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Documenting the Egyptian Revolution through Street Art Documenting the Egyptian Revolution through Street Art
Culture

Documenting the Egyptian Revolution through Street Art

by Basma Hamdy

June 2, 2013

It's hard to imagine that it's been almost two and a half years since Egypt's revolution. The excitement and enthusiasm are long gone as we deal with our country's collapsing economy, the Muslim Brotherhood’s power grab, and political and social chaos.

We are now dealing with the anti-climax. The harsh reality is hitting us in the face, sending us on bouts of denial, disbelief and depression. Why did all those people die? Was there ever even a revolution? How did we get here?
 

 
Sometimes we forget the people who gave their lives, lost their eyes, and dedicated their every waking moment hoping to make the dream of freedom become a reality for all Egyptians. But it's easy to forget when you're dealing with power cuts three times a day, when you get mobbed in broad daylight, or when you can't walk in the streets without getting harassed. We are not living in the utopian state that was the revolution—we are living in its aftermath. But there are moments preserved in our hearts and minds, moments of unity and triumph, painted on our city streets.
 
In Tahrir Square, images of martyrs and heroes cover the walls of a street called Mohamed Mahmoud, which has become the true chronicle of our revolution. When the media was telling lies, and pushing the state's agenda, artists were painting truths on the city walls, sometimes through battles and tear gas.
 

 
When the military blocked off streets with barrier walls, artists painted them with images of hope, and illusions (tromp'loeils) of continuing streets, yes, the walls remained but the people were now empowered.
 
There hasn’t been an event during the past couple of years that wasn’t a subject for street art in Egypt. It has become a tool to reach people on the streets, replacing mainstream media but also a way to connect Egyptians with their identity and remind them of their history.
 
But in the aftermath of the revolution, a group of young men and women are using street art in a different way, to “color through corruption.” Bad infrastructure, disintegrating streets, neglected metro stations are painted in bright cheerful colors, not to beautify them, but to draw attention to them. Much like taking a highlighter to a badly written essay, these artists are highlighting everything wrong with Egypt. Calling for change, hoping for a solution.
 

 
We started our project, “Walls of Freedom,” two years ago to document the street art of the Egyptian revolution. But instead we found ourselves documenting the revolution through street art. We have been in collaboration with artists, writers, historians, Egyptologists, and activists who have all contributed to painting a clearer picture of the connection between creative expression and public space.
 
We have more than 50 contributing photographers, 30 artists, and 20 essays in our book. It has grown to become a monumental project, much bigger than we anticipated. Our publisher is a small publishing house based in Berlin and, to produce this book in a way that does justice to the revolution, we need to raise money to cover the printing, editing, and other expenses.
 
Supporting our project on Indiegogo means you support the subject of the book and its message, but you’re also supporting independant publishers like From Here To Fame who have been involved in many projects that foster community engagement. We believe that people should be more proactive in determining what actually gets published. This is your chance to make your voice heard.
 
This project is part of GOOD's Saturday series Push for Good—our guide to crowdfunding creative progress.
 
First photo by Beshoy Fayez, art by Ammar Abou Bakr.
Second photo by Basma Hamdy, art by Ammar Abou Bakr.
Third photo and art by Zeft.
 
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