Tag Archives: Ganzeer

7orreya: Graffiti Exhibition on Freedom of Expression in Cairo

IMG_8730

No matter how seasoned and jaded you are, it’s always a shock to see the ultimate Egyptian symbol of violence and oppression – the police state- on a pair of naked legs or on the back of a dirty, sodden toilet in a decrepit room. But that’s exact what 7orreya does. Continue reading 7orreya: Graffiti Exhibition on Freedom of Expression in Cairo

Art in The Streets: Videos on Beirut, Palestine, Tripoli and Cairo for MOCATV

Kabreet and EPS hard at work on a Beirut wall for MOCATV
Kabreet and EPS hard at work on a Beirut wall for MOCATV

It’s not every day that total amateurs get the chance to make a video for a contemporary art museum, but that’s exactly what happened to me when Jeffrey Deitch, director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, emailed me out of the blue to ask if I wanted to make a video about graffiti in Cairo for the museum’s new Youtube Channel called MOCA TV. Continue reading Art in The Streets: Videos on Beirut, Palestine, Tripoli and Cairo for MOCATV

Egyptian Graffiti Artists Exhibit Around the World

Mural by Ammar Abo Bakr for White Wall Beirut. Photo courtesy of White Wall.

The past two years have given good exposure to the Egyptian street art scene. With increasing international media focus on graffiti artists – I’ve lost count of the number of print articles, news shorts and documentaries made – comes increasing interest on the part of foreign delegations looking to support and endorse the Egyptian art scene, as well as books and films that will hopefully strengthen the graffiti scene’s legitimacy in Egypt.

Continue reading Egyptian Graffiti Artists Exhibit Around the World

Writing About Graffiti in Cairo- One Year On

‘Thawretna Hatekmal’ Our revolution will be completed by KIM

If this post comes across as offensive, arrogant or downright nasty to anyone, I apologise in advance; I literally woke up on the wrong side of bed and pulled a shoulder, so I’m cranky; plus this matter has been on my mind for several months now.

Continue reading Writing About Graffiti in Cairo- One Year On

War on Graffiti – SCAF Vandalists Versus Graffiti Artists

the original mural by Ganzeer and friends, taken on December 2, 2011

 

Days after the first anniversary of January 25, tensions between anti-regime activists and loyalists to the SCAF have now reached the cement walls and streets of Cairo.

The graffiti war, a showdown between revolutionary street artists and a fanatical nationalist team who whitewash their work, is a new and disturbing manifestation of pro-Army popular sentiment.

In recent months, activists have used the walls to diligently spread messages denouncing military rule and military trials of thousands of civilians, and calling for another 25 January revolution. At the same time, military loyalists have just as attentively erased these graffiti pieces, leaving their own pro-army and nationalist messages.

This war, completely unimaginable during Mubarak’s time, has come to a head on one wall: Ganzeer’s famous mural of the tank versus bike.

This massive mural under the 6th of October Bridge in Zamalek is considered by many to be the most iconic piece of graffiti in post-revolution Cairo. A collaborative work by graffiti artist Ganzeer and his friends, and a blatant criticism of the Egyptian military, the mural has remained surprisingly untouched since May 2011.

But in early January 2012, unknown artists painted new additions (photo courtesy of @Mosaaberizing) onto the imposing mural, adding a row of protesters carrying ‘V for Vendetta’ masks, a pool of blood under the tank and bodies collapsing under its wheels — a clear reference to the 9 October Maspiro attacks, when Coptic protesters were run over by military APCs, leaving dozens dead.

Interestingly enough, these additions incited a reaction of their own: A group of pro-SCAF civilians called Badr Team 1 vandalized the mural 10 days later, erasing everything they found offensive to the Egyptian army. This meant erasing everything, except for the tank, that is.

In an amateur video allegedly captured on 20 January, Badr Team 1 (who also called themselves the Badr Battalion) accused graffiti artists of being foreign agents and traitors to Egypt. The team called on all honorable Egyptian youth to erase graffiti, as it was “a method for agents and traitors to spread their violent ideologies against the police, the army and Egyptian traditions.”

This rhetoric is all too familiar to Egyptians who, for the past year, have had to listen to SCAF members broadcasting such accusations in the media.

Graffiti has spread like wildfire throughout Cairo in the past 12 months, and is used by young Egyptian activists to commemorate the victims of the uprising, and to raise awareness of political injustices and crimes committed by the Egyptian military. In the face of the mainstream media’s campaign to tarnish protesters as criminals and cover up military crimes, many activists have turned to graffiti as an alternative means of reaching the average Egyptian on the streets.

And while this shaky amateur video produced by these antagonists  of street art can easily be disregarded as a minor incident, the level of ignorance, paranoia and aggression propagated by the video is worrying.

