Art in Egypt is much more than a discipline. It is conceived as an alternative form of expression, as a social voice calling for freedom and democracy, even though the government has posed censorship and religious red lines. Here, art means being proud enough to overcome political obstacles. It means propaganda.
In such a place where free expression is at certain extent limited, Egyptian artists are trying to reach out to a wider and varied audience through street art, music, and especially Murals. Graffiti is thought to be the best mean to reach the audience, to criticize the society and its values. “Maybe more citizens will see them, and start to break that fear barrier they still have against criticizing Egypt’s military rulers”, as one street artist pointed out . In fact, after the revolution, artists started stenciling on walls around the city the faces of discredited leaders of the former ruling party.
During these days it is quite common to see young Egyptians taking the streets to spread their civic message through images. In every part of the capital any sort of thing has been stenciled: from giant boxer shorts speckled with army helicopters in reference to Marshal Hussein Tanwai to the so famous bicycle and tank graffiti, which was painted over a period of two nights in Zamalek.
Martyr murals is the most widely-spread graffiti theme in Egypt, with martyrs depicted in various locations across the capital, as well as in other Egyptian cities. Their aim is obvious: to tackle sensitive topics through provocative images in order to awaken civic sense.
In Egypt, art as a form of propaganda is felt so necessary that the 20-21 May weekend was declared “Mad Graffiti Weekend”. The event was organised by Ganzeer, a graphic artist who was able to assemble several artists in both Zamalek and Downtown Cairo. During the event, lots of political Graffiti had been painted. The most impressive one is the new martyr mural dedicated to 18-year old Islam Raafat, who was run over by a security truck during Egypt’s revolution. “We will never forget our martyrs” is the message they want to spread in order to catch the eye of their government, but there is one more subtle that can be easily understood through their propaganda: Egyptians will not give up struggling for freedom and democracy.