The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)

The independent foundation supports individuals and organizations in Arab countries.
Sep 2007

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) is a private, independent Arab initiative dedicated to empowering artists and writers through strategic cultural philanthropy in the Arab world. It seeks to deliver a sustainable funding mechanism for individual artists and organizations while simultaneously facilitating cultural exchanges across the region. AFAC’s journey began in September 2004 as an initiative by Culture Resource (Al Mawred Al Thaqafy), in consultation with over forty corporations, cultural organizations, individuals, and major donors, such as the Open Society Institute, The Emirates Foundation, and the Ford Foundation, all working in the region.

AFAC is registered as a Swiss Foundation and operates in the Arab region through an office in Amman. Its grant-making activities are open to artists and writers from the Arab region in the fields of literature, film, performing and visual arts.

Background

The Arab region faces today what many would see as major questions that will define the future of the region’s peoples and their position in the world. While these questions are commonly defined within the realms of politics and economics, on a deeper level they involve intrinsically cultural concerns such as formations of self-image, expressions of identity and freedom of speech. Across the region, policy makers, thinkers, intellectuals and artists are struggling with the process of finding answers to many of these questions. Cultural expressions in the forms of literature, film, performing and visual arts are at the center of these efforts. They are essential tools for examining elements of identity, commenting on realities and communicating criticism and visionary thought with the wider public.

Opportunity

Over the past two decades, the Arab world has witnessed a slow decrease in full state control over cultural activities. The introduction of economic liberalization policies in a number of countries, coupled with the emergence of a few semi-independent TV satellite channels, produced a relatively free atmosphere for cultural expression. This opening inspired a kind of Arab cultural “renaissance’ with the establishment of independent theatre and performing arts companies, music groups, publishing houses, galleries, cultural organizations and research centers; all of which share a common desire to venture into the realm of experimentation and innovation and to distance themselves from the constraints of official institutions.

Challenges

As progress was being made on the cultural front, access to state funding decreased in most countries and political and social restrictions made it difficult to secure grants. This, combined with an increasingly commercialized cultural environment, has placed dedicated Arab artists and organizations in a precarious financial position. Although they continue to grow in number and public visibility, they are deprived of substantial access to public resources. With the exception of a few devoted foundations in the Gulf sub-region, philanthropic funding has been mainly directed towards solving immediate social problems related to poverty and health.

Today, the independent cultural sector owes its survival to a small handful of international donors such as the Swedish International Development Authority, DANIDA, NORAD, The EU delegations in the region, The Dutch Government, the Ford Foundation and the Open Society Institute. These donors support the arts because they recognize the social and political importance of an independent cultural practice. However, financial reliance upon international sources presents many problems for artists and organizations. Grant recipients must often defend themselves against claims that they are delivering a foreign agenda and westernizing the culture. In addition, due to a general decrease in arts funding and the turbulent political climate of the Middle East, the future of these financial resources is in question.

Programs

The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture starts its grant-making activities in 2007 with a diverse portfolio of cultural development programs.

Cultural Production:

Grants will be given to support artistic and literary work that employs contemporary artistic sensibilities and addresses Arab common social issues. Support will also be granted towards research aimed at improving cultural policies, cultural management and the marketing of culture. Grants will be offered upon an annual public call for proposals. Applications will be evaluated by an independent jury appointed by the Board of Trustees. Funding is available for individuals and organizations based within a specific Arab country or those working across multiple countries.

The Arab Fund for Arts & Culture will support projects in the following fields:

- Independent Film
- Performing Arts
- Visual Arts
- Literature
- Capacity Building, Training and Research
- Regional Events and Collaboration
- Regional Exchanges, Tours, and Distribution
>> Submission call 2009

 

(Extracts from the press information)

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC)
Gardenia Building
5th floor
Sourati Street - Hamra
P.O. Box 13-5290
Beirut
Lebanon
Website Email

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