Pro Helvetia's 30th Anniversary

Local news, 04.09.2018

The Embassy of Switzerland celebrates the 30th anniversary of Pro Helvetia Cairo at the opening of the Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre with the famous “Mummenschanz”

Cairo, Egypt – The Embassy of Switzerland will celebrate the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia in Cairo on the 10th of September ahead of the performance “You & Me” by Swiss mask theatre troupe Mummenschanz at the Cairo Opera House that evening.

Pro Helvetia’s regional office in Cairo opened in 1988 and has since been very actively engaged in cultural exchanges between Switzerland and the Arab region. Its programme is interdisciplinary in nature. Special emphasis is placed on the disciplines of contemporary dance, theatre, music, visual arts and literature. The regional office is currently headed by Dalia Suleiman.

“For thirty years, Pro Helvetia Cairo has been raising awareness in the Arab world of Swiss culture, and building strong rapports with talented artists from all over the Arab region. We are very excited to be celebrating Pro Helvetia 30th anniversary in Cairo with this event and other events to come. Switzerland strongly believes in the power of cultural exchange in bringing nations together,” said Paul Garnier, the Ambassador of Switzerland in Egypt.

Ambassador Garnier will deliver a speech to the public before the performance of Switzerland’s Mummenschanz during the opening of the Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre. The festival’s management has chosen Switzerland as the guest of honour this year in celebration of Pro Helvetia Cairo’s 30th anniversary, and will be honouring the founder of Mummenschanz, Florian Falsetto, during the festival.

The unique Mummenschanz troupe is often described as “musicians of silence.” They wear masks throughout their theatrical performances, which combine mime and dance without verbal exchange or music. Their performance at the Cairo Opera House on 10th of September is organized by Pro Helvetia Cairo.

To learn more about Pro Helvetia Cairo, please log onto: Pro Helvetia Cairo

To learn more about Mummenschanz, please log onto: Mummenschanz  Media members interested in attending the Mummenschanz show should contact: Shaimaa Fayed, Communications Officer, Embassy of Switzerland in Egypt, Telephone: 02 2575 8284 (Spaces are limited and will be offered on a “first come first served” basis) For further information, please contact: Nahla Soliman, Communications Officer, Pro Helvetia Cairo, Telephone: 02 25774100, ext. 104


Speech by Ambassador of Switzerland Paul Garnier at the Opening of the Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre, September 10, 2018

Minister, Director of the Festival, Dear Friends of the Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre, Friends of the Opera as well as Friends of Pro Helvetia and The Mummenschanz.

It is a privilege to be here with you and representing the guest of honour.

Tonight is a very special moment. We are celebrating another anniversary in this majestuous Cairo Opera House, the 30th anniversary of the establishment of the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia in Cairo. And we do it ahead of the performance “You and Me” by famous Swiss mask theatre troupe Mummenschanz several years after their last appearance in Cairo. 

It is the celebration of 30 years of intense cultural exchange between Switzerland and the MENA region from and through Egypt because Egypt has always been a cultural centre and an artistic channel in the region. Since 1988, Pro Helvetia Cairo has done its best to bring together artists, culture promoters and practitioners with a special emphasis on contemporary dance, theatre, music, visual arts and literature. 

And throughout the years, Pro Helvetia has expanded the scope of its work, connecting more people together and reaching out to many countries in the geographical area between Morocco in the West, Bahrain in the East and Lebanon in the North. Getting to know each other is one of Pro Helvetia’s key objectives: When people meet people, prejudice gives way to understanding. Personal experiences may blossom into greater tolerance and openness towards unfamiliar ideas and attitudes – not just in Egypt and the MENA region but equally so in Switzerland. 

As you can see, Pro Helvetia has given 1st priority to the artists and their role in societies: Thus, since 2002, the Artists in Residence program was launched, inviting Swiss artists for residency in this region and providing equal opportunities in Switzerland to MENA artists. Till the moment, more than 150 artists have benefited from the program. 

Tonight we will assist to the performance “You & Me” of the Mummenschanz troupe. They are often described as “musicians of silence.” They are a great example of how art can have an impact even without verbal exchange or music. It’s a bit like the Swiss people who do not talk much but try to have an impact! 

For over four decades, Mummenschanz has inspired audiences around the world with their extremely poetic art. Since December 2016 the troupe tours with this new program created by the founding member Floriana Frassetto, who will be honoured tonight. And Mummenschanz is at the same time rejuvenating itself with young Swiss artists. 

I have, like many of you, been following Mummenschanz through the decades. I would like to thank the Mummenschanz troupe for coming today and thanking the partners of the Ministry of Culture for having Switzerland as a guest of honour of this Festival. I would also like to express my gratitude to every single person who contributed to make the 30 years of Pro Helvetia fruitful. Not only the Pro Helvetia Cairo team over the 30 years, but also their partner institutions and individuals, projects’ participants and the audience. 

Minister, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to wish a successful continuation to Pro Helvetia activities in the region as well as a big success to the Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre, who is also celebrating an important anniversary, namely its 25 years.

Thank you for your attention.