Art as protest, means to express complex political and social ideas, is not a novel concept: just think of Picasso's statement on the tragedy of war in Guernica, or Banksy's murals on the West Bank barrier. But in Egypt, where the Ministry of Culture controlled all public expression, protest art was hard to find — at least until last year, when 18 days of mass revolts toppled President Mubarak's regime and unexpected freedoms flourished, including the right to make art.
Here are some instructions of the activist's plan on how to act and react during the protests.
A man walks past a shuttered storefront with graffiti celebrating two of the revolution’s media weapons: the Al Jazeera satellite station and Facebook.
Artists decorated this boarded storefront on May 1 as part of a consciousness-raising campaign. The mural mocks the Mubarak family and criticizes Israel and the military authorities who currently run the country. Graffiti and street artists are out in force now, although their work doesn’t always last long. This mural has since been whitewashed.
This calligraphy in Midan Tahrir celebrates those who died during the revolution. It’s verse 169 of the third chapter of the Koran, Surat al-Imran: “Think not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead. Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord.”
A sticker for sale in downtown Cairo shows Mubarak with Libya’s embattled ruler, Moammar Gadhafi, in a Brokeback Mountain parody. It’s just one of many spirited, amateur photomontages ridiculing Egypt’s former dictator.
On January 30, protesters changed the Mubarak subway-station plaque to read “The Martyrs Station.” Subway officials cleaned the graffiti, but protesters reapplied it. The name change has now been made official. Mubarak’s picture and name are also quickly disappearing from the schools, streets, offices, and public gardens where they were once ubiquitous.
A poster from Coca-Cola’s new “Let’s Make Tomorrow Better” campaign by the Fortune PromoSeven agency.
A warning to Mubarak: “The youth will carry you out with their hands.”
Protesters converged on the national headquarters of President Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, which for decades had a stranglehold on the country’s political life. The building, in central Cairo, burned for several days. The graffiti on the left reads, “Leave, you idiot!” On the right it says: “Put Hosni and [first lady] Suzanne and Gamal [the president’s son] and that dog [Minister of Interior Habib] Al-Adli on trial.” Now discussions have begun over the building’s future. Suggestions have included turning it into public offices for human-rights groups, building a memorial to those who died during the revolution, and transforming the land into a public park. Some activists have argued that the building shouldn’t be demolished but kept as a visual reminder of the people’s fury.
After Mubarak was charged with corruption and ordering the police to fire on demonstrators, the state-owned magazine October (which until recently had toed a sycophantic, government line) ran this cover story, entitled “The Day of Reckoning,” speculating on whether the former president might face the death penalty.
The red, white, and black of the Egyptian flag have never been so popular. The colors are seen here in a ubiquitous sticker modeled on Egyptian license plates.