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.

Mural dedicated to martyrs. Image by Gigi Ibrahim.

Mohamed Mahmoud St. Mural. Image by Gigi Ibrahim.

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.

A tribute to those who lost their eyes, Mohamed Mahmoud street. Image by Dina.

A tribute to those who lost their eyes, Mohamed Mahmoud street. Image by Dina.

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

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Related Topics: street art, political art, art videos

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By Brittney

Brittney is a writer, curator and contemporary art gallerist. Born in Singapore and based in New York City, Brittney maintains a deep interest in the contemporary art landscape of Southeast Asia. This is combined with an equally strong interest in contemporary art from the Asian diasporas, alongside the issues of identity, transmigration and global relations.

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