Graphic fa­cil­i­ta­tion re­vives ‘carv­ing’ of an­cient Egyp­tians

The Daily News Egypt - - IN-FOCUS -


“An­cient Egyp­tians started en­grav­ing on walls thou­sands of years ago to pro­duce a vis­ual brief about some­thing; this is what we do,” said Maiy El-wa­keel, a teach­ing as­sis­tant at the Fac­ulty ofArts in­Alexan­dria Univer­sity. Five artists who all grad­u­ated from the same fac­ulty knocked on the door of an un­pop­u­lar business in the coun­try called “graphic record­ing.”

Graphic record­ing, or fa­cil­i­ta­tion, is a very com­mon pro­fes­sion in the world, used in var­i­ous pro­cesses such as meet­ings, work­shops, sem­i­nars, and con­fer­ences. Graphic recorders, usu­ally artists, vis­ually rep­re­sent information com­mu­ni­cated orally through cre­at­ing vis­ual sum­maries of con­fer­ence speak­ers’ pre­sen­ta­tions and discussions with at­ten­dees.

In Novem­ber 2015, El-Wa­keel, Hany Mansy, Dina El­sayed Saleh,Alaa Ebied, and Ner­meen A El­re­heem launched a project named “Wasalet” for graphic fa­cil­i­ta­tion. Only three of them par­tic­i­pated in the Alexan­dria Me­dia Fo­rum, which was held from 15-17 April at the Egypt-Ja­pan Univer­sity of Science and Tech­nol­ogy, as graphic facilitators.They at­tended all ses­sions of the fo­rum to “fa­cil­i­tate the process of de­liv­er­ing information given by speak­ers to at­ten­dees.”

“We work to con­nect peo­ple,” said El-wa­keel, il­lus­trat­ing at a ses­sion on news ver­i­fi­ca­tion and search en­gine tools.“Our main mis­sion is to ‘record’ what we hear and see, then turn it into a clear brief,” adding that they “fa­cil­i­tate the process of de­liv­er­ing information to peo­ple,” adding that they pro­duce an ef­fec­tive way of com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween speak­ers and at­ten­dees.”

Dur­ing the three days of the fo­rum, the three graphic facilitators worked for en­tire days,some­times stand­ing or sit­ting in a chair next to the speak­ers, to do their job.

“Graphic fa­cil­i­ta­tion is very com­mon across the world.We first learned about it when we were trained by the Value Web,” she said, adding, “the Value Web is an in­ter­na­tional net­work of artists, de­sign­ers, facilitators, ed­u­ca­tors, re­searchers, tech­nol­o­gists, writ­ers, so­cial ac­tivists, and en­trepreneurs who work to use de­sign and fa­cil­i­ta­tion to tackle the most press­ing chal­lenges in our time.”

Ac­cord­ing to El-we­keel, 14 Egyp­tian par­tic­i­pants joined the work­shop that the net­work con­ducted for a week in Egypt in 2015 while it was or­gan­is­ing a con­fer­ence, not­ing that only five of them launched Wasalet. “The net­work was in need of Arab graphic recorders. When they did not find any­one, they de­cided to train some peo­ple to as­sist them in the con­fer­ence they or­gan­ised,” ex­plained El-we­keel.

How­ever, when the five young peo­ple started their own business, they faced dif­fi­cul­ties in a field that does not recog­nise or un­der­stand what they are do­ing. “Most or­gan­i­sa­tions we worked for were not Egyp­tian.We tried to com­mu­ni­cate with lo­cal bod­ies, but we were un­wel­comed, as they do not ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tance of what we do,” said El-we­keel.

How­ever, they re­ceived great at­ten­tion while work­ing at the Alexan­dria Me­dia Fo­rum, as most speak­ers and par­tic­i­pants were aware of what they do and took pho­tos of boards full of cre­ative sym­bols and car­i­ca­tures. Mean­while, the fo­rum an­nounced that they re­warded Wasalet’s mem­bers by is­su­ing a hand­book con­sist­ing of all their works dur­ing the ses­sions. That kind of ap­pre­ci­a­tion, ac­cord­ing to El-wa­keel, is very sup­port­ing and en­cour­ag­ing to the path they chose three years ago.

She noted that their project is self­funded,with al­most no prof­its thus far. “The rea­son is that in­sti­tu­tions still do not con­sider our work as a sig­nif­i­cant part of any con­fer­ence, meet­ing, or work­shop,” said El-we­keel.

Mean­while,Hany Mansy,a jew­ellery de­signer, mem­ber of the project, and also El-we­keel’s hus­band, said that the job is not just for artists,but of course, hav­ing paint­ing and illustration skills is a great ad­van­tage.

Talk­ing about the cir­cum­stances of work­ing in Egypt, he said, “un­for­tu­nately, con­fer­ences just hap­pen in Egypt via the same tra­di­tional or­gan­is­ing way and of­fer lit­tle chance for other cre­ative as­sis­tances such as graph­ics fa­cil­i­ta­tion,” noted Mansy.

He added that they have to pay for the ex­penses of all ma­te­ri­als they use, as they some­times par­tic­i­pate as vol­un­teers for the chance to let peo­ple ac­knowl­edge what they do.“We have to fo­cus on ev­ery word said at a con­fer­ence and stand the whole day, as our work re­quires ma­jor phys­i­cal and men­tal ef­fort,” he said.

Fur­ther­more, he added that some­times they re­ceive of­fers they do not feel com­fort­able with.“They bring us only for the pur­poses of in­no­va­tion, but ac­tu­ally, we of­fer an im­por­tant kind of work,which has to be re­spected,” Mansy said, adding, “we are not com­ing to amuse au­di­ences. Or­gan­is­ers should treat graphic facilitators as they deal with speak­ers.”

Maiy El-Wa­keel, Hany Mansy, and Dina El­sayed Saleh

An ex­am­ple of graphic fa­cil­i­ta­tion

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