Graffiti is not meant to be permanent; but it is meant to produce a reaction, even if that reaction means removing it because it’s offensive, or an eyesore. However, when you’re a Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo that teaches art, it’s a little strange that you remove the post-jan25 graffiti your students and friends have made on your walls, no?
For ten months, the walls of the Faculty of Fine Arts in Zamalek carried these colourful murals made in the spirit of Tahrir and January 25 presumably after the revolution. You could call them cheesy or amateur or beautiful; either way, these pieces reflected a poignant time in Cairo where young people displayed their hopes and aspirations on the walls. Perhaps the faculty is just an institution that demands order and cleanliness, and views this street art as vandalism.
So in early October, I noticed that all the walls had been painted clean. Instead of being disappointed, the graffiti artists probably appreciated this clean, new canvas.
Because the next day, I came back and found this.
Sadly, that was also painted over days later. However, the wall’s primary location and it being right next to the Faculty means good luck to anyone trying to stop graffiti from being made here. Unless the army comes to guard it like they did with the Tahrir garden. Hmm.
I’m not quite sure who goes around removing graffiti in Cairo, but I doubt it’s the police or government that’s taking the time – given the pathetic condition our walls are now in after the parliamentary election posters and stickers, I hardly think clean walls are at the top of their list of concerns.
That being said, I’ve noticed anti-SCAF or anti-Mubarak regime graffiti being removed, which worries me as that means that more people are convinced that protesters=bad, tahrir=destroying country, SCAF= good people who occasionally lose control over their APCs that get taken by drugged up protesters for a joyride. But that’s state media for you.
Here are a few examples of protest graffiti being removed, or in some cases altered to mean something completely different.
This mural by Hani Khaled was half-painted over, so that the list of protester demands was removed, but the rest of the colourful mural remained.
Another example is this stencil on the wall of the Giza-Bahr A’zam tunnel, which originally read ‘Yaskot El Mosheer’ or Down with El Mosheer, refering to Tantawy. Someone sprayed a ‘Lan’ above it so that the whole message changed into a pro-SCAF graffiti.
It doesn’t neccessarily need to be political either: this graffiti stencil made by Charles Akl and Amr Gamal was, according to the stoy I heard, painted over by the shoe-shiner stationed next to the wall. Increasingly tired with people taking photos of the wall, he decided to hide the faces with his shoe shine. Akl and Gamal replicated this very image in the exhibition ThisIsNotGraffiti, perhaps as a statement on the reaction to street art.
Shank’s original graffiti stencil can be seen here.
Of all the graffiti artists to be targeted, Sad Panda is one of the most defaced, in my humble opinion. Possibly that’s because many of his stencil are highly political and touch on raw subjects like the holy status SCAF has gained in this country.
This poster made by Sad Panda here was plastered on the wall of Merghani Bridge in Heliopolis. It shows an army helmet carrying a royal crown with the Egyptian flag symbol of the eagle ontop. The message is clear; which is probably why it got torn off pretty quickly.
This stencil and the poster of the rope-skipping girl with her mouth taped over was made on the wall of a public toilet on Tahrir Street across from El Horreya. The words read ‘El Mosheer has made me sadder’. The poster was partially torn off.
But most signifcantly, this stencil of an army soldier placing a baby into the fire was removed hours later. I know this because the stencil was made on the wall of the AUC Library on Mohamed Mahmoud street, and Sad Panda was confronted by some angry citizens while making it. When I showed up hours later to photograph it, it had already been painted over.