Tree in Tahrir Square, 2012 (Mohamed Abou El Naga)
rafah. out of egypt. s.khatib sept 2012.
Lee Miller, Egypt, 1937
Murals by artist and professor Alaa Awad on the wall outside of the American University in Cairo’s downtown campus on Mohammed Mahmoud Street.
From “500 words” on artforum.com - Alaa Awad discusses the murals he designed in collaboration with artists Ammar Abu Bakr and Hanaa El Deighem on Mohammed Mahmoud Street (as told to Claire Davies):
“I took a break from teaching and came to Tahrir Square earlier this month because of the February 1 massacre in Port Said that followed a football game. We started painting the mural that day. I have no plans to leave now, and so I keep working on it. The mural is a memorial to the shuhada [martyrs] who died in Port Said. The paints are cheap; we buy them with our own money. I painted the ancient Egyptian compositions, Ammar did the martyrs’ portraits, and Hanaa painted the decorative elements. It’s structured like a story: The work begins with scenes painted in an ancient Egyptian style of people bringing offerings to the ruler, who is depicted as a mouse. In the next scene we see the Mubarak family on trial for crimes against social equality and justice. Suzanne Mubarak is depicted with her suckling son, preparing him to take power. Then there’s a scene of a women’s march. It’s an image from the Ramesseum and dates to the time of Ramses II. The original is now mostly destroyed.
“We wanted to recognize the key role of the women whom we respect very much––like Madame Ghada Abdelkhalaq, Nawara Negm, and Alaa Mahfouz––in the struggle. Here you see women as the ancient Egyptians depicted them. They are climbing a ladder that symbolizes the revolution. They must break through where the ladder meets the sky. The women are nude; they are beautiful. They are not covering their bodies. We are Muslims but we don’t believe in the Wahhabi style of Islam that has been imported to Egypt. Egypt has a long, long history and its own traditions.
“The portraits of the martyrs are next. Here the women are mourning the deceased. They are carrying black flowers. There is the door of Osiris, which you pass through on your way to the land of the dead. At the funeral procession the women are wailing and smearing themselves with earth. This is a very old Egyptian tradition. The goddess of the sky, Nut, is rendered above, and the martyr’s soul is being welcomed into heaven with a lit candle.
“We just began work on another mural located on the same street. Ammar is painting portraits of those who died in the clashes on Mohamed Mahmoud Street and at Maspero last year. Many people come to look at them. Sometimes visitors write things on the mural or add small drawings or stencils. I don’t mind at all. The murals might disappear soon; we might find them covered up as soon as tomorrow. We’ll just paint them again.”
Queen of girls
(Roughly translated phrase, but the meaning comes across). This is a graffito of a female protester wearing a mask to protect against tear gas on Mohammed Mahmoud Street in downtown Cairo.
Women have been pivotal participants and activists in protests and political activity since and before the uprising in Egypt began in January 2011. Here is great video report on the role of women in the anti-Supreme Council of Armed Forces protests in Tahrir Square from November 2010 by Bridgette Auger and Raphael Thelen.
Image I found online; a tribute to those who died last night at the Port Said stadium massacre. “UA” stands for Ultras Ahlawy, a group of football fans who support the Al-Ahly team.
Over 70 people died and over 300 were wounded last night in clashes between rival supporters of the Al-Ahly and Al-Masry football teams. The unprecedented violence has sent a shock-wave throughout the country, causing many to blame security forces and the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) for a disconcerting lack of security in Egypt. While some Egyptians have blamed the violence on hooliganism and thuggery, others believe the event was planned to justify the SCAF’s maintenance of the Emergency Law in Egypt (the abolishment of which has been one of protesters’ main demands since the beginning of the uprising).
“Activists, politicians see more than hooliganism in football violence,” one of several articles from the Egyptian Independent, Al-Masry Al-Youm’s English language edition that explains and describes reactions to the massacre.
Nothing is sweeter than honor
Famous quote from the Egyptian film “Hassan, I Love You” (1958), said by actor Tawfik al Daqn (who is pictured here). This particular graffito is on Owli Street in downtown Cairo; the same graffito is on a wall on the street parallel to Owli Street in the Borsa cafe area.
Egyptian protesters lift an obelisk with the names of those killed during last year’s uprising, at a huge rally in Tahrir Square on Jan. 25 marking the first anniversary of the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak as a debate raged over whether the rally was a celebration or a second push for change. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)
PEOPLE DEMAND THE REMOVAL OF THE REGIME
I took this picture in downtown Cairo this past summer. “People demand the removal of the regime” is the English translation of one of the most popular chants of the Arab Spring.
