by Adrian Tawfik
December 28, 2012
Mahmoud Mansi is a friend of Democracy Chronicles and Founder of the Forgotten Writers, a group of Egyptian artists and students using art for social change in a turbulent landscape. Mr. Mansi is also the author of A Journey from Darkness to Light and winner of “A Sea of Words” Literary Award in Spain in 2010. In an interview with Adrian Tawfik of Democracy Chronicles, Mr. Mansi discusses his plans for the Forgotten Writers and his views on the Arab Spring and the Egyptian revolution.
Adrian: What is the reason you decided to start the Forgotten Writers?
The Forgotten Writers is an extension for my personal dream as an Egyptian writer who chose to focus on writing in English, because my intention was to reveal Egyptian philosophy and contemporary literature to the rest of the world, but of course it was a very hard mission on my own. After the revolution I witnessed Egyptians working together in harmony as ants do to clean the streets and so on, so I thought why not we start collaborating on a social goal as well.
Since the media stared to view Egypt in another way rather than its history and tourism life – or to be more honest in choosing my words – since Egyptians decided to view the other angles of Egypt, then I had the idea of gathering some local writers and making a short story workshop on the Egyptian revolution to show the world our message directly in a literary and artistic form rather than through reporters.
Our mission was purely about Egyptian literature in the beginning then it became more globalized. It is exclusively now about inspiring art and blending literature with global social causes.
Adrian: Who are the Forgotten Writers?
The Forgotten Writers are simply any writers who unearth what is “forgotten” or overlooked by the normal norm of writing. We live in a global society that everything has been put into frames, even art and philosophy. The Forgotten Artists are those who break the boundaries, and remind the readers and observers that these boundaries are to be climbed upon, and not be locked within them. That’s theoretically speaking when the foundation was first established, but officially speaking a Forgotten Writer is any participant in such a project or a similar one.
Adrian: What have you found throughout your work with the Forgotten Writers that surprised you and made you look at the organization and its purpose in a new way?
Business-wise I learnt that one can make a project work without the need of using money as a tool. An idea can be strong enough to make it through partnerships and trading benefits. Again this reminds me of the core of business, which is dealing with one another to find a common goal. I just wish politics is always the same way!
Spiritual wise, through our first competition “Resurrection of Ancient Egypt” I was astonished when I read the stories and found the supernatural connection between all the writers from different parts of the world. I am actually writing an analysis on each story and another analysis on all the stories as if they were written by the same Hand to be published with the winning stories.
Adrian: You have started a new international writing competition with the Forgotten Writers. Is there anything you would like our readers who might be interested to know?
There have been many debates over many causes among our contemporary world. Usually debates end up nowhere, but if we debate through art, philosophy and literature, it will surely lead us to new doors, new questions, and new documented conclusions.
One of these issues is Women. Through ages different cultures have been throwing their opinions and judgments. On the International Women’s Day 2012 the Forgotten Writers Foundation issued its story competition under the title of “Women’s Domination” to empower the concept of “Democracy through Literature”.
Surprisingly, afterwards the movement of the Uprising of Women started all over the world. I believe that with the cooperation between literature, politics and social work the world will be able to finally serve one another in the name of freedom and humanity, not only for personal benefits.
The purpose behind this competition is to contemplate how different cultures and genders would perceive having women leaders in their lives.
The winning stories are to be published in one book, and translated into several languages. Personally, I think with the launch of this topic, writers will be able to tackle new theories in the field of feminism and anti-feminism that would add much benefit to our world.
Adrian: What parts of the world have been involved with your contests?
Lithuania, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Australia, England, USA, Lebanon, Kenya, Germany, Brazil, South Africa, Somalia, Sudan, Malta, Finland and of course Egypt.
Adrian: What other organizations are you working with?
As a fixed partner we have been working with MarwaRakha.com, which is a website of a famous Egyptian authoress who is also a feminist, and dedicated her website for supporting feminism, motherhood and literature.
We do not have fixed partners so far however we published articles about our event in major places such as MSN and Time Out.
Adrian: Also, as a newspaper about democracy, our readers are interested in democracy’s progress in Egypt. What is your opinion?
I personally think that clashes for attaining democracy were expected, but not to an extent that citizens would fiercely oppose one another. Egyptians were imprisoned for so long, whether between the bars of the old system, between the bars of fearing the unknown, or between the bars of taboos. Suddenly Egyptians were given the power to speak. It is expected to hear many loud voices, and there is no shame in this. The shame is in not listening to the other voice, or the bigger shame is in hearing the other voice but neglecting it!
Egypt nowadays metamorphosed; it turned into a land where its political sects are fighting not for their rights or freedom, but for implementing their own rules upon others.
Personally, putting aside all the troubles we have as free Egyptians, I think looking at it out of the box that these are all symptoms of a medicine called democracy. The body “Egypt” must face the side effects, and must not worry for witnessing them, on the contrary we should be sure that these side effects are the biggest proof for the right treatment.
Egyptians and non-Egyptians should be patient, and not lose hope in Egypt, for I strongly believe Egypt is recreating itself now, and the immune system is finally activated after decades of silence. We just have to watch, interact and be wise, to be able to read the next chapter, and learn from this story, and enrich others with a loamy criticism.
Adrian: Do you feel you have you had more personal freedom or less since Mubarak’s fall?
I feel I have more freedom of expression, and others have more freedom to criticize mine! But that’s more interesting.
Adrian: Are you optimistic about Egypt’s future?
Yes I am, because apart from all that’s happening, Egyptians in the end find a way in dealing with one another. I hope this will be the conclusion of all these battles that we actually find a way to accept one another, and search for the common ground instead of the odds. All societies have odds, but successful ones are those who cooperate.
Adrian: What do you think are the changes your country needs?
I think Egypt needs to stop thinking about only politics, and we should start creating the change we wish to see, by ourselves. We need to stop pointing at one another, to stop judging, to dedicate our prayers to strengthen our positive endeavors instead of cursing one another. We need to be a spiritual country, for Egypt has been a land chambering many beliefs.
Deep inside I believe Egyptians love one another, we just need to let go of this love. We need to break the fake boundaries we put to ourselves, and thus we will be able to work together instead of compete!
Mahmoud Mansi can be contacted at:
You can also view the Results/Quotes from the 1st Competition called “Resurrection of Ancient Egypt” or read an article submitted to that competition, Cleopatra’s Throne, about an Egyptian woman becoming President. Also, take a look at Mahmoud Mansi’s own work “A Journey from Darkness to Light“.
And also take a look at Democracy Chronicles’ Democracy Artists section.