El Sayed Hafez
Looking for Avant Garde

The quest for the Arab Pioneering

Theater's Role

Dr. Shathi Bin Khalil

El Sayed Hafez is the name of a playwright who has his oun mark in the Arab Theater. He is an artistic experiment from whish many creative bridges have reached out. He is one dreamer of a better future for his nation and his country and he is also part of one of the founders of the renovation movement in The Arab Pioneering Theater.

That is way the tone of his theater becomes sharper, more prominent, more exposing and more exposing. But what really drove me to write that about El Sayed Hafez was the statement he made in the kuwaity "El Anbaa" journal in which he declared : That had stopped writing for the Pioneering theater for five years and that he turned into writing for T.V and journalism. That was after he and his generation were shot by ignorance so that the real creator would die of frustration and disease.

How could that happen?

I found the answer of this question in more than one study on his theater and here is Dr. Sherief El Hussainy's research titled "Why do we assainate Hafez's theater? Kuwaity El Raai El Aam 24/9.1993".

He thinks that the Arab Cultural areana realm practices neglection and discouraging criticism on Hafez's pioneering writings and that this is an obvious attempt at assassinating that writer though his plays are no less mature than other important theatrical creations.

And the critic Mandouh Badran from Italy wrote justifying why El Sayed Hafez stopped writing in a research titled (A conversation with a writer. Kuwity El Syassa. (15/9/1983) in which he stated that El Sayed Hafez gave and is still giving to theater and its issues. He is a fighter who looks for his own awakness a teacher who dreams of change and a survivor touching out for a way to salvation. Traditional guards of knowledge in the Arab realm, however, called his theater ambiguous. Said that he is a philosophizing writer whose theater is full of ambiguities and riddles. These words kept chasing him because his words aspire to have new meanings and to be different from the diction of the old.

El Sayed Hafez rebels against his reality. Refuses the caves of traditions and is considered an adventure who dedicates himself and efforts energies to looking for a different life and different breathing holes inside this repetitive world of ours. But reality always rejects the rebels in their time exactly like what happened to all explorers of the spiritual and material unknown; those who refused the identical old glasses forced upon their ade. Another supporter of my opinion is Abdel Kereem Bersheed the critic and theater director in one of his studies called (The Theater of El Sayed Hafez between experimentally and fundmentality). The theater of Hafez always indicates the existence of a meaning and the existence of justice and truth. But, there are those who do not want the ignorance should prevail and the world should stay static just the way it was without any changing or becoming.

Best how does the cultural community reacts when one of the creators of the pioneering theater stops writing? Nothing. Or just as El Sayed Hafez had said, "It was just as it happened but nothing really happened" in the field of Arab Culture.

The pioneering writer El Sayed Hafez said justifying his stoppage of writing. (Dialogue Magazine - Sweden. October 1993) I quit writing for the theater for five years after I had discovered I was a weaponless fighter in the artistic areana. I feel regret and a special kind of sorrow. Everything around us has become untruthful, false and deluging. Glorin our cultural life is now for the ridiculous and the spongy literature and art which deceives people and rides the revolutionary wave. We live in a nation that suffers from intellectual retardation, political frustration and cultural illetracy that why I deserted theater temporarily and headed for journalism and television work.

When El Sayed Hafez started the journey of creation and creativity, the ground was not furnished for him with welcomes honorable reception or the holy sprit of creation but it was furnished with redicule and refusal.

Why does no he follow the present toughts. Why is not he just an excuter of the ready-made ideas, forms and inherited shapes?

The criticism directed at Hafez's experimental word did Hafez adopt a mere black blizzard with no justification but rejecting the method in relation to the new language he presents. This situation puts us face to face with a serious issue that does not only relate to the literary formation but to the writers freedom of expression. That freedom given him by the chronically evolution. Just as the director and critic Saad Aradash says : if the judge is forced by law to assume good will on the defendant's part till he is convicted by evidence; and if the critic takes the judge's place, he has to assumo goodwill on the part of the writer's citizenship because he presents to his society a word he is committed to and whose target is to build and develop. When Hafez published his first play (The pride of triviality in the of triviality in the land of Meaninglessness) 1971, it caused a huge depate in the Arab cultural reams when he made the material things in his play (Chair - Cup - a sheet of glass - a frame - triangles - sewing needle - a moving dog on stage) heroes. The play was attacked because it does not belong to the familiar theater language. But the fact that they did not releaze was that Hafez ever since his first play 1971 - was following the pioneering method of writing. The method determined by Appolnear when he said.

