Graffiti in the Middle East: Giving Up Personal Identity for the Sake of Social Justice

A slain revolutionist with her or his living counterpart on a wall near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt
A slain revolutionist with her or his living counterpart on a wall near Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt

Graffiti was, at one time, unauthorized written or illustrated messages placed in public places using a variety of art materials that facilitated speedy application for the graffiti author. Speed was important, of course, because the author-artist had only a small window of opportunity to paint without being apprehended. Now, however, unauthorized graffiti has given birth to a highly sophisticated authorized art form, and it has changed from an on-the-run public nuisance to a highly respected and sought-after public space art genre, especially in urban areas where graffiti artists can attain significant popularity and media presence. Yet for artists in politically-challenged areas of the world who use graffiti to graphically chronicle resistance, money, public recognition and celebritydom are often forfeited to advance social justice for them and their people. read more

Compelling Words in Public Space: French-Tunisian Artist, eL seed, Writing on the Walls of The World

Words written in Arabic invoke a variety of responses from Latin-based language speakers. One one hand, Arabic appears otherly and foreign — the language of people enduring political and social conflict — a secret code perhaps, disguising malicious intent. On the other hand, Arabic writing is a historically recognized conveyor of poetry, music, philosophy, doctrine, and verse. The letters, always cursive, never Gothic, flow right-to-left in the opposite direction from that of the inquisitive West. An extremely orderly language in its Modern Standard or classical form, it is somewhat ironic that its speakers, obsessed with maintaining its complex written and pronounced nuances, has respected, encouraged, and subsidized free and creative graphical interpretations by its artists throughout centuries, and it continues today on a startling scale as demonstrated by poet-artist, eL seed. read more

Egyptian Animator, Mokhtar Talaat, Creates Two, Finalist TROPFEST Arabia

Egyptian artist and animator, Mokhtar Talaat, created this very great stop-motion film, and being an animation aficionado and wannabe animator myself, I understand the enormous effort required to create this short piece. His story tells of a dad and daughter family team without mom, and we see a common story of a highly creative and precocious kid trying to break through dad’s work for some attention. Both are occupied with what they create, and preoccupation gives way to collaboration.

I know little of Mokhtar Talaat or his Mokaabat Studio, but I hope he creates more animation, and that he gets support from other filmmakers, musicians, and sponsors too.