News / Middle East

Graffiti Becomes Political Weapon on Cairo Streets

Graffiti Becomes Political Weapon on Cairo Streetsi
X
January 24, 2014 11:59 PM
Since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, Cairo’s walls have become its canvas. Egyptian artists are using their city’s walls to express everything from calls to revolution to outrage over sexual harassment. Sebastian Meyer reports for VOA. (Photos by Mia Grondahl/'Revolution Graffiti')

Graffiti Becomes Political Weapon on Cairo Streets

Sebastian Meyer
Since the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, Cairo’s exterior structures have become its canvas. On the third anniversary of that Egyptian Revolution, graffiti has exploded across the country, with Egyptian artists using their city’s walls to express everything from calls to revolution to outrage over sexual harassment.

Mohammad Mahmoud Street is a showcase of Egyptian street art. Politics. Social justice. Mourning. This is where Egyptian artists come to speak their minds.

The artist Ganzeer has painted some of the most iconic artworks of the revolution, including one on Mohammad Mahmoud. "You have these skulls and, in the midst of the skulls, you have one of the protest signs that was freedom, social justice, right there and a pile of skulls, and who’s responsible? Just a soldier, you know. It’s not Mubarak, it’s not the officer, ranks and whatever; it’s not the people who are making the decisions. It’s just a soldier following orders," he said.

Political battlefield

Over the years, the city’s walls have become a political battlefield where the artists are the soldiers.

In 2011, Ganzeer painted a tank pointing its cannon at a lone boy delivering bread on a bicycle.
 
After dozens of protesters were run over by tanks, a new addition was made to Ganzeer’s piece. But a pro-military group, unhappy with this portrayal, erased the dead and added Egyptian flags to the hands of the protesters. Anti-military artists returned fire by adding a military monster eating a protester.

Not all graffiti has been political. A group called the Mona Lisa Brigades works on issues of social justice in the impoverished neighborhood of Arda Lowa.

Drawing attention

Artist Ismail Mohammed said, "The goal of the project is to take photos of the children and write their dreams and write their names. So when the children are going round the street and seeing their photos in the street, when they are going to school and coming back from school... they are proud of what they want to be and proud of the place."

Mia Grondahl, a Swedish journalist and author of Revolution Graffiti - Street Art of the New Egypt, said most street art is aimed at getting attention in downtown Cairo, not at engaging the country’s poor.

"What the Mona Lisa Brigades are doing is, actually they are bringing up these people to the walls. Lifting them up. Showing them. Here they are. These are the people. Look at them. Take care of them. Listen to them. Hear them out. I would say that that is really revolutionary," said Grondahl.

Mira Shahada concentrates on issues of sexual harassment, but she feels her pieces have done little to change things. "The fight that’s in everyone is still there. Like it hasn’t changed. The thing that I believe we should be fighting for hasn’t changed. It’s about being uncompromising. And, if you’re an uncompromising type, these are difficult times to live through."

With the Egyptian military back in power, her fellow artist, Ganzeer, feels similarly.

"It’s kind of gone full circle. I could do the tank versus biker now and it would totally apply," he said. "Even the piece I did in Mohammad Mahmoud with the soldier and the skulls is actually based on a poster I designed back in 2011...So in a way things have changed, deceivingly changed. You think they change, but actually you’re back to square one again."

Photos by Mia Grondahl/'Revolution Graffiti'

You May Like

Video Experts Warn World Losing Ebola Fight

Doctors Without Borders says world is losing battle against Ebola, unless wealthy nations dispatch specialized biological disaster response teams More

Video Experts: Rise of Islamic State Significant Development in Jihadism

Many analysts contend the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years More

US-Based Hong Kongers Pledge Support for Pro-Democracy Activists

Democracy advocates call on Chinese living abroad to join them in opposing new election rules for their home territory More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearancei
X
Elizabeth Lee
September 02, 2014 8:57 PM
Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Larger Than Life Chinese Lanterns Make Southern California Appearance

Chinese lanterns with a long history are lighting up in 21st century style at the Los Angeles County Fair in southern California. Visitors can see traditional lanterns that hang, but also lanterns in the shape of animals, iconic landmarks and many other objects, all created by artisans from a place in China known for its lanterns. Elizabeth Lee has the details from the fair in the city of Pomona.
Video

Video Experts See Rise of ISIS as Significant Development

The Islamic State’s rise seems sudden. It caught the U.S. by surprise this summer when it captured large portions of northern Iraq and spread its wings in neighboring Syria. But many analysts contend that the group - which grew out of al-Qaida in Iraq - has been rebuilding for years. VOA's Jela de Franceschi takes a closer look at the rise of ISIS and its implications for the Middle East and beyond.
Video

Video Israel Concerned Over Syrian Rebels in Golan

Israeli officials are following with concern the recent fighting between Syrian rebels and government forces near the contested Golan Heights. Forty-four U.N. peacekeepers from Fiji have been seized by Syrian Islamist rebels and the clashes occasionally have spilled into Israel. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.

AppleAndroid