Over the past semester, my diigo and blog postings have been centered around the topic of art and literature from Egypt. These two different subjects have shown a variety of artists and writers that have exhibited primarily three types of points of view on globalization and have each contributed to the Arab Spring Uprisings (specifically to Egypt) as well as my understanding on what the feelings of the population was through their works. This paper will explore my blog artifacts, the different views on globalization, how the artists and writers have used their art to express the concerns of the general population, and how their works have shaped my understandings on the uprisings. Continue reading
This week, I refocused my section back onto poetry from the Middle East of that time period. However, I used two artifacts from people whose family fled from the Middle East. The first artifact I used was a transcript of a YouTube video about Amal Kassir, a young Syrian-American poet who uses her words to bring attention to the events happening in the Middle East. This artifact was titled “The Conflict in Syria through the Eyes of a Young Poet” and it has Kassir discussing her poetry as well as performing some of it to describe the devastation of having to leave a place she considered her home. Though not exclusive to Egypt, I chose this artifact because I felt that Kassir captured the ideas of what it’s like to be facing a tyrant and being defiant in the face of danger. The second artifact I chose was a poem titled “I Am a Refugee” by an 80-year-old Syrian writer, Mohamed Raouf Bachir, who wrote about being exiled from his home into Turkey at his age. Though Bachir also did not write exclusively from Egypt or about Egypt, I felt that the feeling of having to leave a place one had called home for years (maybe even decades) because of safety or because of being thrown out (similar to week three’s Ganzeer) resonated with what was going on Egypt also.
I chose these articles because I felt like they covered the ideas of what we discussed this week on the ideas of the binaries we impose on the “Western” and the “Eastern” world and how, inside of these two poets, both of these binaries are combined. Kassir is a poet who resonates with the Western world because she is, ultimately, from it. With a mother that is American and being born in America and returning to it when things go disastrous in the Middle East, Kassir is part of the Western world as much as she is a part of the Eastern. I selected the poem by Bachir because I felt like it also connected these binaries because it was could be from a narrator that is traveling from the “Eastern” world to the “Western” world and wondering if they will be accepted into this society.
I think both of these poets showed hints of Political Idealism because of the fact that they had expectations for their countries to develop into a better democracy that would help them connect with other countries. Although, as I have learned throughout covering this subject, I feel like they also share a cosmopolitan view because they also believe that people have a say in the government.
This week, I shifted my focus onto an artist whose work is completely devoid of political meaning (at least to him) but somehow creeps up and says much about the world: Sad Panda. The artist titled after his postings of sad pandas all over Cairo has chosen to stay anonymous and sticks to himself. The first artifact I explored was an article called “The Melancholy of Sad Panda” by Fatma Ibrahim and Thoraia Abou Bakr, which discussed the idea of why this artist chooses to simply express this sadness. This mainly because he feels that the idea of loss and mourning is not clearly represented in the midst of a revolution where so many people have lost their lives. Though in one way his work seems pessimistic (he says, “sadness is never too far from you”), he brings in the reality of the situation: that job loss, death, a failing economy…all of these things are depressing and should be felt and validated. The second artifact I reviewed was a piece called “In Place of War,” a blog post by Ruth Daniels that explores a specific street art piece that Sad Panda did. This particular piece was a solider throwing a baby into the flames and was (according to the article) meant to be the idea of the dying of the future generation if continuing to be ruled by the current government. Attached was a video of the artist speaking about where he came up with the idea.
At first, when I first analyzed his pieces, I quickly categorized Sad Panda as a cosmopolitan, because he believes in the efforts of the people through networking. However, after analyzing these articles, I also feel like there’s traces of him being an idealist because he wants the government to be reformed in a way that will help Egypt prosper and become a key player in the world.
This week I chose to focus once again on the Egyptian art scene, specifically through the eyes of women. For this, I choose another graffiti artist, Hend Kheera, a 33 year old woman who was born in Cairo. Kheera’s work became a source of popularity in 2011, after the initial uprisings due to some of her blatant and thought provoking art. The first artifact I chose was an article from Rolling Stone magazine, titled “The Writings on the Wall,” by Michael Downey, which was also largely an interview with Kheera. In this article, Kheera talks about how she feels that graffiti is able to exploit the injustices of the government more explicitly than the media does, because graffiti cannot be ignored by people. She talks about how she feels strongly enough about her work to risk being arrested. The main focus of the particular artwork is the graffiti of “Don’t touch or castration awaits you,” a piece that she did in support of Samira Ibrahim, a woman who was strip-searched by the military and then took them to court but did not win. The second post was an article discussing an art gallery titled, “‘This Is Not Graffiti’: Street artists take their art indoors” written by Steven Viney. Viney explores the multiple artists and their art work in this piece and what the pieces meant to the artists he could talk to. One of the artists that was in the exhibit was Kheera who made an art piece of Jesus protesting with a blank sign about to get run over by a tank. He remarks that the art piece is met with “confusion to horror to chuckles” as people try to place the exact meaning of her art.
