Take a glance at Sheikh Rihan Street, situated in the heart of Cairo’s business centre, and you will be immediately confronted by a calm and quiet scene. As you look closer you’ll realise that everything seems a bit too quiet. None of the cars are moving and neither are the people…
In an artistic move to remove Cairo’s barricades, its resident painters have applied their skills to the large concrete wall erected by security forces across the middle of their roads. As part of their ‘No Walls’ campaign, the artists have recreated the view down Sheikh Rihan Street, including its pavements, lampposts, traffic and trees.
In November and December last year, the Egyptian authorities raised a series of concrete walls to prevent the damage of important buildings. Activists are still taking to the street to further the revolution and they believe the walls’ main purpose is to contain their on-going efforts.
Not to be undone, the revolutionaries have now turned the walls into their own propaganda, through the peaceful act of painting. Cairo’s street, once so bleak, have now been turned into a giant poster or graphic magazine, for their cause. Current events have been depicted through colour and composition. The ruling generals and prominent protestors, many of which died in the up-rising, watch over the city streets.
This act may be peaceful, but the authorities remove the work as soon as they find it, so the artists have to work quickly and covertly in order to express themselves.
If you were quick enough, you may have witnessed a mixture of traditional art imagery – a ballerina dancing, a pack of wolves, balloons and rainbows – alongside the more obviously political – traditionally robed women with gas cylinders and snakes with human faces.
The attempt to remove the walls artistically has also become a reality, as many of these large concrete structures have started to be torn down. Motivated anti-military groups have used levers and ropes to tear down one wall, close to Tahrir Square, on a road leading to parliament.
When Mubarak was removed from power last year, the generals on the reigning military council were lauded for not continuing his regime. Since then, they have come under attack for their harsh treatment on remaining dissidents.