The pioneering playwright has absolute freedom. He is the creator and master of his world and its just and right for him to make groups and material things talk and to neglect time and place if he likes to. His world is his play. Inside it, he is the creating god who arranges voices, gestures, movements, masses and colors however he wants the play has to be a complete world with its creator.

Dr. Ibrahim Abdeen asserts this ( A study on the universality of El Sayed Hafez's theater - Iraqi culture January 1983). He says, "Hafez's theater is the one from which next century's theater will result from. His he a new kind of theater for he tries to find a new formula and looks for advanced shapes that exceed the theatrical form we have known sine Aristotle to the Nonsensical and Bright.) Dr. El Imbaby agrees with him, too in (A study of creativity and experimentally in Hafez's Theater. Biroti Arab week 23-5-1983) where he states that Hafez always tries to create losting works that over lives ages which drove him manya time to break the familiar artistic forms.

The theater of El Sayed Hafez is mainly interested in making a revolution in the Arab Theater and he is deeply interested in the meaning of man's existence, the role played by the society and awakening the audience to what is wondrous, unfamiliar and extraordinary in our daily life. This is the job of the pioneering theater and he is still looking for its local, social and cultural origins in the Arab reality.

The French Pioneering Theater:

Hafez's theater always faces complicated issues that occupy man's mind in our modern age. That's why it resorts to pioneering forms and contents that overleap all the limits that previous pioneering movements were based on in order to free the Arab theater from all that can be considered as the dictator ship of the word. This was what drove Dr. Saeed El Waraki to rite about El Sayed Hafez in (A study in Kuwaitian El Syassa - 14 February 1980) that Hafez lives charged with senses that reserve, record and work under the control of tension with repeated charges of wonderful exciting fascination. His art does not mean to calm the receiver's senses but aims at creating a sudden shock inside him that is born without lension, confusion and inquiring. Maybe this secret of all his work being pioneering experiences.

Why did playwrights resort to Pioneering theater and what is its concept from the pioneering writer's point of view?

We find that the contemporary playwright his suddenly came to after some slanderous political, military, economical and scientific events that took three decades from the fifties to the eighties. He comes to the fact that he has lost his present and future. In other words, he has lost the joy of life in the present, suffered from frustration and misery as far as the future is concerned. As Saad Ardash said that he rejected the formula of the present art and theater in general and is trying to took for a new one originating from his ancient legacy.

Alfred Gary justifies the pioneering the mind and spoiling the memory.

As for the Tunsian playwright Ezz El Deen El Madani, he says that pioneering writers went that way because it invades the unknown and does not stop at what is present. Experiment means inspection, testing and the word searching mean inspection into the essence, forms and contents side by side with previous knowledge of fundamentals and basics.

The critic Talis Mozendes says the pioneering writer is a fighter, an anarchist very attached to his individualism. He has his personal opinion without needing a companion even if he was reaching for the impossible. He is a constant mal content.

The pioneering writer from the Moroccian playwright Abdel Kerim Bersheed's point of view is the strifer i.e. this man who does not know what a fighter's break is because a break means death, nothingness of injustice and ignorance.

Pioneerism from El Sayed Hafez's point of view is the art of founding the intellect of the ago and history we live in the pioneering theater is the past, present and the fulure all in one. The pioneering writer from his view point has to be a contemporary of his age not its prisoner, has to unify himself totally with his present realty so as to speak on its behalf and become his age's spirit. Je is like a soldier at a mercenary war. Whatever the author's political ideology is, his art is an expression of a spiritual status inherent in his consciousness.

Who is the pioneering writer El Sayed Hafez ?

