Art & Change: The Impact of Street Art on the Egyptian Uprisings

During the Egyptian uprising, which began in late January of 2011, a great deal of Egyptian people felt as though their primary news sources were unjustly biased. This belief...

During the Egyptian uprising, which began in late January of 2011, a great deal of Egyptian people felt as though their primary news sources were unjustly biased. This belief prompted the use of street art to spread the word that felt the most true to the Egyptian people. Pieces such as “Tank vs. Bicycle” by Mohammed Fahmy, and “Check Mate” by El Teneen were messages placed in the Egyptian streets without adjustment or censorship by the government. The street art which represents the happenings of the Egyptian uprising of 2011 has had a significant impact on not only the people of egypt, but also on the government of Egypt. The government, which in the past had covered up all graffiti, had a very difficult time keeping up with the amount of images put onto the streets after 2011. This art which was created by the people of Egypt has created a political rally that will continuously live on.

During the 3 decade rule of Hosni Mubarak, the people of Egypt were silenced in several different ways. Throughout his presidency, Egypt became almost bereft of street art. (Mock, 1) Many of the first works of street art, though, were about the corruption of president Mubarak or about Christians and Muslims working together to create change. This is notable because it is a widespread belief that Christian and Muslim people do not want to work together to create change. Despite religious differences though, all of the Egyptian people felt as though they were not being treated fairly. They felt as though their news sources were completely biased, and did not portray the actual events happening in Egypt, especially in terms of police violence and general oppression. Because of this, the people took to the streets and allowed their frustration with the Egyptian regime to be visible to all citizens. Pieces such as “Tank vs. Bicycle” and “Check Mate”, which were both demonstrations of how the people had been treated under the Mubarak rule, motivated Egyptian people to be activists for change in their own country.

While street art is generally frowned upon in modern day society, it often times serves a very meaningful purpose. Many would say that the people of Egypt used street art to help topple the Mubarak presidency. Primarily young people in Egypt were the street artists, which can be justified by examining the mistreatment of the youth within the Mubarak regime. Street art did not just provide an outlet for people who were frustrated and angry with the government, but it also allowed for many people within Egypt to feel inspired. The Egyptian Revolution had many factors which played into it, that made it as successful as it was for the length of time that it was successful. Street art took an irreplaceable role in the revolution, one which was severely undervalued and underappreciated. The risk that was taken by the street artists of Egypt in 2011 was very brave, and will not be forgotten. A revolution does not exist without people such as these: people who are willing to do what nobody else will do, which is to risk themselves for the country that they love, despite being ready for governmental change. This art and this uprising will live on forever for the Egyptian people.

About the Author: My name is Beth McMurray and I am a third year Social Work major at Champlain College.
Professor: Rob Williams, Ph.D., Champlain College Faculty Advisor

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