Street art and graffiti have increasingly become a powerful form of expression across the Middle East and even more so in countries undergoing post-revolution upheavals. In a recent Guardian editorial, Mohamed El Hebeishy discusses the phenomenon.
I was driving with my sister the other day in Cairo’s ever-congested downtown streets. As we stopped at a traffic light, her eyes fell upon some stencilled graffiti and she frowned.
It wasn’t so much the political message that bothered her but the fact that someone had chosen to spray-paint it on a wall. “They are vandalising the streets,” she said.
Ever since the uprising in Egypt last year, graffiti – from the crude to the artistic – have been flourishing. Wherever you turn, especially around Tahrir Square in Cairo, you see them – some just slogans, others full-scale murals.
The Arab spring has brought regime change, but also a whole new dimension of social freedoms – and one aspect of that is the spread of graffiti. But are Arab graffiti a form of art or an act of vandalism?
“Arab societies are conservative,” Ahmed Shitawey a middle-class engineer with a taste for art observed. “At the same time, graffiti are a very controversial form of art, even in the most liberal societies.”