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Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg

10 Years since the Publication of “The Abou Naddara Collection”

In 2011, Egypt lived through a phase of radical change which was then called the “25 January Revolution” on Cairo streets. Visual satire and theatre spread from Tahrir Square to the entire country. Graffiti colored the city walls, new comics such as Tūktūk, ath-Thawrajiyya, ash-Shama, and al-Būstagī were released and even brochures about Human Rights illustrated with drawings by cartoon artists were produced and handed out. Traditional caricature and satire passed through an era of revival and innovation.

Unfortunately, this creative period of democratic change did not last long. Already one year after the revolution, more and more books were available at Cairene bookstores which brought forward conspiracy theories against Freemasons and Jews. Reasonable research about Freemasonry became more and more difficult. Nobody wanted to talk publicly about Nation-founder Saad Zaghloul’s (1859-1927) past as a freemason even though his certificate as a mason could be seen at the wall of his Bayt al-Umma (House of the Nation) turned into a museum. At the same time, antisemitic publications were on the rise. This is most probably one of the reasons why, academically tinted texts that tried to get rid of Sanua as the father of modern Egyptian theatre, started to gain more popularity. Especially, Said Aly Ismail repeatedly published allegations that Sanua had not written and directed his theater plays in Egypt but Paris only. According to Said Aly Ismail, articles about Sanua’s plays in contemporary journals were not to be found. However, Adam Mestyan showed that one of Sanua’s plays had been mentioned in the contemporary journal al-Jawāb. In 2019, Nagua Ibrahim Anous wrote another book dedicated to Sanua’s work where she made proof of even more discussion about his plays in the journals of his time. Consequently, the importance of keeping an archive of Sanua’s work outside of Egypt and at the disposition of all researchers interested becomes even more obvious. The fifteen issues of the journal that Sanua had published in Alexandria and Cairo were mentioned by the first scholars who had researched his work. However, by the time Eliane Ursula Ettmüller started her research, the Egyptian issues had disappeared. She found the lithographs in Sanua’s descendants’ private archive. Now they are available again to everybody in this collection.

Since the publication of the Website “The Abou Naddara Collection”, it has received attention from all over the world from people from different kinds of backgrounds. Not only scholars focused on the archive but also caricature artists, theatre directors, museum curators, and people with personal relations to intellectuals of Sanua’s period. One of the Abou Naddara caricatures was even used to illustrate a schoolbook. The creators of this digital archive are confident that its integration into the structure of the University of Heidelberg Library will provide a stable continuation of the collection and its continued availability to all people interested in Sanua’s work.

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