The Arab Uprisings of 2011, for the most part, forced the “West” to reevaluate its perceptions and stereotypes about the Middle East. The massive demonstrations that swept the region called for the ousting of dictatorships and coercive states in the name of civil and social liberties. No longer were these populations bowing their heads to authoritarianism, but instead, they were seeking to take back the public spaces that they had long been denied through protests, music, performance and graffiti art.
Tahrir Cinema, in essence, seeks to put “Covering Islam” by Edward Said in converstion with and “The Arab Revolution Takes Back the Public Space” by Nasser Rabbat. In his article, Said argues that the concentration of mass media can constitute a communal core of interpretations providing a certain picture of the Middle East. The media conception of Middle Eastern culture as being in opposition to western values creates a confrontational rhetoric that is destructive for the communities it targets. On the other hand, the “Arab Uprisings”, as Rabbat says, portrays a different image of Arab communities and creates a watershed moment and a newfound celebration and respect for people in the region. The Arab Revolution shows a plethora of initiatives, both literal and artistic, that seek to make a mark on the public space and critique the very institutions that denied people their rights. No longer are these people retreating to the private sphere, but instead, they are publically displaying their discontent with force and courage.
Tahrir Cinema, therefore, is a compilation documentary short film that seeks to illustrate, through diverse means, this watershed moment. The footage illustratively explores the different dimensions of the Arab Uprisings, as well as the network of online graphic art that it created. Screened in the form of an art “happening”, it encourages participants to mimic Sit-Ins that were taking place in Tahrir Square in Cairo in order to both commemorate the bravery of these individuals, while also admiring this newfound artistic agency. The film is meant to refute popular representations of the region and uses Youtube, a tool mainly allied with western informational dissemination, as the main platform for its sources. The aim therefore, is to transport the western audience into the state of mind of Tahrir Square (Freedom Square) in order to foster an appreciation for the people power of the Arab World, as well as a more personal and emotional alliance with their struggle for freedom.
Lara Baladi-Alone, Together…Tahrir To Years Later, January 25, 2013 (Video Work)
Lara Baladi presents us with a chronological compilation of videos, articles, photographs and other media that is directly related to Arab Uprisings in Egypt as well as other footage that resonates with the symbolic quest for civic rights. Excerpts include footage from Alice and Wonderland, a Speech by Jean Paul-Sartre, Patty Smith Interview audio, Malcolm X Speech, that have all been juxtaposed with on the ground protest footage and interviews. Baladi seeks, in her video work, to celebrate the quality that brings human beings to fight for their civil liberties.
User Crethiplethi-Syrian Protest Dabke Song, July 11, 2011 (Youtube video)
The “dabke” (Arabic tradition folk dance native to the Levant, usually performed in occasions of celebration) revisited-Syrian protestors take the streets in this video and perform a political and revolutionary for of the traditional Dabke, chanting, “Get out Bashar” and criticizing the flawed leadership of dictator Bashar al-Assad. The sound is both inspiring and triumphant and celebrates the solidarity, strength and courage of these Syrian protestors in the face of coercion. Later on in the revolution, the person who led this chant became a Martyr as government forces arrested him and slice his his throat and vocal cords as a symbol of his perpetual silencing.
User FreedomforIran88-Protest in Iran, “The don’t care about us”, Michael Jackson, July 1, 2008 (Youtube video)
This video imbeds the lyrics of this famous Michael Jackson song into powerful images of the Green Revolution in Iran and the subsequent violence between government forces and unarmed civilians. The song lyrics, therefore, are meant to be a direct critique of this violence and lack of basic freedoms in the country. This is an artistic reframing of news footage in that it gives the protest a seemingly performance quality.
Shirin Neshat on the Green Revolution, July 2, 2009 (FLYP Media)
Interview with Iranian American photographer and filmmaker Shirin Neshat, during which she expresses her disbelief at how profoundly her community had come together to perform the act of protest
Sequence of Sample work by Cairo Street Artists (Artists unknown for most)
- Protestors stomping on poster of Mubarak
- “Game over Mubarak”
- Mubarak Caricature
- “Free Egypt” at a bus stop
- “Tear Gas=25 $”
- Themba Lewis photograph of “May 27 Flames from Molotov Cocktail”
- Tank and Vendor by Ganzeer-Flat Bread bicycle vendor (representing the Egyptian people) stands against a military tanks (the army). This refers back to actions of violence that were conducted against unarmed citizens by military and police forces.
- “Facebook/Twitter” by Zorya-Alludes to the power of social media in bypassing authority
- “Facebook” wall Graffiti
- Themba Lewis photograph of “The Screamer”-SMS and Facebook as being the main coordinating forces of revolutionary activity. This mural on Zumalak celebrates these tools as “methods of freedom”.
- Hand of Resistance
- “SCAF-Eat This”
- Image of Female Martyr-meant to haunt the police forces that killed her
- “2pac”-prominent symbol/ figure of public/social critique
User Bayaty Wutwut-Flash Mob for Syria (London, Ontario), December 23, 2011 (Youtube video)
This performance piece includes individuals draped in Syrian flags, posed around a public mall, holding up posters that denounce the mass killings in light of the Syrian Revolution.
The Lede NYTimes Blog-Street Art of the Arab World on Youtube
- MOCA TV-Global Street Art- Libya, March 28,2013
Filmed by Osama al-Fitory, this video documentary shows students at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Tripoli, Libya joining street artists to participate in a massive mural that spans the walls across from one of dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s former compounds. It represents a reclaiming of the public space by civilians and push back against a once repressive system.
- MOCA TV-Global Street Art (Episode 1)-Egypt, Cairo Spraycan Rebels, March 22, 2013
Produced by Soraya Murayef, this video documentary demonstrates the ways in which the Cairo Graffiti scene was rejuvenated following the January 25th uprisings. This video gives the viewer a glimpse of this creative resistant to authority and the ways in which it gibes a voice and permanence to the protest movement.
Keizer is the pseudonym of this anonymous Egyptian street artist who gained popularity mainly in the aftermath of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. Keizer is reportedly a 33-year-old male who is a full-time graffiti artist. Little is known about him due to his desire to keep his identity hidden. He has been photographed wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt when completing his works at night in order to hide his face. His artistic styles has been noted as reminiscent of Banksy and Shepard Fairey. He mostly creates caricatures that are accompanied with text in both Arabic and English. When asked why he incorporates English text into his works as well, he was responded: “Definitely to attack the upper echelons of society”.
“Your Fear is their Power”
“War, Fear, Peace” barometer
“Respect Existence or Expect Resistance”
“Pharaoh Secret Police”
“Snow White Militant”
A Facebook event was created for the screening, which was held on April 16 from 9-10 PM. The video compilation was projected onto the side of the Annmary Brown Memorial building, and guests were invited to sit on the Buxton porch to view it. Beverages and treats were provided. Below are images from the event.