A funny thing happened outside the AUC on Mohamed Mahmoud Street last Thursday. As a group of onlookers, including journalists, photographers, documentary makers and myself, watched Ammar Abo Bakr, Alaa Awad and several other artists diligently work away on a mural of the martyrs of the Port Said massacre – a mural they’ve spent almost two weeks painting – a shuttle bus pulled up at the AUC gate and unloaded a group of foreigners in suits, presumably for a conference inside the AUC campus.
As their guide, presumably an AUC rep, stood by awkwardly, the foreigners took out their smartphones and started snapping away at the mural, oohing and aahing in awe at the beauty of the art on display. I watched the AUC rep struggle; here were ‘vandals’ ruining the university wall in broad daylight, and yet he couldn’t yell at them because his visitors were completely enamored. So he laughed and said something along the lines of:
‘Yes, as you can see, our wall was once so small and simple, and now we have this…errr… art after the revolution. So nice.’
The artists, completely nonplussed, continued painting, and when I repeated what he had said to them, Ammar cheekily grinned.
‘Tell him if they paint over this mural, we’ll come back and do it all over again.’
So here is my direct plea to the AUC administration:
You will probably not listen to me – why should you? I’m clearly no art expert with any weight to throw around – but please don’t paint over this wall. These artists have worked tirelessly for two weeks to commemorate the deaths of 75 young men, including a student of yours, working days and nights through tear gas and riots to pay tribute to the dead.
This, in my humble opinion, is a masterpiece. And you clearly have bigger things to worry about, such as the fact that every single side street down Mohamed Mahmoud has been blocked by concrete slab walls, or that the military has turned your area into a war zone and has no problem shooting students, doctors or journalists. Or the fact that your Greek Campus SS Building has had a fire on its upper floor, and probably several other properties have been harmed in the past months of clashes. And who knows what more violence the future will bring?
As an institution that teaches art and publishes books on Egyptian art, including one on graffiti soon, please take pride in this mural on your walls, and instead of removing it, protect it. Show it off as a symbol of how your campus was in a pivotal location in so many historical events that have shaped our country for the past year.
But clearly this will fall on deaf ears and you will paint over it all. NB: painting a wall gives a new canvas to a graffiti artist. They will keep coming back. Just so you know. You might as well save the paint. Your effort is futile.
PS: Dear AUC security guard, I couldn’t care less about your security gate, which you accused me of photographing, when there’s a friggin concrete slab wall blocking off Falaki Street. Bigger picture, dude.