Syrian Entity for arts and culture News:

Ettijahat’s Story

If we look back to ten years ago when Ettijahat first started, the terrifying events we witnessed at that time could well cast a shadow on our past. So instead of telling our story chronologically, we thought it best to tell it by looking at different successive or overlapping points in our history in no particular order.

As we draft the chapters of our relatively short but eventful story, Ettijahat – Independent Culture, like most people and organizations in Syria, Lebanon and the wider region and world, is suffering from the deteriorating political, economic and social circumstances we find ourselves in. Nevertheless, a look on the bright side prompts us to remain hopeful. After all, optimism and hope have always been key features of our story. We thus remain steadfast in our desire to celebrate the 218 artists and researchers who received multidisciplinary support grants, the more than 300 artists and experts who took part in Ettijahat’s programmes, panel and roundtable discussions, events and shows, and the 141 jurors in the selection committees and across the various editions of our programmes.

While we take immense pride in the aforementioned achievements, we are nonetheless aware that these numbers do not quite meet the ever-increasing needs of our expanding cultural sector. Having said that, our story cannot be told only through numbers, especially since any project founded on art and culture is much greater than any proclaimed “truth”.

As we start our retrospective journey, we cannot but bear witness to the immense shifts taking place in our field of work. Recent circumstances have dictated new roles and intensified efforts to advocate for artists and help them overcome the repercussions of a global pandemic, political unrest, displacement, explosions and a troubling array of security and legal issues. As such, our sphere of activity went from supporting artists in their work spaces to produce art and present it to the public, to ensuring their ability to access and reclaim these spaces in the first place.

Throughout the past decade, Ettijahat – Independent Culture was able to design and implement diverse support frameworks and organize meetings, initiatives, trainings, presentation platforms, publications and translations accordingly. This is the fruit of the determination and perseverance of Ettijahat’s executive team, together with the generous contributions of our partners and donors, as well as the support of our wide-reaching networks of friends and colleagues in the field. We accomplished this with the knowledge that creating a functioning model for independent art and culture in Syria had been our dream since before the revolution. It is as though we worked to turn an old dream into a reality, but were ultimately forced to settle for a sort of compensation instead, and from an entirely different geographic location. We have become all too aware that the relationship between the arts and reality in this corner of the world is bound by loss and displacement, and as a result our dreams have taken centre stage until further notice.

“We look forward to a pluralistic, diverse, intellectually-productive and artistically-authentic Syria, where culture is the right of every Syrian citizen.” These are the words that marked the beginning of our story in the spring of 2011 when several artists and cultural actors in Syria came together to agree on a shared vision for the organization. It is based on this vision that we carry on, aware that our work within the Arab world is the only gateway towards progressing towards or one day achieving our goal.

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