My other friend, a Chicana artist, invited me to a rotating women's Chicana artist's tea party. We could eat and talk "art" and the problems minority artists faced. Then we would go out and use the inspiration and support to do our art.
My group, "The Aswan Dancers", would unwind every Tuesday night after rehearsal at a local pizza parlor. We didn't know it, but we were an art salon with vision. We were about to become The Giza Club.
A few years earlier, we looked at ourselves and said, "Ya know, we could do this or that 'cause in reality we already have, or have lived it!" Collectively, we had traveled the Middle East and North Africa and decided that we could teach a series of dance/culture classes based on our collective knowledge and experience. This we did and called our classes the "Summer Mini Series".
Another time, we said we should have a mini series of ethnic dance shows. We organized our mini series
and called it "Culture Caravan". We even got the City of San Francisco to sponsor us and provide us with a venue. Since we were a Middle Eastern dance company, we did the Middle Eastern dances in the Caravan and found friends, and even street artists, to continue the Caravan through other countries. We also found the important glue for our gatherings. This was food, camaraderie, shared experiences and sharing experiences. Our Culture Caravan was very entertaining and also enriching in an informal way since we always ended the evenings with discussions between the audience and the participating artists. Although our Culture Caravan toured the world, we kept going back to the Middle East.
The Middle East was our common bond. Although we were a dance company, we were extremely involved in the music that compelled us to dance. We didn't want to just dance or just listen and enjoy the music, we wanted to jump in and be a complete part of it. We pooled our musical abilities, sought out other musicians, and formed a band. It was called "The Karnak Players". It was a very non-traditional and at the same time a very traditional Arabic band. We had a marimba and a sax player, and some musicians not trained in Arabic music. With a lot of hard work we trained those musicians, and with intensive rehearsals, we ended up playing everything from pop to Om Kalsoum and Mohamed Abdul Wehab. We played at a place called El Rio, "Your Dive" and The Mission Cultural Center a.k.a. The Center for Latino Arts and at THE GIZA CLUB. At that time (1990),
The Giza Club was anywhere we wanted it to be. Today, The Giza Club still is anywhere we want it to be, but the headquarters are at my house. One of our first Giza Club events was the live taping of The Cairo Cats. This actually took place at Noe Valley Ministry, but that day it was The Giza Club.
We had been having regular Salons at my house (Amina's Salon) and we called it The Giza Club. We would usually meet to discuss things Middle Eastern and early on, decided to try to focus on topics not especially about "the Dance" but more about the culture of the Middle East.
One afternoon I came home from work and found a friend, Edwina Nearing, (a.k.a. Eddie the Sheik, Aqaba Eddy and Qamar el Malouk) sitting on my front steps. She had been there all afternoon, knowing that I would soon arrive home from work in order to teach my dance class. She had literally just arrived from the Middle East. She was to become our first Wacky Woman Traveler. Our bond was the Middle East. She was, and is, obsessed with recording in her brain and also sometimes on paper, her experiences, observations, deductions and conclusions on the who, what, where, when and why the Arab and the Arabic dancer acts, dresses and, if applicable, dances in whatever manner. I asked her to share her adventures with us. This was the beginning of our Giza Club Wacky Women Travellers series.
All that we require of our Wacky Women lecturers is that they are truly wacky. Although none can be as wacky as Edwina on her horse in Jordan trying to follow Lawrence of Arabia's trail. I asked her to share her adventures with us.
Our wacky women have traveled to Yemen, Libya, Tunisia, Afghanistan, Algeria, the Sudan, Mali, Iran, Moroccan and other places (such as Egypt) and have lived to tell us about it. What great "Show and Tells" they have been: Food and drinks of course, photos, slides, souvenirs, books, jewelry, clothing and sometimes, home videos!
We also have a Wacky Men series. We studied Sir Richard Burton: books and a book review and a film showing about Sir Richard's life, "Mountains of the Moon". We had a "beloved" King Farouk tribute. It started with a video documentary of his life, a reading from a couple of biographical books, a discussion of his life, the hows and the whys and the political unrest of the times,
and of course, appropriate King Farouk food. We ended with a musical dance/comedy of his life. But it isn't fair to only have wacky dead men. So we have also invited Wacky Men Travelers and Wacky Arab Men to be guest speakers. Our first Wacky Man told us how he lived in Saudi Arabia pretending to be Moslem, but wasn't. After what he told us, we're lucky he didn't join Sir Richard and King Farouk in the great Wacky land beyond. Our Wacky Arab Men have really been good sports. We've had speakers telling us of the music, art and culture of whatever country they are from, but best of all we've had a few Wacky Men telling us how and what Arab men really think. VERY ENLIGHTENING!! As I write this, there is one Wacky Arab Man Traveler somewhere in the Middle East buying musical instruments. He is scheduled for a Giza Club event as soon as he returns.
The Giza Club isn't all book reviews, documentaries, slide shows and lectures. We also have field trips (to museums, film festivals, stores, restaurants, night clubs and shows). There are also parties, Giza Club secret initiations, video marathons, dance and culture classes and the Giza Cabaret. We also are The Giza Academy of Music And Legends of Dance (GAMAL Dance) and host the annual Giza Academy of Middle Eastern Dance Videos. Most recently, we have a web site in the works (www.giza.org) so that we Giza Club members can let each other and others know what's happening in the world of Middle Eastern culture, music and dance.
At first the members were all also members of the Aswan Dancers, but we soon reached out to our friends, other dancers, and dance teachers. We have a wonderful collection of people who have been there or have lived there and are willing to share their experiences, stories, pictures and memorabilia. Four future Giza talks are going to be about the music scene in Cairo, taking Algerian tourists to Cairo, an archaeological dig in Egypt, and 2 women in Saudi Arabia.
Also coming soon- Leyla Lanty's latest adventures in Cairo!Ready for more?
More by Amina!--Fouad Marzouk, Interview by Amina Goodyear
I remember at first feeling intimidated dancing to one of Soheir Zaki's musicians.
and Ice by Yasmela/ Shelley
Walk In Pain And Beauty by Lucy Lipschitz