I focused on Hend Kheera because, as the weeks have begun to pass, I’ve noticed that I am most engaged with the idea of women and their role in the revolution. While many of their male counterparts (Banksy, Sad Panda, Ganzeer…) have earned worldwide acclaim, the women and their role in the revolution as artists has been more subtle but equally dynamic to what’s happened in Egypt. I think Kheera focuses largely on a cosmopolitan view on the revolution, because her artwork is used to engender discussion and critical thinking.
This week, I took my exploration of the street art in Egypt into the focus of one particular woman artist: Aya Tarek. Tarek is a 24 year old Alexandrian woman who’s work focuses on exploring urban communication and the meaning of the revolution. The first artifact I choose was a video (“Words of Women from the Egyptian Revolution: Aya Tarek“) which was a monologue of her speaking about how she found herself in the midst of the graffiti scene during the revolution. She explain how she had originally wanted to be in galleries, but overtime, realized that the institution required long explanations and meanings and had certain expectations of artists that she did not feel comfortable with and thus, she turned towards street art. The street art during the revolution, she explains, changed and she talks about how she felt that the value of graffiti was lost because the meaning was being covered explicitly. However, she also felt that the graffiti was able to fuel the fire of anarchy against a government that she feels does not understand pacifism. She speaks of how it feels to be a woman in the revolution and how her role as a woman has made her understand humanism and what it meant to be a person in the revolution. In the second artifact, an article titled “Aya Tarek: For Art’s Sake” written by Joana Saba, it also discusses how Tarek came into her own as political artist and person. Harkening back to her childhood days, Tarek talks about how she gained inspiration for her art from the city around her grandfather’s studio (he was an artist too). After growing up and producing her own work by attending university, Tarek came into her own and she felt unconstricted by the institutions that made art into work. This ended up propelling her into street art where she learned that politics and her work would be tied together. After years of fighting against those labels though, Tarek has realized that her work has changed Egypt and continues to make art for revolutionary reasons.
I choose these two artifacts because I felt like it corresponded with the issue of gender that we had this week. I feel like Tarek would side with Marcia Greenberg in the idea of whether or not the United States should promote Women’s Rights abroad. Tarek is a strong advocate for women’s rights, but she also strongly believes that people should fight for human rights instead of thinking of womanhood, because otherwise people will also only discriminate against you as a woman and distinguish you as one. I felt that Tarek’s view on politics had much to with Cosmopolitanism because she talked about how she felt that the people had to network together to align their goals and revolutionize their governmental system.
This week I chose to focus on articles about how people used poetry as an inspiration and as a sort of mask for them to hide behind. The first article, “Egypt’s Poached Revolutionary Poems” by Mohammed Kheir discusses how poetry was used to empower people through out the uprisings. While lines began to be shouted in the street, there was no true origin from them even though they became associated with famous revolutionary poets like Ahmed Negm. However, Negm denies that these lines were written by him but understands that the people use poetry to hide behind and use him as a face to protect themselves. The second article, “Poetry of the Revolution” by Sharif Elmusa talks about how essential poetry was in the revolution, because of the way it inspires people (and how it inspires people in the same way the revolution did). Elmusa talks about how poetry takes common words and common meanings to create something extraordinary and how, in the same way, the revolution has taken common people and made them do extraordinary things such as seeking justice and removing symbols of power from their government. These articles both exhibited signs of the Cosmopolitan view point because of the way they showed how the people were the driving force of the revolution. However, I think that Elmusa also showed a touch of Political Liberalism because of how he discussed how the some of the people have been removed from power and that now the people of Egypt have more of a chance to step up in the world become of it.
This week I chose to focus on the art scene in Egypt, specifically through the eyes of the women and what they felt that this revolution meant for them. The first artifact I chose was a blog post entitled “Women in Graffiti: A Tribute to the Women in Egypt” by a blogger called “Suzze.” This post talked about how the western world depicts the women of Egypt as previously uneducated, as if prior to the uprisings the women were unaware of what was going on inside of their society. However, the author believes that it is only now, after the uprisings, that the true struggle and the true defiance that the woman show are being recognized. She argues that the Egyptian women were always fighting, but not necessarily because they were women, but because they were Egyptians. She wanted it to be known that while graffiti artists (and she lists a plethora of them) focused on some of the sexual assault that women were forced into the art also stood against the regime and the society they lived in. The second artifact I chose was a TedTalk by Bahia Shehab, a Lebanese-Egyptian artist and historian, called “A Thousand Times No.” She was first commissioned to investigate an word, and she happened to choose the word “no” in 2010. She compiled a book full of the word from different art pieces from all areas around the globe. Later, after the revolution on January 25th, she felt the need to start stenciling the word after being inspired by seeing it elsewhere and choose to say no to the cruelty, violence, and the dictatorship she saw surrounding her. I chose both of these artifacts because they both deeply reminded me of the documentary “The Square” and I felt like, unlike in the documentary, I was seeing the way women viewed the revolution. While the documentary expresses the same concerns and voices the same opinions, it was good to see how the women saw these things and how they channeled their energies into their art work to shape their communities.
