Writer Amira Hanafy is currently working on a “popular” dictionary to document the Egyptian revolution.
“A Dictionary of the Revolution” aims to give new definitions of a lot of terminology, which are currently being used on a daily basis in the media, official statements and side conversations in cafes and streets.
“Feloul,” “third party,” “counter-revolution” and “Kentucky,” are among the terms tackled in the book.
In the creation of the book, Hanafy uses what she calls “Revolutionary vocabulary cards.” Using those cards, she is asking Egyptians for their stories related to the terms the book tackles, so that they can take part in defining the terms.
Hanafy will use a recorder to document people’s testimonies. She also will use multi-layered frameworks of telling the stories of the revolution to reach different opinions and view.
The final wording of the dictionary will be in Egyptian Colloquial Arabic, with plans to translate into English to reach wider audience.
Writing Arabic dictionaries is known to be hard work as it requires arranging the words in alphabetical order based on Arabic word derivatives, and without the right tools, these dictionaries can be difficult to use.
With “A Dictionary of the Revolution”, Hanafy aims to overcome this difficulty by depending on the alphabetical order without the need to derive the words, making it easier to tell the stories of citizens in the framework of the revolution.
She chose to present the project in the framework of a dictionary for two reasons. Firstly, giving a citizen a card with only one term printed on it would make it easier to find stories focusing on the subject, which would help with the final outcome putting the book in a firm framework, so it wouldn’t be just stories with no obvious link.
The second reason is that she believes having a framework is always better for the artist as a motive for innovation, which challenges the creativity of this artist.
Citizens, whom would be interviewed for the book, will be of massive diversity, in terms of geographical scope, age, gender and political affiliations.
“I am not interested in writing one non-complex narratives of the revolution story,” she explains. “You can say that I am not interested in the ‘truth’ in itself as a definition , but I'm interested in the truth that the people believe in.
“Egypt’s population is more than 85 million people. This means that there are 85 million unique views of the truth.”
“At some unique moment, it seemed that the vast majority of Egyptians agree on what the country needs,” she reminisced. “But what is happening now in Egypt is a form of conflict and confrontation between many of the facts, and I'm interested in, through this project, documenting this complexity at the current moment.”
Hanafy, whose works focuses on the use of language and vocabulary, has obtained a grant from the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture for the printing and publishing of the dictionary.
In regards to the necessary resources for traveling and researching in different parts of Egypt, Hanafy launched a campaign to collect donations on Kick Starter.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm