Food for Thought Proposal
by Magdalena Moursy (2018)
I am a second-generation Egyptian who has grown up in a liberal, agnostic, London family. I do not speak Arabic or have a particularly good understanding of Middle Eastern politics. But, I have a strong connection with my large extended family, their culture and mentality and feel an internal struggle on what the best political outcome for Egypt is at this time.
I have witnessed the 2011 Egyptian revolution alongside two political elections. My primary engagement into the political turmoil of Egypt has taken place around my family dinner table at home. I heard visiting family members debate at length on what is best for Egypt, encompassing all shades of political opinion. In doing so, I have come to sympathise with all sides of the argument and understand there is truth in all their arguments based on their experiences.
My father, along with his siblings of a similar age, appear to be arch reactionaries. Mubarak, whilst corrupt, bought stability to the nation and should not have been deposed “He’s already built up his nest egg, why endure the whole process again with another president.” They above all fear turmoil, the rise of fundamentalist groups and civil war. General Sisi is their man now. Egypt was and is not in a position to play out democracy, in the western sense.
However, their younger brother and his wife whose religious values are strong, believe Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood was best set to provide Egypt with the prosperity and stability it needs. Religion forms the anchor of their community.
Then there are my cousins, of similar age to me, holding liberal beliefs, who saw optimism in the revolution, with the possibility of the first real democratic political system for Egypt. They argue that change is good and necessary in ultimately moving away from predated, corrupt regimes.
What was important to me, as an objective outsider, was that these debates were taking place and that all sides could be considered, challenged and compared. No matter how strong one opinion was, because it was articulated within a loving family meal, there was some sympathy, or at least understanding, to the others.
With the upcoming 2018 elections, these same conversations must be playing out in most homes in Egypt right now and this is what I want to uncover and explore.
My career so far has been focused on cultural event production. Promoting creative expression, artistic talent, political and philosophical ideas but most importantly bringing people together in a shared space and building communities. I love hosting events that are centred around a meal. It is an opportunity to bring people together over the common love of food, exchange ideas and form connections.
I believe a meal can ignite thought provoking discussion on any topic and in this context, political opinion. Whether it be a family meal, a gathering of friends or a one-off event bringing together people from all demographics – this is a shared space where we can tune into opinions from people of all walks of life. A real insight into the opinions that matter and are shaped from experience, not just a factual summary from an emotionally remote media.
Has General Sisi, who some argue like my father, bought stability and deserves another term in power to continue his work and build up Egypt? Or do we fight back against this authoritarian political regime and continue the plight of 2011 revolution?
My aim is to promote the exchanging of ideas and serendipity as the basis for building respect and understanding of varied ideals and opinions. I would like to bring to life these personal and real conversations by accessing the homes of families and friends who are able to converse and put forward their own opinion.
Politics will always be the focus of conversation in unclear times – whether it’s the upcoming election in Egypt, Brexit or Trump – and these conversations are pivotal in understanding the current public opinion and need for discussion.