Reclaiming Barriers

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.


This entry was posted in Arab Spring, Egypt, Out-of-Class Media Post, Signs, Graffitti and Cartoons, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Reclaiming Barriers

  1. This discussion is fascinating. I love the image of people jumping over the wall they just painted and the connection to the separation wall. It’s really powerful and indicates that the people are attacking from all angles with multiple methods. The fact that this Arab country would use this strategy on its people is also interesting in the context of how prevalent and pervasive the example of the separation wall made by Israel is. This thought also reminds me of the picture of the graffiti on the separation wall that compares the Israelis to the nazis and says that the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians what the Nazis did to them. Both of these situations seem rather ironic.

  2. It’s actually amazing to see how murals and graffiti have become popular throughout the Arab spring — I’ve read in other articles that people are asking graffiti artists to paint the gates of their homes. I think that murals and graffiti are growing in popularity because they’re available in an open space for all to see — the barriers in Tahrir Square are there for everyone to see and people are using it to get their messages across. Really love this — think it’s great.

  3. That the painted scene is an almost exact replica of the view of the other side of the wall is very interesting. To me, it seems that the artists are saying that all they really want is some sort of normalcy. Their demands aren’t radical or overly idealistic, but simple: they just want to be able to walk down the street. The comparisons to the Separation Wall that Clarissa and Sarabeth made are very appropriate, and something I honestly didn’t think of immediately. This is another good example of how much protesters are relying on graffiti to depict their arguments, feelings, and aspirations.

Comments are closed.