Egyptian Memorial Graffiti Painted Over

Earlier this week I was cooking dinner when I overheard someone on the news mention that the upcoming election in Egypt would be the first time in close to 7000 years that the Egyptian people would get to vote on who should become their president. It made me think back to a few months ago when all you could hear about on news stations was Egypt and how the citizens were standing up for themselves and waging war on their own government. One of the ways they represented their passion was by paint graffiti on the walls of building in Cairo. They painted political cartoon type picture and pictures of people who died in the fighting, but these walls became a way of representing the peoples’ emotions. Now the new leaders of Cairo have decided to paint over all of the graffiti. It could be seen as a wanted to start over with a clean slate, but most of the people of Cairo feel like it is disrepectful to all of the people who fought for the right the vote. It made me think about the graffiti that De Certeau mentioned. The part that stuck out to me the most was when De Certeau mentioned how graffiti was like embroidery. I think it is very true in this case that the people of Cairo were trying to make the city their own when the went to war for their rights, and the graffiti they left was the phyical way for the people to clam what they believed was theirs. Now some of the people are trying to recreate the pictures, but I wonder if that will work. I don’t believe that these new paintings will have the same meanings the original ones did. De Certeau did not talk about re-graffiting, but I have a feeling that he would be opposed to it. I feel like De Certeau believed in the city being as natural as possible, and I believe that he would agree that re-graffiting the city would be too forced, and in the process would take away some of the meaning that went in to the original paintings. This leaves the question what should the people of Cairo do? Should that repaint or should they leave the walls blank? Is there an in between? And is this really the best start for the new Egyptian government?  

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Sources:

http://www.alarabiya.net/default.html

http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/1652543/Clashes-over-graffiti-ahead-of-Egypt-poll

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2 Comments

Filed under City Cultures

2 responses to “Egyptian Memorial Graffiti Painted Over

  1. I have been watching some of the discussion about this unfold on Twitter. It seems like the transition from revolution to a stable political system is a difficult one. From the articles you’ve posted, did you get a sense that they thought leaving the graffiti up would make the situation feel more volatile? Would it remind people of the revolution instead of the fresh start coming out of it? Graffiti is such a contentious issue in cities all over the world.

  2. This post reminded me, perhaps somewhat obviously, of Banksy’s documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop. One thing about street art is that there is the constant risk of it all being washed away. I think the aspect of temporality is an integral part of the medium, and really the state of street art in a country seems to serve as a barometer of sorts for the quality of the country’s speech rights. After erasing some Banksy graffiti that referenced Pulp Fiction, Transport for London announced, “professional cleaners not professional art critics.” Even in a fairly progressive city like London, a popular artist like Banksy is not immune to the sometimes simply practical practice of removing graffiti. In a transitional democracy like Egypt, the removal of graffiti might be for simply practical reasons, or it might be related to an attempt to quell the volatility of the region. The voices in Egypt have been quelled and quashed so much thus far–I think the graffiti artists there need to treat the whitewashing of their work as a part of the dialogue and retort. I think you’re correct in assuming that De Certeau would be against an attempt to simply recreate the graffiti that was there before, but I don’t think he’d be against the artists returning with new art.

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