Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution documents the ways that the Arab Spring breathed new light into graffiti, turning it into a tool to fight the country’s corrupt political system.

Featuring the work of 50 photographers and 30 artists, the image-heavy tome is a collaboration between art and design professor Basma Hamdy and graffiti artist and activist Don Karl.

Highlighted works include a ‘wanted’ sign by artist Ammar Abou Bakr for a police-sniper notorious for aiming at protesters’ eyes, a mural protesting the country’s transition to military rule after Hosni Mubarak was ousted, and a Banksy-like mural by the aritst Ganzeer depicting a showdown between an army tank and a boy selling bread on his bicycle. The captions that follow are from the authors.

"The no walls campaign is a literal manifestation of art becoming an agent of change and breaking down barriers. It was initiated by a group of artists and activists in response to seven military blockades set up on streets around Tahrir Square. The blockades created dead-ends and made it difficult to move around downtown and their impact was devastating to people affecting local residents and businesses. Many artists and activists collaborated together to paint the blockades with images of hope, or trompe l’oeils of a continuing road."

More from the No Walls campaign.

"Coloring through Corruption is one of the most recent projects initiated by an artist named Amr Nazeer. He and dozens of other men and women, decided to color the streets of Cairo and they call it 'coloring through corruption.'"

"Their goal is not to beautify but instead they are hoping to expose corruption by highlighting problems on the streets that are a direct cause of governmental neglect."

"Ammar Abou Bakr created a Wanted stencil and stated the name of a police officer: Mahmoud Shinawy. The officer was dubbed the 'eye sniper’ became famous for shooting at protesters’ eyes."

More from The Eye Sniper.

"In Egypt we have a saying: 'The one who bears children, doesn’t die,' meaning that if you have kids, you live on through them. An artist called Omar Fathy created a mural to object to military rule after Mubarak’s ousting, using a spinoff on that famous saying, but instead of the word meaning 'bears children’ he replaced it with a word to mean 'delegate.' Because the two words rhyme in Arabic, it reflects the artists intent in exposing Tantawy’s loyalty to Mubarak (Tantawy was the head of the military at the time). The mural shows half of Mubarak and half of Tantawy’s heads fused together to show they are one and the same.

"The military took power soon after Mubarak was ousted but continued to arrest and torture civilians maintaining the strategies that Mubarak had adopted to quell protests. When presidential elections were held, the artist repeated the mural on the same wall in Tahrir Square this time adding two presidential candidates to the mural known to have served during the Mubarak era, once again warning people that voting for them would not bring about change."

"Ganzeer and a team of his friends created 'The Tank vs. Biker’ during 'Mad Graffiti Weekend’ in May 2011. The mural depicts a hypothetical yet ironic duel between a military tank and a boy on a bicycle carrying a basket of bread. The unmatched opponents are frozen in motion on a huge wall under a bridge in Zamalek alluding to the absurd reality of the military attacking its own citizens. The ‘bread boy’ is a symbol of the revolution with its slogan 'Bread, Freedom and social justice.'"

"Bahia Shehab collected a thousand different visual representations of the word “no” printed, stitched, molded, engraved and cast over the past 1,400 years on vases, tombstones and walls, in locations as far-flung as Spain and the border of China. She called the installation A Thousand Times No. After the Revolution she began to see a connection between A Thousand Times No and the revolution. She spray painted different 'Nos’ in response to different political situations/actions."

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2013-05-28

Co.Exist

This Moving Street Art Helped Topple A Dictator During The Arab Spring

Street art is an ancient Egyptian tradition, but the new book Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution shows how the Arab Spring uprising brought it back to life as a way to fight corruption.

During the Egyptian Revolution in 2011, the country’s young people didn’t just vocalize their political dissent; they recorded it on their cities’ walls with murals, posters, and graffiti. Politically charged street art is a tradition dating back to antiquity in Egypt, but a soon-to-be-published book, Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution, documents the ways that the Arab Spring breathed new light into the medium, turning it into a tool to fight the country’s corrupt political system, both during and in the aftermath of the revolution.

Featuring the work of 50 photographers and 30 artists, the image-heavy tome is a collaboration between art and design professor Basma Hamdy and graffiti artist and activist Don Karl (who previously co-authored the book Arabic Graffiti). Highlighted works include a "wanted" sign by artist Ammar Abou Bakr (created for a police-sniper notorious for aiming at protesters’ eyes), a mural protesting the country’s transition to military rule after Hosni Mubarak was ousted, and a Banksy-like mural by the aritst Ganzeer depicting a showdown between an army tank and a boy selling bread on his bicycle.

"What’s interesting is that artists who never created works on the streets used the streets as their outlet [during the revolution] because they felt that the media, which was controlled by the state, was biased and did not reflect what was happening on the streets and what the revolution was about," Hamdy explained via email. "They used the streets to expose truths."

Hamdy and Karl spent three years researching the street art movement and collecting materials for the project, which they’ll fundraise for using Indiegogo. "I want this story to be told by the artists and activists themselves," writes Hamdy, who is an Egyptian living abroad and participated in the protests while visiting home. "I have seen many Western writers [and] journalists interested in writing about the revolution, but they rarely include the artists [or] activists in telling the story. […] I want this book to be accurate and document and catalogue the street art phenomenon, contextualize it, shed light on its history […] rather than simply put some photos together in a book."

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  • Liranjulia

    Too bad the Arab Spring in Egypt has turned into the eternal winter with the Muslim Brotherhood taking concentrating power once again