By Umar Khan.
24 September 2013:
The Art of Expression is set to . . .[restrict]become the first dance organisation in Free Libya.
It has taken almost two years to work out the formation of the organisation that hopes to sponsor regular events in Libya. The plan is to hold workshops and training sessions conducted by internationally known artists who have expressed a desire to visit Libya. There are also plans to hold graffiti and dance competitions in Libya in the near future.
The dance culture took off after the revolution although it had been present during the Qaddafi regime. During that time, B-boy (or breakdance) artists performed in different places and sometimes attracted a small audience. After the revolution, however, the numbers increased not only for B-boys but also for the MC’s or Rappers as they are more commonly referred to.
The first B-boy to represent Libya at an international event was Ryan Ray-One (he insists on using his B-boy name) and it was he who came up with the idea of starting an organisation.
He said each time he attended an event outside the country, foreign artists asked him about Libyan culture and its current stage. He told the Libya Herald that he wanted to give a platform to artists in Libya as well as to outside organisations that could help and encourage aspiring Libyan artists.
Sitting in a terrace café in the old city with two friends, a graffiti artist and guitarist, Ray-One discussed his plans for the new organisation. “We have to share our culture,” he said, ‘it is not only killing and bombings that should be known outside Libya. We need to tell them there is a rich Libyan cultural tradition here”.
His guitarist friend does not think it is the right time for such an organisation. He explained. “I used to play guitar in public with friends but I realised people didn’t like it and they refused to accept us. Now, I only play when I am alone.”
The Art of Expression estimates that there are around 20 groups and more than 80 B-boys in Tripoli while in Benghazi there are some 20. Ray-One said that he wanted to organise workshops to improve the level of B-boying in Libya. “We have organised five workshops in the past two months alone and our most recent one was earlier this week. The internal response has been really good but we want also to bring in international artists which will improve our level. There are artists interested in coming here as soon as we organise an event. Of course, we need sponsors for that and unfortunately not many in Libya are willing to be sponsors.”
Ray-One said that despite the problems related to security in Libya he did not feel threatened or intimidated by anybody. He said: “We practice and organise workshops in different areas. Some places we go every day and there is absolutely no problem. In fact, people stop when they see us and watch our sessions. It is encouraging.” He said that most parents were not very supportive but that was gradually changing. “We have a 9 year-old who is very talented. Initially his parents did not approve his choosing B-boying over football but when they saw him perform, they were very happy. Now they plan to send him to his brother in France within a few years so he can work on developing his talent.”
Ryan-One tried to explain why he did not want to approach a government entity to get funding. He feels that the ‘”government was taken over by Muslim Brotherhood” and he wanted to stay away. His graffiti artist friend, Aimen Jihani, who just returned from abroad after representing Libya in a graffiti competition remarked, ‘It is the Salafis that we should watch out for and not the Brotherhood. They are more conservative.”
Jihani also added that people were so busy with simply surviving that they had no time to focus on culture. He believes that culture can be used to change the idea of Libya in foreign minds and foreign countries. He said, “Organisations such as this create art that will change the way others look at us. They will see our skills and what we are actually capable of. They will know we exist.”
There are persistent rumours that the Minister of Sports and Youth is something of an expert break dancer. [/restrict]