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posted this July 10, 2014

When the people of Cairo took to Tahrir Square in January 2011 to oust Egypt’s longtime ruler, Hosni Mubarak, the streets exploded with murals and graffiti that both mirrored the revolutionary spirit of the movement and propelled it forward.

A young graphic designer joined the fray, working under the pseudonym Ganzeer, or “bicycle chain.”

Ganzeer distributed questionnaires, stickers, posters and, most notably, one mural of a massive tank gunning down a lone bicyclist. He called it his “alternative media campaign” to counteract propaganda from official news outlets.

Over the past three years, Ganzeer, 32, emerged as a star of the anarchic movement, finding fresh targets as leadership in Egypt repeatedly changed hands. His participation now in the revolution will have to proceed at a distance.

On May 9, he was denounced by a television broadcaster, Osama Kamal, on the program “Al-Raees Wel Nas” (“The President and the People”). He singled out Ganzeer by his real name — Mohamed Fahmy — accompanied by his photograph, making him easily identifiable;

Osama Kamal labeled Ganzeer a “recruit of the Muslim Brotherhood”; and demanded that the government take action against him. This accusation, which Ganzeer and several curators denied, has been widely used against journalists and activists in Egypt in recent weeks, leading to sweeping arrests resulting in prison terms.

Two days later, Ganzeer left Egypt for a long-planned trip to the United States.

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Ganzeer, one of Egypt’s most famous street artists, is in the United States temporarily.Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

“No one stopped me at the airport, because I am not on any official list,” Ganzeer said in a recent interview in his temporary sublet in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. “But it is quite typical of the Egyptian government to start a campaign in the media, so when the time comes to crack down, their action is supported by the masses, because they had read about it in the papers.”

From Cairo to Beirut to Dubai, Arab artists have mounted a vigorous creative response to the political upheavals of the past few years, exploring a range of art-making strategies, including the street-art agitprop of Ganzeer and others, who draw from ancient hieroglyphics and teach themselves stenciling to put their cause on the walls.

A glimpse into the diverse and vital art scene arrives on July 16 at the New Museum with “Here and Elsewhere,” a survey of 45 artists from 12 countries in the Arab world who take a more nuanced approach to bearing witness, often questioning the veracity of storytelling and news accounts.

Carlo McCormick, a critic and author of “Trespass: A History of Uncommissioned Urban Art” (Taschen, 2010), puts Ganzeer in a tradition that includes notable street artists like Shepard Fairey and Banksy. “They have a defining style, but Ganzeer is working more as an activist than a muralist,” he said. “He’s more of a chameleon and adapts his visuals to the content.”

Ganzeer has had high visibility, arriving with the United States premiere of a documentary in which he is featured, “Art War,” by the German filmmaker Marco Wilms, that traces the development of street art in Egypt since 2011. His projects are also prominent in a new book, “Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution,” by Basma Hamdy and Don Karl a.k.a. Stone (published by From Here to Fame).

Dressed in T-shirt, jeans and flip-flops with black curls and a short beard framing his youthful face, he said he misses his home in Cairo, a spacious 5-bedroom apartment overlooking the Nile that he shares with two artist-friends.

Here, he is making do with a spare room in a stranger’s apartment and survives by producing new prints that he sells for a modest $500 to $1,000 through Booklyn Artists Alliance, an alternative space in Greenpoint.

Ganzeer was introduced to Booklyn by members of the collective Interference Archive, a political study center near the Gowanus Canal, where he will be speaking on July 23 about the new breed of protest art that alarms Egypt’s leaders.

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Ganzeer working on a new piece in Brooklyn. Credit James Estrin/The New York Times

Ganzeer said he calls himself “bicycle chain” because he likes to think of artists as the mechanism that pushes change forward. “We are not the driving force,” he said. “We are not the people pedaling, but we can connect ideas and by doing this we allow the thing to move.”

This young artist-designer may have been singled out for his most recent street art project in Cairo: a mammoth mural depicting a zombie soldier standing atop a pile of skulls. Or, as he suspects, it was a reaction to an interview in The Guardian on May 8 in which he called for international condemnation of the soon-to-be president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. 

Ganzeer has always been quite outspoken with the foreign press and has thousands of supporters on the web.

In response to the news announcer’s accusations, he posted a refutation on his blog, titled “Who’s Afraid of Art?,” demanding a public apology.

“Ganzeer is a really great, smart intelligent brain and he has a very modern exciting view of the world,” said Mr. Wilms, who first met him in Tahrir Square in 2011, when Ganzeer was engaged in his first public project, distributing a questionnaire asking citizens what they wanted from a revolution. The scene, captured in the film, shows a much younger looking Ganzeer enthusiastically recruiting participants.

