When defining street art, we have been talking about the crucial elements which appear as formative for the phenomenon: apart from the certain aspects that refer to aesthetics, the most important dimension is reflected in the fact that street art, arguably, needs to be situated in a socio-political context of activism. Thus, the phenomenon can aspire to reach the potential of symbolic resistance, a possibility so important in societies of the postmodern era. It is in this kind of situation, when facing the difficulties of the socio-cultural surroundings, that we can witness extraordinary articulations of the good-heartedness of street art.
In 2011, the entire society of Egypt had been intertwined in civil resistance, as strikes, non-violent disobedience and, in time, full scale riots overwhelmed the cities of Alexandria, Cairo and others. The revolution was part of the complex international politics phenomenon which was referred to as the Arab Spring. Citizens took over the streets of cities in Egypt in an act of the wide opposing to the 30-year-long rule of, at that time president, Hosni Mubarak. Years later, the nation had felt the effects of elections, trials, military juntas and a coup d’état and hundreds of dead and injured individuals… There are numerous aspects which one needs to take into consideration when addressing the Egyptian crisis and the Arab Spring. However, there is something that needs to be underlined: various social groups and ideological formations are in close relation to the situation within the Egyptian society – the revolution had seen the activities of anti-capitalists, islamists, liberals, feminists, nationalists, and so on… In the midst of all of this, street art became (and hopefully still is) a vessel for the articulation of social meaning…
Basma Hamdy has been teaching design in the Middle East for nearly a decade now. Apart from being a designer and a professor, she focuses on research which examines notion such as Arabic Type Design, cultural preservation and Egyptian Pop Culture. Basma Hamdy is also devoted to political contemporary art. Don Karl is a graffiti artist, cultural activist and author and publisher from Berlin. He runs the publishing house From Here To Fame, and is the co-author of the book Arabic Graffiti. He had started to paint graffiti three decades ago and today he curates international urban art projects. Together, Basma Hamdy and Don Karl are creators of Walls of Freedom, contributing to the book with the strengths of their intellect and experience.
Walls of Freedom is a book created through the collaboration with artist who have been on the frontlines of resistance, creating in the midst of the propaganda-driven media and the storm of political uprising... The publication is a representation of the iconic artwork from the Egyptian cultural context, depicting various urban interventions and street art achievements. What is more, Walls of Freedom represents a chronicle of the three years long journey of inspirational resistance. The book is fueled with the force of essays by artists and experts as well as moments captured by acclaimed photographers. It is study which manages to contextualize graffiti in the complex socio-political, cultural and historical elements of a turbulent cultural period in Egypt. Walls of Freedom is a result of three years long work by 100 photographers and 100 artists. It was curated and edited by Basma Hamdy and Don Karl, with a foreword by Ahdaf Soueif.
Featured image: Anonymous Pharao by Marwan Shahin, Alexandria, detail
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