejudge gives way to understanding. Personal experience may blossom into what cultural exchange ultimately aspires to: new impulses for one’s own work, greater tolerance and openness towards unfamiliar ideas and attitudes, however they may manifest themselves and wherever they may be – not just in Egypt and the MENA region but equally so in Switzerland.
During the past 30 years, Pro Helvetia Cairo have done its best to bring together artists, culture promoters and practitioners from the MENA region and Switzerland. In the first fifteen years, Long-term projects such as the Children theater and the video-making were designed to run through a number of phases, rather than supporting short-term ones. In the second part of our journey, we have decided to expand our work scope, connecting more people together and expanding the regional work from Morocco to Turkey and Iran.
Pro Helvetia has given priority to the artists and their role in societies, acknowledging their needs and desire to interact with other cultures. Thus, in 2002, the Artists in Residence program was launched, inviting Swiss artists for residency in the Arab region and providing equal opportunity in Switzerland to Arab artists. Till the moment, more than 150 artists from Switzerland and the MENA region have benefited the program, between Studio and Research Residencies. We have been happily preparing, supervising, introducing and mediating between partners from both regions to make exchange projects and programs happen.
We should not forget how many people have been involved in making these projects happen. Not only the Pro Helvetia Cairo team over the 30 years, but also our partner institutions and individuals, projects’ participants and the audience in the two regions have contributed to the result of those thirty years. We would like to express our gratitude to every single person that have contributed to make these 30 years fruitful. If we did not have all these people and institutions as partners, we would not have 30 interesting, lively years to look back on, and would not be looking forward to an exciting continuation of our activities.
Pro Helvetia Cairo will celebrate those 30 years, with a special programme that includes music concerts, dance and theatre performances and exhibitions throughout 2018.
A series of music, theater and performing arts events are coming up. Stay tuned!
CROSSROADS brings together two Swiss institutions dedicated to culture in an international context. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia have both been active for many years in numerous regions around the world, including what is known as the Global South. In addition to that, the oldest three liaison offices of Pro Helvetia, in Cairo, New Delhi and Johannesburg, have anniversaries between 2017 and 2018.
This tab will include great artists that collaborated with Pro Helvetia Cairo over the past 30 years.