Its incitement of attacks on graffiti artists, though, is sadly a natural consequence of the past months of hostility bred against all forms of criticism of the Egyptian military.

The irony that the dumbasses of Badr Team have made graffiti to denounce graffiti is clearly lost on them. They say members of the April 6 Youth Movement were responsible for the mural, even though an easy internet search would have led them straight to Ganzeer.

The video also shows the stencils of several martyrs’ faces, which were made after the revolution to commemorate those who died during the January 25 revolution. The stencils once carried their names and the words “Glory to God.” Now, the names are erased, and the words read “Glory to Egypt” instead, showing Badr Team’s fanatical nationalism. It seems Egypt is superior to God in their demented heads.

“These drawings contain Masonic and anarchist codes and symbols,” Badr Team’s statement reads. Badr Team circles those “Masonic” symbols drawn by the graffiti artists, including a sad and fat panda, a bird, a child clasping his hands in prayer and the words “Power to the People.”

They are all clear symbols inciting violence, especially the panda.

The V for Vendetta masks — often used by revolutionary artists, most likely as symbols of defying totalitarianism — are particularly bothersome for army loyalists, including the Muslim Brotherhood. It is worth noting here that a recent article in the Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party newspaper warned of anarchists wearing the ‘B for Bendetta’ masks, a spelling mistake that has since been ruthlessly lampooned all over the Egyptian Twitter-sphere.

At any rate, the graffiti community has been quick to respond to attacks by army loyalists, especially the erasure of SCAF’s victims from the famous tank mural. Badr Team 1 had whitewashed all references to SCAF’s atrocities, leaving the solitary tank standing in all its glory with any reference to the Maspiro massacre, the martyrs and the revolutionary protesters wiped out. The words ‘The Army and the Police and the People Are One Hand’ was ironically scrawled nearby.

The green monster is courtesy of the artist Mohamed Khaled

Striking back at Badr Team 1’s pro-SCAF erasure of the mural, a giant green monster of a military policeman chewing on the body of a protester next to stencils of Mona Lisa, Lenin, military leader Hussein Tantawi and other faces were sketched next to the tank. The new additions have been made by a group calling themselves the Mona Lisa Battalion, a tongue-in-cheek hat-tip to the Badr Battalion. The new graffiti faces are whimsical, funny and blatantly political; yet it’s quite possible that the Badr Battalion will not understand that this art is directed at them, that this whole joke is on them.

When asked to comment on the Badr Team video, the original mural’s creator, Ganzeer, said that he was initially happy to have this visual dialogue happening in reaction to the tank mural.

“But when I saw the YouTube video by the ‘Badr Battalion’, I felt a certain kind of sadness that this act was done by a group obviously soaked in ignorance and blind nationalism,” he wrote to me.

“Clearly they’ve been brainwashed by our horrible school textbooks and official media, so brainwashed to the point of stating that ‘The Army, police and people are one hand’.”

Ganzeer couldn’t resist adding the jab, “It’s also obvious that these kids have no sense of aesthetic whatsoever.”

This op-ed has been published in Egypt Independent. You can also read it here.

January 25 – The Anniversary: Graffiti

Have You been Vindicated? added next to mural of Tarek Abdel Latif

Continue reading January 25 – The Anniversary: Graffiti

Conversation with Ganzeer: the Tank, Buddha and Mad Graffiti Week

If you Google search Cairo Street Art, Ganzeer’s name is your top result. Countless interviews and features on the artist follow. As arguably the most recognized name on Cairo’s art scene today, it’s no surprise that Ganzeer is the most sought-after interview subject and reference on graffiti in Cairo.

Continue reading Conversation with Ganzeer: the Tank, Buddha and Mad Graffiti Week

Graffiti by Egyptian Artist Ganzeer &Lebanese Artist Ali Gets Censored in Beirut

Photo posted courtesy of 29letters.wordpress.com

Check out this interesting blogspot by Pascal Zoghbi on the blog 29letters.wordpress about how a collaborative graffiti project by Ganzeer and Lebanese graffiti artist Ali was quickly and thoroughly removed by Lebanese police in Beirut. One stencil condemned Lebanese police’s corruption, while the other called for Arab unity.

Continue reading Graffiti by Egyptian Artist Ganzeer &Lebanese Artist Ali Gets Censored in Beirut

Cairo Street Art – Downtown Graffiti

Mickey, Bush & the Bomb by Keizer
Mickey, Bush & the Bomb by Keizer

‘Excuse me,’ he walks up to me as I hesitantly put my camera down, ‘What does this picture mean?’

He points at the Keizer stencil of Mickey Mouse on the grey wall. Mahmoud Bassiouny Street on a Saturday afternoon is crowded, and people seem still wary of any snap-happy camera-toting thug like me. Who knows, I could be another Facebook-loving Zionist spy.

