War on Walls Exhibition
Exhibited Project: War on Walls: Egypt’s Arab Spring Street Art
Details: January 9 – February 15 2015; Seattle, WA
War on Walls is a collection of extraordinary street art, created in and around Cairo’s Tahrir Square during Egypt’s Arab Spring revolution. The intense social and political unrest prompted street artists to voice their points of view through art on walls near Tahrir Square and across Egypt. Wall art increased in scope and content as Egypt’s Arab Spring progressed.
Street art was a defining feature of the Egyptian revolution: raising awareness of political and economic issues, pressuring the regime and governing bodies for change, injecting dark humor into turbulent times, and providing a visual memory of important events and individuals. The street artists’ work featured revolutionary slogans, criticisms of the government, portraits of government figures, tributes to martyrs, comments on social issues, and depictions of key revolutionary events. The emerging street art movement was a creative expression of the Egyptian people’s frustration and desire for freedom, as well as a way to physically reclaim space in Cairo as belonging to the people rather than the government.
When I began this project in early 2012, I was working in Cairo, living in a hotel room facing onto Tahrir Square. The regime had toppled, former President Hosni Mubarak had been forced to resign a year earlier and presidential elections had been scheduled for June 2012, just a few months away. Tahrir Square teamed with individual protestors, formal political groups and random citizens, giving voice to every type of civil complaint – from politics and police to taxes, utility expenses, and traffic congestion.
Living on Tahrir Square, I observed the wall art grow and change to reflect current events and the demands for social, political and economic change. These increasingly complex, yet temporary murals were not political organs of any particular group. Rather, they were created and funded by the artists themselves, who spent thousands of Egyptian Pounds (EGP) to create these paintings, only to have the government eventually white wash the walls to remove them. Nonetheless, the wall art became more and more complex and expansive as the Arab Spring wore on. I was inspired by the artists’ dedication to creating these complex, culturally significant expressions of the Egyptian peoples’ complaints and demands, knowing the ephemeral life that each masterpiece would have. The photographs created in this project are my effort to preserve some important examples of this extraordinary art movement.
It is my hope that War on Walls will convey not only the craft of these artists, but also the messages that inspired the street artists to express the soul and dreams of the Egyptian peoples’ revolution. These murals tell the story of Egypt’s Arab Spring through some of the most beautiful, expressive and iconic wall images ever created. War on Walls preserves important examples of this extraordinary art movement. This photography project aims to convey not only the craft of these artists, but also the messages that inspired the street artists to express the soul and dreams of the Egyptian peoples’ revolution.