Hatem Hassan Salama

Our alumnus of the month is Hatem Hassan Salama, a culture manager from Egypt and a former Rave Scholarship holder. The Rave Scholarship enabled him to spend four months at MitOst e.V. in Berlin in 2014. MitOst is an organization that carries out projects promoting cultural exchange and civic engagement.

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Did Germany meet your expectations? Are there any cultural differences in Germany you had to get used to?

I’ve been working with Europeans since 2000. Since 2007 I have had the chance to work and stay in Sweden, France and Germany for longer periods before the scholarship, so I would say that I had a very good idea and understanding of what I was about to expect.

There are a lot of cultural differences, but it is my belief that I don’t have to get used to cultural differences. It’s rather about accepting and comprehending the differences and acknowledging them as opportunities to learn; about experiencing and challenging one’s own traditions and cultural backgrounds, as a way of getting richer as a human being, capable of tolerating differences and having confidence in one’s own culture.

Do you have any professional plans for coming to Germany another time?

I’m in fact working as a project manager now at MitOst for the Tandem Shaml project. I’m learning new things all the time and I’m also contributing to the project with what I have learnt through my working experience. My plan is to work with Tandem Shaml until June 2016, and by that time I will have gained a huge experience in managing a big project, working in an international set-up, direct contact with partners, funders and stakeholders, which was not that accessible while being back in Alexandria; also managing a big budget – the biggest I have ever worked with – and how to do this in a professional way and most importantly in keeping with the law and certain rules, which is an aspect that is sometimes missing when working on a local level in Egypt.

Could you tell me more about the Tandem Shaml project and about your experiences at work?

Tandem Shaml has the same approach as all the Tandem programmes: providing a chance for cultural operators from Europe to meet, work and collaborate with cultural operators from the neighbouring regions or countries.

Tandem Shaml supports collaborations between cultural change makers from the Arab region and Europe. In this one-year round, 16 participants have worked together in tandems and as a group, making new connections and sharing good practice. By linking local people, places, art forms and ideas, their projects confront global challenges like migration and gentrification.

Working with tandems, seeing ideas emerge and seeing how they develop relations on different levels (e.g. personal, organisational and community level), how they go through challenges either culturewise or workwise, has been a very enriching experience and it has helped me to widen my understanding, my outlook and my network in a very exciting and interesting way.

What are your plans for the Tandem project in Egypt?

My plan is to bring the Tandem concept back to Egypt. So far, cultural activities and practices are centered around Cairo and one or two other cities, which I want to overcome. Although it’s one country, we have different dialects, cultural and social standards; so working in tandems between the big cities and the rest of the country is the first stage. Then tandeming small towns and villages should encourage better understanding between the citizens of the same country as well as an acceptance of differences. Hopefully this will boost the cultural life in small towns and villages a bit and so give culture a more important role in the lives of Egyptians so they could learn to see culture as a right, not a luxury.

 

Interview: Katrin Rollny, February 2015