Street art is proving an effective form of “offline social media” in post-revolution countries.
In a July 2012 episode of “Listening Post”, Al Jazeera’s weekly global media review, show producer Meenakshi Ravi provides insights into the appeal of street art and its success in inciting social and political changes across the Arab world.
Cairo-based journalist Soraya Morayef, who is interviewed in the Al Jazeera video, explains the phenomena,
There wasn’t enough international media presence on the streets […] to cover the protests accurately. People took to the walls, and they started writing messages on the walls. Street art spoke directly to the people or was a medium that was directly for a person on the street.
Ammar Abo Bakr, who is famous for his murals of martyrs of the revolution, similarly attests to street art’s role as a credible information source. In a video interview produced in 2013 by German media company Freshmilk.tv, he claims that street art is “an alternative medium to traditional mass media because journalists in mass media are not doing their duty.” He continues, “I often remind people that this is not art. Leave it. Let us work. Don’t waste time analysing the painting style; this is not art, it’s news.”
While some may find the images on the public walls morally inspiring, there are others who view it as vandalism. Street artist and author RHS believes that a person’s background and lack of exposure may explain the aversion towards street art and graffiti. In the Al Jazeera video, RHS says,
If you are coming from someplace where you relate culturally much more to graffiti as a subculture then it is going to be much easier for you to relate to the message […] If you are completely outside of that subculture you’re going to perceive it as a foreign language, and you are immediately going to want it to be removed from your environment because you are going to see it merely as vandalism.
Despite the varied attitudes towards street art, Ravi notes that the blooming of street art and graffiti across the region is proof of a communications revolution.
This article was written by a participant in our art writing diploma programme. Do you want to write for Art Radar, too? Click here to find out more about our Diploma in Art Journalism & Writing.
Patricia Rubianti Chaniago
- “Art is stronger than war”: Afghanistan’s first female street artist speaks out – interview – July 2013 – Hassani boldly takes to the streets with a spray can and hope for a peaceful future
- How Taiwan’s city governments view street art: Beautification over vandalism? – May 2013 – Will public acceptance compromise the renegade spirit of the art practice?
- The Sticker Lady: Singapore street artist arrest – June 2012 – the vandalism charge is sparking a debate over the legality and benefits of street art
- Street artist JR covers Shanghai with wrinkly faces – video – March 2011 – huge portraits of Shanghai’s local elderly inhabitants merge with their surroundings
- What is Street Art? Vandalism, graffiti or public art- Part I – January 2010 – Art Radar‘s comprehensive guide to the ephemeral world of urban art
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