I believe the portraits in the middle of the wall (behind the tree) are of some of the martyrs of the revolution. To the right of the portraits is the quote “Heroes all… we must never forget.” I’ve seen a number of portraits of those killed in clashes during and since the January 25 uprising around Cairo.
(photo credit: Eric Knecht)
Freedom for Alaa Abdel Fattah
I took this photo a few months ago; this drawing of Alaa Abdel Fattah is on a wall on Mohammed Mahmoud Street. Alaa Abdel Fattah was released from jail on December 25. He was accused of inciting violence at the Maspero protests in October.
“We cannot just celebrate my innocence,” Alaa said during his release. “We know from the beginning I am not the one who killed people. We have not gone after the real criminals who killed people.”
I cried tears of joy when Alaa Abdel Fattah was released, but we must remember Maikel Nabil and the thousands of others still imprisoned. When the news was announced half my timeline on Twitter sung Alaa over and over; a song of hope for the freedom of all political prisoners.
April 6 Youth Movement
The Only Alignment is with the Poor
On a building on Mohammed Sabry Abour Alam Street in downtown Cairo.
Started in 2008 to support a workers’ strike planned for April 6th in the industrial town of El Mahalla El Kubra to protest low wages and high food prices, the April 6 Youth Movement is a Facebook group whose members are mostly young, educated, previously un-politically active Egyptians. On the day of the strike, activists used social media - Twitter, Facebook, etc. - to report on the strike, coordinate legal protection, and alert others of police activity.
Some of the group’s core concerns include social justice, free and fair elections, democracy, nepotism in government, civil resistance, workers rights, the economy, and free speech. In official statements, the group claims not to be a political movement. Yet since it was started, 6th of April has provided an outlet for young Egyptians who are frustrated with the Egyptian political process.
The movement played a leading role in the January 25 uprising. In an interview in late October, Ahmed Maher, co-founder of the movement (Waleed Rashed is also a co-founder) commented on the elections and the situation in Egypt since Mubarak stepped down, saying that the Supreme Council of Armed Forces is basically an extension of the old regime and that he suspects a second revolution will take place during the elections and for years to come. As for the elections, he said that the group is focusing on marginalizing candidates who are former members of the Mubarak regime and encouraging ordinary citizens to get involved in the political process. Should the elections fail to be inclusive and free, Maher said that the youth will be ready to take to the street once more.
For those of us following Egypt’s revolution who can’t read or write Arabic, this is a great Tumblr of revolutionary graffiti translations. Hossam el-Hamalawy (one of my favourite activists, journalists and photographers) also documents revolutionary graffiti through his Flickr, blog and Twitter.
For three hours in the Square today, I handed out a referendum written by an artist. The sun was hard. In the morning, a big white canopy billowed above the garden in the center of the square. As I walked down Tahrir Street I saw it changing above the crowd. I went underneath in the evening. The fabric billowed in the wind. The tent took the shape of a garden pavilion. It changed into a parachute and then into a flower.
A man approaches me and asks me where I am from. “I am Egyptian,” I say. Looking at the papers in my hand, he says, “It’s not good that you are doing that.” The survey is called, “What does Tahrir want?”
I nod. “Ok.”
“But you are going to have trouble. Don’t be upset.”
“I’m not upset.” I show him my ID, and he says, “Keep it in your hand.”
“You shouldn’t be doing this. Someone, one of these people, could beat you.”
“The people in the Square, they don’t understand…you look…you should stand with your friends. Don’t be alone. Someone will beat you.”
Only later am I angry, because the great majority of people spoke to me in Arabic, taking me for an Arab; some spoke to me in English, taking me for a foreigner; nearly all of them spoke to me with respect. A few challenged me, and I responded, “All of this talk because of how I look?”
I talk to you under the white tent which moves like a sea above us. You say that your mother was a dark black woman, and her mother was light with green eyes. You say that everyone in Egypt looks different.
“Anyone can be Egyptian.”
A woman next to me says to a man that she is Egyptian. I am upset because I know that she is Italian.
“We forget about our diversity.”
I imagine a room covered in portraits of my beloved, and we call the room Cairo. I stay awake all night listening to men destroy it. Yes, I am concerned for the young boys, but I am also worried about the architecture.
When everyone leaves the streets, Midan Talaat Harb is the most beautiful place on earth. And Hoda Shaarawi Street is a pathway in a forest, where I walk amongst the jinn and the dogs.