10 Mahmoud Bassiouny is a new creative space that promises to offer a venue for artistic and cultural creativity. The place aims to bring together a group of artists and foster a creative environment where many different art forms can flourish. From film screenings to jam sessions and poetry recitals, any expression and art form is welcome at 10 Mahmoud Bassiouny. The venue is located in a downtown apartment close to Tahrir square in Cairo, overlooking the Egyptian Museum.
The only befitting word for the venue would have to be ‘space’ since the place does not label itself as anything but, and the founder clearly states that the place is not a gallery and is not commercial. She describes it as more of a ‘cultural apartment’ that has ‘no pretensions’. The admirable aim of the founder is that the apartment will simply be a platform for a new artistic community to meet.
Heba Nawara, the founder, explains. “The idea is to have an alternative space in the form of a casual venue. We want to create something different and we want the place to be a kind of comprehensive cultural apartment with an informal setting. You do not have to be an artist to visit, just someone who is interested.”
The venue does not use any form of ‘fancy’ publicity, as she puts it, choosing instead to rely on word of mouth and an internet page that gives relevant information. This can be a disadvantage or an advantage, said Nawara, because on one hand it helps the place retain its identity, but on the other hand the low-key status can also mean slow periods. On the upside, because the environment is organic and dynamic, some months can be hectic with a lot of events happening at the same time.
Nawara also stressed the collaborative nature of 10 Mahmoud Bassiouny, stating that it relies on a sense of community for help, material or otherwise. The venue’s page states that expenses are ‘public’ and donations are encouraged. Though there is a small participation and attendance fee, there is no commission, a decision the founder says is because she is not interested in “making money off talents.”
The studio is open now and has been open for the past year, according to Nawara, but is currently only available during announced events or by arrangement. Nawara added that since 10 Mahmoud Bassiouny has become operative, the number of people interested has continued to surprise her “it took us a while to get started because we had to renovate the then-rundown apartment, but when we were ready, I was actually surprised at the amount of people who were interested and who have wanted the space. There is no continuous stream of events though, some periods are hectic and others are slow, depending on the people who support it.”
The reason the founder felt there was a need for a place like 10 Mahmoud Bassiouny can be summed up in this statement by Nawara. “The existing artistic community in Cairo is somewhat closed, and is already established. Not to generalise the diverse artistic community we have, but for the most part there is a lot of repetition and an entrenched network. So this is an attempt to create a new community with an emphasis on openness and an informal setting that everyone can be a part of.”