The Writings On the Wall – Street Art + Graffiti in Cairo
Prior to Egypt’s revolution/uprising there was little to see by the way of graffiti and/or street art around Cairo. Sure, there were a couple pieces here and there, but there was nothing striking, nothing poignant and certainly nothing big enough to warrant attention. Everything changed on January 25th, 2011 when slogans, banners and artwork popped up across the nation’s capital as people demanded the former president step down from power.
Literally overnight, artwork – some small, others quite large in scale – could be found everywhere. They were under overpasses, sprayed onto the sides of buildings, slapped on police trucks, fixed under boutique awnings and adorned statues in the center of town. Cairo (along with other cities across Egypt) was instantly transformed and what oozed forth from that moment was a deluge of work executed by fired-up citizens (mainly youth) who were ready to demand change.
Since 2011, urban artwork has gone up, been painted over and gone up again in heavily populated parts of the city like Zamalek and Heliopolis (close to the presidential palace), and especially in areas adjacent to the infamous Tahrir Square and Kasr el Aini and Mohamed Mahmoud streets.
Through stencils, murals, motifs and posters, Egypt’s artists and activists have used Cairo’s walls as blank canvases to express their socio-political views and hopes for the future of their country. If it gets painted over, they’re back the following week putting something bigger and more provocative in its place.
One nice thing about the graffiti/street art in Egypt is that it hasn’t been the work of young men alone. Egyptian women have also taken to the streets to express their views on a host of issues and to let the rest of the population know they’re ready to get down and dirty when it comes to highlighting the issues that matter to them most (education, religion, equality and sexual harassment).