As more journalists are being arrested in Egypt, artists are under threat as well. A new law enacted following the recent referendum criminalizes graffiti and punishes those “writing abusive language on government and private buildings.” The sentence could extend to four years in jail as well as a fine. The classic excuse of equating graffiti to vandalism in order to ignore the issue of freedom of speech strikes again.
Political slogans and portraits of people who have died since the January 25 revolution are painted over by the government and replaced immediately by artists. The walls of Mohamed Mahmoud Street leading to Tahrir Square are layers of colorful murals over asymmetrical blotches of white paint. And despite its attempt to silence, the dictatorial white ironically makes a great primer for many of the artworks.
Who gets to write history? The actors spray the color and the revisionists armed with white paint attempt to redact. The street is still one of the few places where the revolution has a voice, and it would be a tragedy to silence it.
During a recent trip to Cairo, I was awed by the vibrant graffiti and immediately started documenting the artwork. Here are some of the provocative murals I captured. The translation of the slogans is in the captions. You can find more on my flickr.