‘I think that’s Mickey Mouse,’ I say helpfully.

‘Yes but what does it mean? And who is that man next to him?’

He’s bald with a graying walrus moustache, probably in his mid-forties, his full cheeks sweating as he fans at his pin-striped pink shirt.

‘I’m not quite sure,’ I say politely, wishing I could go back to my camera, but he appears adamant for an answer. ‘Maybe it’s a president? It could be George Bush.’

‘Yes but what is George Bush doing with Mickey Mouse? I like this picture, I walk past it every day, but I wish there’d be some writing explaining it so that I could understand.’

How do I explain dichotomy or irony in Arabic? My mind goes blank.

‘Err… maybe the guy who made this wants you to think about it and come up with your own idea?’ I offer weakly.

He seems even more baffled. ‘Well I don’t want to figure it out myself, it’s much easier if he just tells me what it means so I know what to think.’

I ponder on whether I should bring up the whole we-lived-under-a-dictatorship-that-told-us-what-to-think-for-thirty-years-arent-you-happy-to-think-for-yourself-for-once theory, but I don’t. I’d rather move on, plus something about his walrus moustache makes him look like an NDP fan. Yes, I’m racist like that. I judge your political affiliation by your facial hair.

‘I mean it’s nice and everything,’ he continues eagerly, ‘But not as nice as the beautiful flags they paint everywhere, so pretty. You know, I was in Tahrir every day, I was one of the shabab of the revolution…’

Ah yes. The most overused line that launches every conversation since January 25th. Somehow I get stuck between a man and the wall I want to photograph as he talks for a full twenty minutes without interruption about Tahrir, Alaa Aswany, what he thinks of Baradei, the elections, the Muslim Brotherhood, yadayada, while I check my phone, make coughing noises, fiddle with my camera lense, shift from one foot to another, check my phone again. Eventually, he offers me his phone number and I politely say goodbye.

The camera never leaves my protective hands, held up against my chest like ammunition, pointing directly at him.

Snow White with a Gun by Keizer on Mahmoud Bassiouny Street
Snow White with a Gun by Keizer on Mahmoud Bassiouny Street
Atom by Keizer on Mahmoud Bassiony Street
Atom by Keizer on Mahmoud Bassiony Street
Kill Your Television by Keizer
Kill Your Television by Keizer
You Are Beautiful by Keizer on Mahmoud Bassiony Street
You Are Beautiful by Keizer on Mahmoud Bassiony Street
Graffiti by Charles Akl and Amr Gamal
Graffiti by Charles Akl and Amr Gamal
Graffiti of Amr Beheiry, imprisoned protester, on electricity box off Mahmoud Bassiony Street.
Graffiti of Amr Beheiry, imprisoned protester, on electricity box off Mahmoud Bassiony Street.
Veiled & unveiled women with halos and mouth masks. I'd love to know who made this.
Veiled & unveiled women with halos and mouth masks. I’d love to know who made this.
Tantawi by El Teneen
Tantawi by El Teneen
May 27th Molotov Cocktail by El Teneen on Kasr El Nil
May 27th Molotov Cocktail by El Teneen on Kasr El Nil
Uprising against the Army by El Teneen, note the crescent and the cross on the hand.
Uprising against the Army by El Teneen, note the crescent and the cross on the hand.
Sad Panda with an AK47 on wall of El Horreya
Sad Panda with an AK47 on wall of El Horreya

On the wall of a public bathroom on Abdel Salam Aref across from El Horreya, Sad Panda sits next to a graffiti stencil by Xist of Amr Beheiry, imprisoned Tahrir protester

    Martyr Mural by Ganzeer of Islam Raafat, 18 yrs old, run over by microbus during protest on Jan 28.

    Tantawi Underwear with helicopters by Adham Bakry, appropriately above trash
Tantawi Underwear with helicopters by Adham Bakry, appropriately above trash

Mr. X  (note the scribbles Mortada Mansour the Crazy) on AUC wall, Yousef El Guindy Street.

Chess Mate by El Teneen
Chess Mate by El Teneen
Mural by Hany Khaled with a poster by Mohamed Alaa
Mural by Hany Khaled with a poster by Mohamed Alaa

In the name of Egypt

For exact locations of graffiti in Cairo, check out the Cairo Street Art Map.

Cairo Street Art After the Revolution: Zamalek

Boy with a Paintbucket stencil, on intersection between Merashly and Taha Hussein.

It’s not that street art never existed in Cairo before January 25th; it’s just that it never breathed this vibrantly before. There’s something raw, quick, witty and unpredictable about street art that gives an identity to the city; be it New York City, Barcelona, London or Cairo now.

Continue reading Cairo Street Art After the Revolution: Zamalek