While browsing the internet the other day I came upon an article called “Egypt artists “reopen” street by graffiti protest”, published by the Houston Chronicle. It is about the emergence of graffiti in Cairo on the concrete barriers set up around Tahrir Square. The concrete barriers were set up by the Egyptian military government during a period of violent clashes with protestors who wanted an end to the military rule. The constructed barriers were quickly built with large concrete blocks to keep the protesters away from the Interior Ministry and out of Tahrir Square, the locus of the protests during the January revolution.
After the construction of the barriers the protesters reclaimed the space and made it their own. They painted murals of the city streets hidden by the huge concrete blocks, portraits of dead protestors, and various other political ideas protesting the military regime as well as the Islamic majority in the current assembly elected to create a new constitution. I found the recreation of the blocked street particularly striking because, according to the article, it is an exact replica. In two of the images included with the article, people have climbed the section of the barrier with the street painted on top of it and have claimed the space as their own not just in an expressive and artistic sense but in a physical one as well.
When I read this article I couldn’t help but think about the Separation Wall in Jerusalem and the graffiti and murals that it is covered in. In both the case of the Separation Wall and of the temporary concrete block barriers surrounding Tahrir Square, by making graffiti and by painting murals on the barriers the people are reclaiming a structure built by their government to oppress them. While the barriers still kept the oppressed group in, or out of their respective places, the graffiti and murals showed that they still had a voice and would continue to fight despite the new physical obstacle.