“All the artists in my film have been targeted,” Mr. Wilms said. “These young people are willing to sacrifice their lives. They are really dying in the streets. It’s very difficult to understand from a Western point of view, but they are really not afraid.”

On July 4, Ganzeer emailed that a young street artist and activist named Hisham Rizk, who had gone missing a week earlier, had been found. He had drowned in the Nile. Mr. Rizk was 19.

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Ganzeer’s “Of Course #2.” The text is an ironic reference to the military as the protector of the revolution. CreditGanzeer

Born in Giza, Egypt, in 1982, Ganzeer attended business school when he failed to pass an art school entrance exam. “I grew up reading comic books, and I saw myself as someone who would make comic books someday,” he said, only later discovering graphic design while attending college. He ran his own graphic design firm for eight years, developing skills that prepared him to participate in the creative efforts at Tahrir Square.

At first, he made items easy to distribute on the streets and in the subway. But in March 2011, he undertook an ambitious mural project, a larger-than-life portrait of a 16-year-old boy killed by police gunfire, printed about 13 feet high on a wall near the Supreme Court in Cairo.

Using Twitter, he gathered a troupe of volunteers to help him paint the tribute to a martyr with stencils, a 20th-century tradition that originated with Italian propagandists under Fascism but was later used by contemporary artists, Mr. McCormick said.

“Ganzeer was quite courageous carrying out his activities,” said William Wells, director of Townhouse Gallery, a contemporary art space in Cairo. “He knew people were going to stop him when he worked on the street and threaten him, and he always encouraged them to take part in what he was doing.”

Mr. Wells allowed Ganzeer to use his gallery as a base, but became particularly frightened for him in the past year. “The whole dynamics of the city has changed, and everybody was nervous about what Ganzeer was doing,” he said. “I think if he were arrested, nobody would have been surprised.”

Surfing the web for source material, and posting his graphics for anyone to use, he advanced the method of printing images, encouraging other activists to make street art.

In the chaotic early days of the uprising, Ganzeer mostly escaped police scrutiny until May 2011, when he distributed stickers of his Mask of Freedom, now globally known. Posted on the Internet, the image depicts a superhero-style visage, blindfolded and gagged, as a symbol of military repression.

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“Face the Vitrine,” Ganzeer’s collaboration with Yasmin Elayat, in Cairo. CreditGanzeer

This time, civilians were not so friendly, and when one of his volunteers got into an argument with a man attacking them as “spies,” the civilian police arrested Ganzeer, who tweeted to his followers. Caught off guard by the outpouring of support by protesters, the police released him without charges. When he showed up in Tahrir Square the next morning, his Mask of Freedom could be seen everywhere: on T-shirts, posters and stickers.

Ganzeer refuses to label himself a street artist. He has had art residencies in Finland, Poland and Switzerland and has shown in Cairo’s vibrant gallery scene. In 2012, his solo show at the Safar Khan Gallery focused on the military’s involvement in rape and sexual harassment.

He is adamant that he is not going into exile or seeking political asylum in the United States. “That’s what the government would like me to do,” he said, revealing a sudden flash of anger at the suggestion. “I would never be able to vote again. I would never be able to go back. After getting rid of Mubarak, I am not going to give up now on getting rid of this guy,” he said of President Sisi.

Alexandra Stock, a Swiss-American curator who lived in Cairo from 2007 to 2012 and who recently worked with Ganzeer on a mural in Bahrain, noted the mass exodus of intellectuals in recent weeks. “It’s very sad to see this whole wave of people who have left Cairo,” she said. “But I think for Ganzeer, seeing things unfold from a distance might help.”

When asked if he can have a role in the revolution from the shores of Brooklyn, Ganzeer gave an emphatic “Yes.” “In the United States,” he said, “I can make people aware of the situation, so at least the American people can pressure their government to not support our war criminal turned president Sisi or sell weapons that are used against the Egyptian people.”

While Secretary of State John Kerry has urged Egypt to support a transition to democracy, easing restrictions on freedom of expression, the administration recently announced that it would like to resume military and counterterrorism aid.

Neither this announcement nor his current status has dimmed Ganzeer’s optimism or determination to go back.

“Egypt has had a schizophrenic relationship with its street artists,” said Soraya Morayef, a Cairo writer who has made Ganzeer a topic of her blog, Suzee in the City. “It’s been a case where we love you, we hate you, we’ll jail you, we’ll free you, we’ll celebrate you, and, now, we’ll force you to leave the country.”

