The most iconic image of the Egyptian revolution has to be the Tahir Square photographs of the Koran, prayer beads and cross being held aloft. It has been beamed into millions of living rooms across the globe, and for me it symbolizes hope in it’s purest form. Un-tinged by political agendas, or personal vendettas it simply portrays the unshakeable belief of a nation that, irregardless of religious allegiance they want the same things, for each other, their children and their country.
Six months on, and I am developing a fascination with the graffiti which is in evidence all around. Prior to the revolution the artists, or vandals, depending on your viewpoint, barely registered a bleep on the radar, but some underlying creative persona appears to have been unleashed to the detriment of walls around Cairo.
Good graffiti is excellent but decades of suppression have sent Cairo’s youth back to primary school levels of artistic expression. It’s all rather disappointing really. Growing up in northern Ireland through the troubles we were surrounded by graffiti, and although not all of it expressed sentiments I agreed with it was usually pretty good.
Ireland is perceived as being the land of saints and scholars, poets and drunken Irishmen expressing their pain and suffering through art and often rambling on about “th’ whole worl’s in a terrible state o’ chassis” (Captain Boyle Act 1 Juno and the Paycock). Well Egypt is in a terrible state of chassis and they really need to sort out the graffiti.
They run tour buses in Belfast to go and look at all the graffiti and I’m wondering if some of those charitable NGOs could send a delegation to Belfast to pick up some handy hints? King Billy on the horse may not be appropriate but surely they could substitute it for a camel with a raven haired, heavily mustachioed guy in a flowing galabaya leading the charge.
They are not that keen on marching here, well it’s too hot even the police need a wee lie down now and again, but should they progress to having marches on 25th January in honor of the revolution then here is a well designed banner for The Upper Nile District. (copyright Mr Gordon Ford)
Back to the graffiti, you see the problem is the flag. Red white and black are fairly cool colours but artistically it is not as stunning as the union jack, and they have yet to progress to the flowing representation when it blows in the wind. (well there is not a lot of wind) The walls are painted in block colours and it looks like some teacher has come along shouting instructions to colour between the lines, painting by numbers springs to mind. It’s just not very creative.
The cross and the crescent is a fabulous image. The crescent moon wrapping around the smaller cross, offering protection to the Christian minority etc, I’m sure some art critics could write books on the symbolism it invokes. Apparently this is not a new image, it was used as a rallying call to all Egyptians at the start of the last century when they wanted to end British colonialism, amazing how overthrowing the British creates such good art.
Anyway…there is a distinct possibility that Egyptians are the original graffiti artists. Just look at the temples and the hieroglyphics on display, they have been painting on walls for thousands of years, but it is yet another time honored tradition that is falling by the wayside.
Maybe we should start a petition to ship over those hoodied chavs who have no work to ignite a revolutionary art campaign. They could tag to their hearts content although spellcheck would need to be rigorously enforced. We could pay them the average wage here which is about 3 dollars a day instead of the dole and save taxpayers a fortune, obviously they would have no house, no single parent benefits or medical care, they wouldn’t last long……… Now there’s a plan!