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.
The artifacts that I choose for these were primarily articles and videos about artists and writers from Egypt and their creative outlets. In the beginning, I was tentative about what I was posting and found two articles the first week that only discussed the effects that art and literature had on the uprisings in Egypt, particularly about how people felt that they were bound together by the ideologies that were portrayed in the graffiti. The second week artifacts were closely tied to this because it explored how censorship in Egypt was working in the literary scene as well as how poetry was used to inspire people because it was able to aide the people in communicating their goals and beliefs. However, after these first two broad weeks, I felt like it would be best to explore specific artists and writers to get a better understanding of what was going on as well as understanding the globalization views the general public and using what we were learning in class to tie into my project. This meant starting the third week with Alaa Awad and Ganzeer, two street artists that shared a Cosmopolitan view and tying it with a reading from Diaries of an Unfinished Revolution, because I felt that these two artists worked out of the normal realm for the most part, much like the writer from the book. When I wrote about Ahmed Negm in the fourth week, his poem “Who Are They? And Who Are We?” touched a lot on some of the recurring themes within wars, particularly about how the lower classes know who they are because they have been through so much while the upper class stays drastically out of touch. The fifth week made me find a theme that would reoccur in weeks seven and eight, with the art of women from the revolution. This mainly started because I wanted to do a week about women in the revolution because our Controversies in Globalization book had a section about women’s roles and whether or not the U.S. should be promoting gender equality abroad. However, most of the artists I explore (Aya Tarek, Hend Kheera, Bahia Shehab) all believed that the war they were waging was not about women, but rather about human equality in general, because women are humans and therefore, should be treated the same anyways. In the ninth week, I focused on an anonymous artist, Sad Panda, and how he feels that the world in the Middle East has not had time to process or mourn over their tragedies. Finally, last week, I connected two poets, Amal Kassir and Mohammed Bachir, to how they talked about living in the Middle East and moving into the Western world and how this shows the binaries that we had discussed in class.
Throughout this project, the themes of liberation, expression, and freedom all came through in the work of these artists and writers; they all somehow incorporated these themes into their works in an attempt to express the concerns of the general population. Most of the poets I looked at were from an older generation that had already seen many changes in the governments and in the societies that they were living in and were well known for the work they were doing. Specifically Ahmed Negm used his work in Egypt in prior revolutionary causes and in the 2011 uprisings was attributed to a lot of the poetry that was produced, despite not having written it. However, in an interview, Negm recognized that people would use his name out of fear and reconciled this with understanding that some were not ready to be leaders as he was. This says something about all the artists and writers though: they are all willing to spray their paintings or write their words in order to express not just their feelings, but the feelings of the people who are too afraid to raise their voices. In a way, the graffiti and the poetry became a sort of channel for people to be able to talk about their opinions openly because of the conversation that the graffiti would stir up. The graffiti artists were a different type of vein than the poets, mainly because they were working in exposed, limited environments. When the word “limited” is used, I mean to say that their works are not always memorialized or captured because of the government painting over their works. A strong example of this was a painting of a solider throwing a child into the flames, done by Sad Panda, who was using it to symbolize the dying of a generation at the hands of the government. I think for a country in the midst of a revolution, the fears that the government has about it’s people can translate into censorship which shows why the work of these artists and writers is so important; in a country that is trying to tell the population to lose their opinion, the writers and the artists are giving a voice to the problems of the lower class, the problems that the dictators and the government do not always see.
All of these artifacts and the different perspectives on globalization that I was able to perceive through these artists and writers helped shape my understanding on the uprisings in Egypt. For example, by closely examining the work of Hend Kheera, Aya Tarek, and Bahia Shehab, I was able to understand how women felt about their place in society. This was important because the way Western media portrays women in the Middle East is often as helpless and defenseless against the men in their society. However, these women plaster the icons of their femininity on walls as a way to empower other women. Specifically, Bahia Shehab stencils a blue bra to signify the struggles of Samira Ibrahim, a woman who, in March 2011, was doing a march for International Women’s day and was then arrested by police, subjected to virginity test, and later sued the military, describing the examinations as sexual assault. Ibrahim also inspired Hend Kheera to create hew most well known piece known as “Don’t Touch, or Castration Awaits You.” These pieces made me have an understanding of how the women of Egypt bound together when they had a voice. While Ibrahim had been one of seven women to be stripped-searched, she was the only one to sue the military for it. This event created a voice for women and thus engendered a community very unlike the Western interpretation; instead of being weak and defenseless, the women in Egypt are empowered by the things that make them weakest. Their weakness becomes a symbol of strength instead of a symbol of oppression. In a similar fashion, the artifacts I gathered by Ahmed Negm also discussed the power the lower classes had over the upper class, because they knew what it was to suffer and fight for what they wanted. The poems from Amal Kassir and Mohammed Bachir depicted the idea that their way of life will continue even after their homes and their lifestyles have been removed or exiled. The artwork and the poetry that came from this revolution made me realize that the majority of these people see themselves (and thus, their country) as underdogs who will eventually get victory over their oppressors.
Doing this blog project over this semester, helped me understand the different views on globalization, how the artists and poets used their work to express the concerns of the general population, and how exactly the people engaging in these uprisings felt. Primarily the artists and writers showed a cosmopolitan or political idealist point of view through their works. I garnered this from the fact that, for the most part, these artists seemed most concerned with giving a voice to people that do not have voices or showing the exploitation of the lower classes or women. The people of Egypt will continue to revolutionize their country but with the help of artists and poets of their age their voice will always be heard whether it is in print or on the walls of the buildings.