Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Street art of the revolution

In a country where everyday life has been upheaved in the name of democracy, it is reasonable for citizens to want to do everything they can to feel that their new-found voices are being listened to. Perhaps this is an explanation behind the massive increase in graffiti since the start of the revolution. What better medium can there be for an artist to feel their voice is gaining exposure than to publish it across a large, blank wall?

"Street art ... connotes a decentralized, democratic form in which there is universal access, and the real control over messages comes from the social producers. It is a barometer that registers the spectrum of thinking, especially during democratic openings."

(Lyman G. Chaffe, Political Protest and Street Art)

An article released today by AFP describes how on the walls of Cairo, President Morsi can be found depicted as "a pharaoh, an octopus, a snake, a clown or a hero, depending on which side of the political divide the artist falls".

Specifically, the article reports on one piece of street art in Cairo that succinctly summarises the Egyptian revolution so far. The three sentences of graffiti read: "2011: Down with Mubarak's rule! 2012: Down with military rule! 2013: Down with Brotherhood rule!".

These chants, rather like the الشعب يريد | aššaʕb yurīd chant that I described in my last post, are of a formulaic nature and have been applied to various different leaders in Egypt's post-revolutionary history. In 2011:

يسقط يسقط حسني مبارك
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥosni mubārak
Down with Hosni Mubarak!

After Mubarak's departure in February 2011, leadership of the country was entrusted to the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. But even by April, major protests were occurring again, this time against the new leaders:

يسقط يسقط حكم المشير
يسقط يسقط حكم العسكر
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm almušīr
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm alʕaskar
Down with the rule of the Field Marshal!
Down with military rule!

After more than one turbulent year in power, the leadership of the country was handed over to Mohamed Morsi, who was sworn in in June 2012. The opposition, whose concerns I describe in my next post, once again adapted the chant:

يسقط يسقط حكم المرشد
يسقط يسقط حكم الإخوان
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm almuršid
yasquṭ yasquṭ ḥakm alʔixwān
Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide (of the Brotherhood)!
Down with Brotherhood rule!

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