Chris Keulemans

"Don't worry too much about reciprocity."

Dutch writer Chris Keulemans confided in his opening lecture to the public some of his childhood experiences, being raised in Burkina Faso and Iraq. Maybe we shouldn't worry about reciprocity at all, he concluded, because you're never able to 'pay back' the intensity of staying in different environments. Instead of worrying about reciprocity, he suggested, you'd better cherish your experiences.


Pursuit of Reciprocity


Pursuit of Reciprocity

What was at stake at the Cairo Residency Symposium?

Reciprocity was the underlying key issue in nearly all lectures, debates, group sessions and discussions. The issue came up spontaneously. The organizers of the symposium - Townhouse Gallery at Cairo and the Netherlands Foundation for Visual Arts, Design and Architecture (Fonds BKVB) - wisely didn't push forward any central theme. They aimed to provide an open forum to discuss the state of affairs in the residency sector on the intersection of the Middle East between Africa and Europe.

Goddy Leye (Art Bakery residence, Douala Cameroon) & Marilyn Bell, Doual'art residence, Douala, Cameroon

Reciprocity can easily turn into a slogan, covering up differences and limiting its meaning to an exchange of the same. During the symposium however there was a true pursuit of reciprocity, trying to acknowledge differences in relations. Honest relations between different parties (host - guest - funding organization - non-governmental bodies), between different scenes (local art scene - global art scene - local communities - art infrastructure), and between different functions and uses (autonomy, education, politics morality). Reciprocity should value these differences.

Ali Mroivili, artistic director of The kARThala Arts Center at the Comoros Islands

The search for reciprocity certainly was triggered by the presence of so many Middle Eastern and African initiators of residency programs and workshops. Their participation brought about a refreshing change of perspective: they stimulated a far from neutral thinking about the meaning of artist-in-residence programmes. The enormous diversity of opinions was held together by this willingness to think through what reciprocity means and how hosts, guests and funding organizations might fill it in.

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