Ganzeer’s influence as a street artist began after he created a piece entitled Biker-versus-Tank, inspired by the corruption he saw happening on the streets. The piece quickly became a political battleground for differing opinions on the revolutions in Egypt. People added crushed victims under the tires of the tank, Sad Panda standing next to the boy on the bike, and protesters swarming the tank, all because Ganzeer started the conversation. In February 2012, loyalists of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) destroyed Biker-versus-Tank, removing it from the 6th of October Bridge in Zamalek, leaving only the tank and adding the inscription, ‘The army and the police and the people are one hand.’ (Lennon, 237)
Biker-versus-Tank was meant to show the contrast between “the gentle defiance, portraying the position of the Egyptian people, confronted by the reality of the military power that remains.” (Tripp, 401) Ganzeer states that his ‘first motive was to leave evidence on the streets in this location that something actually happened here.’” (Ruiter, 584) After witnessing the success of his Tank piece, Ganzeer was inspired to create more forms of art that represented current society in Egypt. His second piece that spoke against the regime was entitled “The Mask of Freedom” and was a poster that depicted a figure wearing a black mask closing his mouth and eyes against a yellow background. (The Cairo Post) This piece led to his arrest, but he was released a few hours after being detained. (Daily News Egypt) This was the last piece that Ganzeer was able to create about the revolutions while living in Egypt, because his identity was exposed, causing him to flee his home country for his own safety. Since leaving, Ganzeer has focused less on Egyptian government issues and more on issues in the places in which he currently lives.
The Arab Spring revolution in Egypt was targeted at ending the corruption within the country and bringing balance and human rights back to ordinary people. However, because of polarizing opinions and political controversy, Egypt seems to have changed very little since the revolution began. The Egyptians exchanged one authoritarian leader for another, and seem to be stuck where they started. Ganzeer saw the beginnings of this movement, but he is not able to witness firsthand the current mistreatment of Egyptians. When asked what he thinks, Ganzeer responded, “Even if [a president’s] reign lasts 20, 30 years, you know what? People won’t remember him by his election campaign; they’re going to remember him by what everyone has to say about him. At the end of the day, the people will have the upper hand.” (Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy online)
Author: Tyler Greening is currently a Psychology major at Champlain College graduating in ’18
Faculty evaluator: Rob Williams, Ph.D., Champlain College Faculty Advisor
El-Banna, Randa. “Graffiti, an art that changed Egypt- In Focus with Ganzeer.” The Cairo Post. Published on 2/11/14. Accessed on 9/29/16.
Lennon, John. “Assembling a Revolution: Graffiti, Cairo and the Arab Spring.” Cultural Studies Review. Accessed 9/27/16.
Morgan, Marwa. “‘The image is always stronger than the word’: Ganzeer.” Daily Egypt News. Published on 9/7/14. Accessed on 10/1/16.
N.A. “Interview with Ganzeer.” The Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy. Published on 10/31/14. Accessed on 9/27/16.
Ruiter, Adrienne. “Imagining Egypt’s political transition in (post-) revolutionary street art: on the interrelations between social media and graffiti as a media of communication.” Media, Culture and Society. Accessed on 10/1/16.
Tripp, Charles. “The Art of Resistance in the Middle East.” Asian Affairs. Accessed 9/28/16.