Monthly Archives: October 2014

Week 7: The Graffiti from Aya Tarek

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.

Week 6: Poetry as a Shield for the Revolution

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.

Week 5: Women, Art, and the Revolution

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.

Week 4: Poetry and Ahmed Negm in the Revolution

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.

Week 3: Ganzeer, Awad, and the Art Revolution

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.