Two of our conference participants coauthored a story for a Sudanese paper about the Nile Gathering. Please check it out!
First Nile Gathering launched in Al Shalal – Aswan, South Egypt
The Nile Project aims to bring the riparian communities together
By Jamie Freedman and Ali Askouri
Aswan, January 13th 2013
Representatives of the communities of the world’s longest river are gathering here in the serenity of the Nile’s First cataract to discuss their mutual concerns and how to build bridges to extend outreach and come together to serve this single cause.
More than twenty five participants from the riparian communities joined by friends and supporters from around the world have travelled to Aswan to attend the first conference organized by the Nile Project, hosted at the Fekra Cultural Centre in Aswan.
The choice of the location reflects the group’s deep awareness of the historical developments that took place in Nubia to date. The Fekra Cultural Centre is located on the East Side of the Nile river between the High Dam and the Old Aswan Dam near the Greco-Roman Philae Temple. The area used to be the site of the First cataract of the Nile before it was flooded a century ago. In the past the area also served as a main river harbor between Egypt/Sudan and the African interior before the construction of the Aswan High Dam in 1971.
“We were rich and happy” laments Fekra Centre founder Abdel Khalek El Betiti pointing his finger to a deserted railway station. “Trade between Egypt, Sudan and other parts of Africa passed through the railway station. Now there is nothing.”
In their daily fifteen minute trip from the hotel in Aswan to the Fekra Centre the participants travel through a long history of the first human civilization cut short by modern technologies which have forever altered the landscape and transformed human activity. The area provides the participants with stark examples of how human attempts to harness nature impacts the lives of local communities and their social and economic ties.
The Nile Project is the brainchild of the Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis and Ethiopian-American singer Meklit Hadero. Girgis is excited about exploring new approaches of understanding the Nile as one system where fishing, irrigation, tourism, and transportation are intricately related to climate change, floods, droughts and dams.
“Most of us who live within this system have no idea what these relationships mean,” explains Girgis. “How do all these worlds affect one another? How do they come together to affect the Nile? And what can we do to help restore the equilibrium of this complex system?”
Unlike many other rivers of the world, the Nile river runs through eleven countries linking numerous communities and cultures. Despite the interdependence of these communities, no attempt has been made to bridge communal and cultural gaps. “These issues have been ignored in past centuries by politicians and governments” says one expert who is interested in how to strategize the role of communities in the Nile River ecosystem.
The Project’s mission is to inspire, educate and empower Nile citizens to work together to strengthen the sustainability of the river’s ecosystem. “I think the Nile Project raises awareness among all stakeholders including communities and government, mobilizing them to take action wherever they are in the way to deal with the challenges about the Nile. We have come here to learn, share and take what we’ve learned back to our communities” says Ezekielole Katato a Masai from Kenya.
The gathering encompasses a four-day strategic planning workshop that builds on the Project’s mission to connect the people of the Nile basin through cultural dialogue, followed by a two-week music residency to develop music that can generate empathy and inspire cultural and environmental curiosity.
Participants have expertise in fields of environment, culture, agriculture, finance, education, development, media, cross-cultural dialogue, conflict resolution and intercultural learning. They come from Uganda, Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and Eritrea and are joined by experts and activists from United States, Germany, Canada, El Salvador, Netherlands, Greece, Japan, Great Britain and Switzerland.
“The Nile Project confirms my dream of a collection musicians from the Nile River coming together to express the dreams and hopes of the riparian communities for the advance of peace and co-existence” says Betiti the founder of Fekra Centre. “For me personally it’s very powerful tool to have river people meeting to talk about the challenges and problems. It helps to understand each other’s music and culture because we share one river and one Nile Culture. Music especially is a wonderful tool because it is a universal language.”