Correction: July 11, 2014
Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misspelled the name of an alternative space in Greenpoint through which Ganzeer sells his work. It is the Booklyn Artists Alliance, not the Brooklyn Artists Alliance.
Correction: July 11, 2014
An earlier version of a picture credit with this article, based on information from a publicist, misidentified who took the photograph of Ganzeer painting the mural “Foundations.” It was Eva Frapeccini, not Ganzeer himself.
Correction: July 11, 2014
An earlier version of this article misidentified the nationality of a curator who recently worked with Ganzeer on a mural in Bahrain. Alexandra Stock is Swiss-American, not Egyptian, though she worked in Cairo from 2007-2012 and is currently based in Bahrain.

Best cities that exhibit Street Art

The street art world has undergone a massive shift in the past few years, with famous figures like Banksy and Shepard Fairey elevating the medium to mainstream consciousness.

What was once a clandestine act of art vandalism is now, more often, a celebrated form of public art, popping up in major metropolises across the globe. “Street art and graffiti is ephemeral, transitory, a moment in time,” the experts at Brooklyn Street Art assert, emphasizing the contemporary allure of graffiti and street art.

Katherine Brooks posted in The Huffington Post  this April 17, 2014

The 26 Best Cities In The World To See Street Art 

With summer upon us, and months of travel opportunities on the horizon, we’ve put together a guide of the top cities around the world that prove street art is indeed a thing to be celebrated.

From Brazil to France to Taiwan, these urban centers play home to works by street art stars like Nunca, Blu and the late P183.

So if you’re in the mood for a cross-continental trip, these are the 26 cities you need to add to your travel bucket list now.

1. Berlin, Germany

berlin street art

A street artwork by JR is pictured in Berlin on April 16, 2013.

2. São Paulo, Brazil

sao paulo street art

A mural by Francisco Rodrigues da Silva, known as Nunca, in the Liberdade neighborhood of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2008.

3. Melbourne, Australia

melbourne street art

A mural by Del Kathryn Barton, tilted “The Whole of Everything,” which adorns the side of an apartment block in central Melbourne, on July 8, 2008.

4. Cape Town, South Africa

cape town graffiti

A mural of Nelson Mandela by graffiti artist Mak1One on December 7, 2013 in Cape Town, South Africa.

5. Moscow, Russia

p183

Graffiti with a sign reading “Give to get a ticket home” made by the late Russian street artist Pasha P183 in a street in Moscow, Russia on Wednesday, April 3, 2013.

6. Lisbon, Portugal

lisbon street art

A mural by Sam3 created during the Crono Project in Lisbon, Portugal in 2013.

7. Los Angeles, California

los angeles street art

A giant mural of Mt. Rushmore by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra on La Brea Avenue in Los Angeles on August 20, 2013 in California.

8. Bogotá, Colombia

bogota street art

A graffiti wall painted by El Pez in Bogota, Colombia on July 9, 2010.

9. Dublin, Ireland

dublin street art

A mural in the Temple Bar area on October 23, 2013 in Dublin, Ireland.

10. London, United Kingdom

london street art

Street art by Ekta Ekta on the side of The White building, along the River Lea Navigation at Olympic Stadium on August 7, 2013 in London, England.

11. Santiago, Chile

santiago graffiti

An artist works on a graffiti piece on the banks of the Mapocho river for the first festival of urban intervention, Home-made, in Santiago, on November 21, 2012.

12. Taipei, Taiwan

art

Street artwork by Aram Bartholl in Taipei, Taiwan.

13. Bristol, United Kingdom

bristol street art

A graffiti artist puts the finishing touches to his painting for the “See No Evil” street art project in Nelson Street on August 20, 2011 in Bristol, England.

14. New York City, New York

banksy street art nyc

People walk by a street art graffiti by elusive British artist Banksy, as part of his month-long “Better Out Than In exhibit” in New York, October 3, 2013.

15. Mexico City, Mexico

mexico city graffiti

An artist works on his graffiti painting of Mexican Revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata, during the “Independence Bicentenary and Revolution Centenary” contest, organized by local authorities, in Mexico City, on September 11, 2010.

16. Prague, Czech Republic

art

Mural by Honet in Prague.

17. Paris, France

paris street artA general view of ‘La Tour 13’, a street art building demolished earlier this year.

18. Montreal, Canada

street art canadaA mural in progress is seen on the side of a building during the Mural Festival on June 6, 2013 in Montreal, Canada.

19. Buenos Aires, Argentina

buenos aires street artStreet Art in Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires in June 2011.

20. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

art

Artwork by Espo in Philadelphia.

