News / Arts & Entertainment

Arab American Museum Shows Arab Spring Protest Art

In many countries throughout the Middle East and North Africa, walls and buildings became the canvas for street art during the Arab Spring uprisings that began in 2011 and gave protestors a platform. A collection of protest artwork is just one part of the exhibit called “Creative Dissent” at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The exhibit also explores how digital technology has changed the way some expressions of protest are created and disseminated.
When the Arab uprisings began, they took Islamic art professor Christiane Gruber by surprise. But as she watched events unfold, especially in Egypt, she began to focus on one aspect.
“I was fascinated as I was following it online, especially what was happening in Tahrir, by the extent to which the demonstrations were being articulated through all of this creative media, particularly through arts and through humor,” said Gruber.
Expressions of protest have fascinated Gruber for decades.  
“The arts play a really critical role in expressions of politics, and oftentimes when humans communicate with one another, especially in large public settings, like the streets or squares. They don’t just use language. They use art forms, they use very poignant images, they use repeated slogans,” said Gruber.
Gruber said that many of the slogans chanted in the streets from Tunis to Tahrir Square and beyond are themselves artistic expression.
“When you chant them over and over again, it’s almost like you are mimicking a heartbeat, so I’ve seen this quite a bit in the streets of Istanbul as well. So I can personally attest to the emotive resonance some of these might have,” said Gruber. 
That poetic rhythm weaves itself through the Creative Dissent exhibit Gruber curated at the Arab American Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. The slogans join photographs of key moments during the uprisings, and stand next to carefully crafted images that take aim at leaders accused of oppression.
Gruber said her biggest challenge was the lack of original material.
"Curators tend to work with art objects so there are more traditional methods of exhibiting materials. These are not art objects.  Most of the materials, as I’m sure you noticed, are large scale reproductions of digital images,” explained Gruber.
Gruber points out that technology has changed the audience for many protest artists. Before the availability of digital technology and instant dissemination, some of this artwork might never have been seen beyond their original location.
“And I think without these other media, we wouldn’t have a show, because we’re bringing together a Facebook platform, puppet shows which are really in theaters, the chants which are in the streets, so we’re trying to give an idea of the really complex intersection of what’s happening out in the public, what’s happening online, what’s happening through livestream media, so it was a bit challenging to capture that chaos in a structured environment,” said Gruber.
That structured environment began as a symposium and grew into the exhibit now on display at the Arab American Museum. Gruber is working with the museum to take the exhibit on the road after it ends here in late February.

Kane Farabaugh

Kane Farabaugh is the Midwest Correspondent for Voice of America, where since 2008 he has established Voice of America's presence in the heartland of America.

You May Like

800-Pound Man Determined to Slim Down

Man says he was kicked out of hospital for ordering pizza; wants to be an actor More

Australia Prepares to Resettle 12,000 Syrian Refugees

Preference will be given to refugees from persecuted minorities, and the first group is expected to arrive before late December More

S. African Miners Seek Class Action Suit Against Gold Mines

The estimated 100,000 say say they contracted the lung diseases silicosis and tuberculosis in the mines More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings: Justin Haywardi
|| 0:00:00
October 07, 2015 11:57 AM
The Moody Blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Justin Hayward sat down with Border Crossings host Larry London to talk about his career and perform songs from his solo CD, "Spirits from the Western Sky."

The Moody Blues singer, songwriter and guitarist Justin Hayward sat down with Border Crossings host Larry London to talk about his career and perform songs from his solo CD, "Spirits from the Western Sky."