He belongs to the relapse I set back generation 1967 and has gone through a continuous political struggle against all the bearau cratic froms practised against the Arab and Egyptian peopl. Hafz's generation played a great role in preparing for public upheavels and preserving the gains of 1952 Revolution

Hafez is different from most of the writers of his generation because his intellectual and political approach was different which led the critic Abdellah Hashem write in The [Libyan Public Newspaper] that he is the most important pioneering writer in the seventies for he collects both originality and being a contemporary where the most ancient content and the most recent technique do meet.

El Sayed Hafez emerged from the mud of the Nile like a thunder bolt or fire in to the Egyptian street. He inhaled the sea breeze and carried words, vision and creativity waves in to the Arab cultural street. Most of his generations were burnt in the Relapse and others in their own attitudes where his words end as soon as they are presented.

El Sayed Hafez has plunged into the pioneering theater to unveil the Arab letter and uncover the darkness of metaphor. Hafez discovered the revolution writers began to give up their dreams. They felt tired. His generation walked over the relapse's dead bedies. Here we find that Hafez had corried the defeat since 1967 and began looking for a new formula for the rains and hallucination of the intellectuals. His experiment was like lightening in the Arab theater space. He always exposes the body of the experiment, exposes the place, rolls time of the stage's breast and makes his character represent land, blood, rivers an the disintegration of the spirit of things.

His plays represent the real intellectual theater that Iris Bentley is calling for which led Bersheed to say that Hafez's creations flies above people and things with two eyes.

The first is the Arab eye which is open on the "We", the "Now" and the "Here" where as the other is opened on the Europian theater where there one daring, new, surprising experiments. This duality of vision and expression freed his theater from following the western Pioneering theater to whom does Hafez write?

Hafez's plays exposes the relation between the guardian and the guarded or the ruler and the ruled and the theories around the possibility of selection and representation philosophy. (One representing all). As Saad Ardash said - starting with the principles of divine laws and ending at the gains achieved by peoples via their revolutions throughout the : centuries Hafez goes into clarifying a constant idea in his intellectual approach i.e. the real scale for balance is the nation / citizens people. Hallways talks about the lack of freedom and decoracy in practicing the governing game in all systems, about man and man's identity on which systems, states, ideologies and organization have set millions of barriers, obstacles and limited relations.

Hafez also writes for villages, streets, lanes, framers, the sinning laborers very morning and for those who plant freedom on the mountains of death.

Dr. El Imbabi sees that Hafez's plays talk about all the human crisis.. about Nasism, Spain and the resistance, the suppressed countries, about the Palestinian problem, about the middle east crises, about Vietnam and South Africa, about the coming war, about Arab retardation and retreat and about materialistic life anf its influence on man if this age.

Humane and political criticism in Hafez's theater:

Out of patriotic care, Heafez presents a criticism of the Arab satus que. The writer's feeling of disappointment lived by most Arab people represents a reflection that affects theatrical ideas presented by Hafez. Through them he expresses the contradiction in the Arab social reality where Saed Farahat in [Kuwaitian El Rai El Aam 18-8-1981] says that Hafez belongs to the human theater not through his inclination towards justice but in his attempt to unify with the worries of the Arab life as a whole and its future to create a new society where happiness removes misery and defeat from inside the unfortunate Arabs.

This beliefor fact remained with his its torture, problems, suffering and struggles. Here's the wife of Abu Zar El Ghefary calls for freedom in his play Abu…..

Woman: My master, origin of honorable thought. Your thoughts climbed the narrow houses' walks. There is a mosque between each two bars, a thief and a ruler between each two crowds of poor people. Between right and wrong the gladiators do kneel. Between Sultan's and Amirs' palaces there are the foodless houses of the poor. Between a man and the next there is a secret policeman. Between the bite and the next there lies worry of famine."

Chorus : The guardian and the guarded. Which is the victim? Who serves who and what is the judge's role? The public police chief? Prison is for whom? For the thief, or the Sultan's opposers? The revolutionist has become Cray, netencted, or fanatic. He becomes a number in prison killed by authority and Sultan where miseries overwhelm him till he is burnt down with sadiness, silence till he dies without a revolution."

The character of Abuzar is a symbol of social and political Rebellion that mixes theatrical with practical actions because he refuses the false reality as Bershead says " the destined to live his psychological, social and intellectual strangeness"

The critic Nagib Qurshaly in (Kuwaitian Pioneering Magazine September 1983 - A study of the Palestinian issue in the contemporary theater) says that the Hafez's role in the Palastin is a Issue is no less important and effective than the role of Tawfeek Zyad, Mahmoud Darweesh, Ghassan Kanafany, Samih El Quassen and Mueen Beseeso .He adds that his theater is the theater of political events prediction for he wrote " Six men" in 1971 and it was published ten years later 1981. But here are the political events coming time just as he has anticipated Dyia , The hero speaks about lreason explaining how the Palestinian issue turned into files, papers and empty speeches at conferences.

Dyaa : My love. The files are torn. The whole word decorates his eyes with lies, lying is opening barred gates at prisons for the issue. My love, the streets of Paris, London, New York talked today about the homeless and banished people. The issue is the sane while the files are stacked in front of the Effendis.

The writings of Hafez prove that he is a real struggler who participated with their true word. Here's "The Dum Drums in the Blue valleys" through which Hafez emphasize the inevitability of man's power to think and struggle.

The girl : Revolution! Revolution for who? Whom are you going to lead? The colored, the white Indians the poor.. Oh (She ridicules the boy) You'll no doubt lead the savage heathens. The blacks like us. Who? Farm laborers, factory workers? The slaves or the master? The crushed or ….

Boy : I lead the silence stabbed by injustice in the human souls.

Boy : For whom I write? Who reads?

The play's author says it falls into their turn points where the critic Ibrahim Abdel Magaad says (El Rai El Aam 28-2-1980) The author refuses to say three acts because he is not with separation. The work is a whole unity that is created and that emerges from itself. We are really faced by three attempts at revolution. This statement comes n the third revolutionary boy "I want to see a new in every happy inch. I dream of mothers giving birth to smiling babies that do not cry when they come to the world" Pioneering writing with Hafez rebels against all traditional voices as Bersheed says. For he exposes in his play "El Zaafaran City the methods of political and economical manipulation which in Hafez's opinion represents the beginning of a dectator's era.. on era of domination where there is no word freedom, no democracy.

Magbool : Who chose the public servant (Ruler)?

Chorus : We.

Magbool : Who relieves him?

Chorus : "Muttering"

Magbool : Who can relieve the public servant?

Chorus : The sultan, the ruler or the minister.

Magbool : No. It is you people. I came with me fear. Give me your courage. I came with my weakness. Give me your strength. Justice was married to the sultan's ideas and gives birth to farce.

This was what let Dr. El Imbabi say that El Sayed Hafez carries the responsibility of tomorrow on his shoulders. He goes through the battle of right, truth and other things.

Why does Hafez's plays create a wave of discussions and views in the artistic field when they are issued?

There are a lot of opinions dealing with this phenomenon but I'll tackle some of them before analyzing this dangerous cultural phenomenon in the Arab Cultural movement.

Dr. Saki El Ashmawi says : that explaining this phenomenon lies in that Hafez's theater asks us to retreat not in the Heknic or the theatrical sense but in the modern sense i.e. we should have an unpreceded vision. ( Siminar about resistance theater and El Sayed Hafez. Alex. 1975)

Dr. Sherief El Hussaini explains this phenomenon and says plays need more than one stoppage because his Arab pioneering creations are no less mature then these of ugean unisko, Bernard Shaw - picket.

As for Dr. Abdean, he says in (Arab culture magazine 1983) that hafez's theater creates wide and violent debate because he breaks through into many worlds where he touches our artistic, social, intellectual and political conceptions in a strong and direct manner.

Abdel Aal El Hamumssy says in " Egyptian El Helal 1973" that his plays create debate because of his exaggeration and irrelevance. That is because we are accustomed to show animosity awards what duffers from our moods. I sea that the explanation of this phenomenon lies in that Hafez differs with most Arab playwrights whose plays have contained abstract characters of just dolls / dummies. This kind of plays is no theater at all because they are unable to leave a dramatic effect on us. They are more transference of what is present and familiar and not real creation. This is the true difference between creation and creativity the theater with El Sayed Hafez and many Arab Playwrights there is no doubt that there are a lot of organized companies against Hafez's theater for fear of feeding the artistic weakness and classical limitation forced by most of our playwrights of themselves.