21. Quintanar de la Orden, Spain

santiago chile street artA giant Don Quixote graffiti mural painted today by Chilean graffiti artist Inti on the wall of a building on April 5, 2014 in Quintanar de la Orden, Spain.

22. Bangkok, Thailand

thailand street artGraffiti paintings in Bangkok on July 14, 2010.

23. Gdańsk, Poland

art

Mural by Etka in Gdansk, Poland.

24. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

art

Street artwork by MOMO and Eltono in Rio de Janeiro.

25. Istanbul, Turkey

street art istanbul

Rainbow-colored stairs in Istanbul painted by a local man in 2013.

26. Bethlehem, Palestine

bethlehem street art

The Italian street artist Blu paints graffiti on Israel’s separation barrier on December 5, 2007.

For more street art cities, check out our list of American destinations you should visit here.

Walls and Graffiti: Tahrir Square (Liberation) Egypt
I am re-posting Marilyn Gardner’s on “freshly pressed” with translation of the Arabic words and sentences in the captions of the graffiti on Cairo walls this Thursday 29.
Apparently, daily The Guardian claims that this article belongs to it and I’m obliging the publisher.

Marilyn Gardner wrote:

“During the 18 days that changed the course of modern-day Egypt Tahrir Square, in the heart of downtown Cairo, became known throughout the world as the epicenter of freedom and change. We couldn’t wait to get a glimpse of the square and talk to people about what had transpired and what is transpiring.

Just a few days before our arrival the area around Tahrir was in chaos, so much so that we made contingency plans for where we would stay. Our daughter lives just a couple of blocks away, and by the time we arrived things had quieted down. Quiet is a relative term.

We headed out on Friday with plans to eat Egyptian pizza (fateer) and head toward the Nile for a felucca ride. At one end of Annie’s street, ten soldiers in full riot gear blocked any movement, and just past the soldiers sat four army tanks, ready and waiting to be used at the sign of any trouble.

As we attempted to get to the Nile, every where we turned we ran into obstacles. Large circles of barbed wire blocked street after street. And then there were the walls. These walls are like nothing I’ve seen before.

The walls are massive square boulders built into 12 feet high walls. They are strategically placed in the downtown area to restrict movement and prohibit protesters from gathering. They are quite simply a clever means to block civilian dissent.

To put this into context, it would be like New York City blocking off all side roads leading to Zuccotti Park with massive, immoveable, concrete boulders, sending all traffic in the area into chaos and frustration. Taxi drivers shake their heads in disgust as all attempts to drive places are met with detours imposed by the walls.

As quickly as the walls have been built, the graffiti has appeared. It was my children and Shepard Fairey that first challenged me to look at graffiti as an art form and a means of expression. The graffiti on the newly constructed walls does just that as it communicates powerful messages from civilians related to both the January 25th uprising as well as the violence that has been perpetuated this fall.

This graffiti is well done. A common theme includes a patched eye, an accusation toward a young soldier who is infamous for shooting out the eyes of protesters – “Yes! I got another eyeis his arrogant quote.

More than anything, the graffiti is evidence of frustration and division regarding the ongoing role of the military in the new Egypt. For me the graffiti was a look into a society where I am an outsider. My Arabic is not good and even as I struggle to communicate, I want to learn more of what people are thinking and feeling.

As with any kind of art, those who create the graffiti wish to use more than words to communicate their thoughts and ideas. Take a look and get a glimpse of Tahrir Square through the graffiti in these pictures.

Execute Tantawi. Raise your head now: You are Egyptian
Shamroukh: When darkness has disseminate Freedom?

Graffiti from my old street in Cairo From Surat Al-Ĥashr 59:14 “They will not fight you all except within fortified cities or from behind walls. Their violence among themselves is severe. You think they are together, but their hearts are divided. That is because they are a people who do not reason.”

Mansour St. Cairo, after the clashes. Calligraphy by artists Ammar Abu Bakr and ?

Note 1: There are three Arabic sentences that are readable enough:

1. Raise you head now: You are Egyptian

2. Execute Tantawi (Fieldmarshal)

3. Shamroukh: Since when darkness disseminated freedom?

Note 2: My niece Joanna did a project three years ago describing Lebanon political and social structure through graffiti painted on walls in Beirut and other cities.

Note 3: Egyptian author Alaa Aswany said that a friend of his lost one eye the first time he participated in Tahrir Square. He lost the second eye on the next participation.

Note 4: You may read my first article on Egypt’s revolution of the century https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/02/01/the-january-revolution-of-the-century-great-people-of-egypt/

Note 5:  On US graffiti https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/02/05/nelson-chip-tagger/


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