This week I chose to focus on the role of graffiti and poetry (and, specifically Ahmed Negm’s poetry) in the January 25th revolution. The first artifact was an article titled “The Writing on the Wall: Graffiti, Poetry, and Protest in Egypt,” by Andy Young begins by painting the image of some of the martyrs such as: Khaled Said and Shenouda Atteya that have been placed all over the walls by graffiti artists around the city of Cairo. On these walls, are also some lines taken from poems such as: “When people demand freedom/ Destiny must surely respond.” Young discusses how influential poetry has been on the revolution and how the people use poetry to maintain their sense of identity as well as finally being given a voice to what they feel. Young talks about a variety of poets and how the lines have become chants to sing in the streets. The second artifact was the poem “Who Are They and Who Are We?” by Ahmed Negm, who was one of the many poets the Andy Young had written about. This poem was chanted in the streets in the 2011 uprisings and gives a strong voice to the poor people. By juxtaposing the working class, the people who have to fight to survive to the ruling class, the people who have never had to work for anything, it uplifts the poor and makes them out to be the true victors. I chose these artifacts, because the first one shows a cosmopolitan view of society, which is that networking and social factors are the dominant way of working in the political system; and the second one because I felt like it linked up with our discussions this week about an economically just system and how great the divide between the classes can be. I felt like the poem adequately covered and showed how the people of the lower class felt and how they saw their ruling class.
This week, I chose to focus my articles, once again, on the revolution of art after the uprisings of January 25th, but focused on two influential artists that continue to work for the people even after the revolution: Alaa Awad and Ganzeer. The first article titled, “Egypt’s Powerful Street Art Packs a Punch” is written by Alastair Sooke and focuses on how the revolution shaped the art scene in Egypt, pertaining specifically to the street art. Sooke brings in Alaa Awad to talk about the main idea behind his art. To which Awad says that he “just [wants to] go out and paint something for people on the street” because he feels that the government has “forgotten the people.” Awad, however, it seems, has not and he uses his art to try to remind people that he has not forgotten who they used to be either. The second article, “Hieroglyphics That Won’t Be Silenced: Ganzeer Takes Protest Art Beyond Egypt” by Barbara Pollack who introduced Ganzeer, an Egyptian street artist who was influential in the uprisings after January 25th, and the struggles he has faced since. Ganzeer had been singled out as a “recruitment of the Muslim Brotherhood” and was forced to flee the country to the United States, where he now tries to garner media and political attention about the events going on in Egypt. I used both of these articles because I believed they connected to some of the readings from Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution. The first article relates to the woman from Chapter 3, who views the revolution as a voice in the same way that Awad had and she uses her memories to believe in what Egypt can be (which, in her childhood, was a place of prosperity) which is similar to how Awad believes that the Egyptian people can be restored to their former glory. The second article reminded me of how the man from the second chapter, who moved to London and uses media to keep in touch with his friends over there in light of the revolution. In the same way, Ganzeer now works abroad trying to keep in touch and works on the revolution from a more different place in a very different way than he previously had.
This week I chose to focus on articles that discussed the issues of censorship and the topic of literature after the January 25th revolution and what the effects (and after effects) would be on the literature scene. The first article titled, “The Poetry of Revolt,” explores the recent revolution and the revolution of decades prior and how poetry has been able to shape these revolts. Elliot Colla (the author) wants to impress how the chants are a form of couplets that are able to bind the community together and aids them in a communicating their goals and ideas. Though unsure of what the future would hold, Colla believe that the best thing is that the revolution has begun and that the people do not have to be afraid to speak because the poetry speaks for them in their chants. The second article, “The #Jan25 Revolution and the ‘Liberation’ of Arab Literature” was an article written a few short weeks after the uprisings and explored the issue of censorship in Arab Literature. For the years prior to the uprising, while there was no direct political censorship, there were publishers that would use religion and moral values as reasons to not reproduce the material. The article interviews Khaled al-Berrry, an Egyptian novelist, who looks at the revolution as a chance to develop the culture of art and literature of future generations. I used these two articles because they explored topics that not only pertained to the January 25 revolution, but also, because they explore how literature and poetry shaped the revolution. They both show also the Cosmopolitan perspective, by placing the power into the people that bind together through a means of network. However, I believe that the second article also displays political liberalism in the fact that the author is aware of the cultural impact the uprisings have, but also understand that the government will play a hand in the world and what we learn.