The Way We See It: Poetic-Visual Reciprocity in Egyptian Street Art Since 2011

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
Eid Mohamed Department of English Literature and Linguistics, College of Arts and Sciences, Qatar University Doha Qatar

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Talaat Farouq Mohamed Department of English, College of Arts and Sciences, Jouf University, KSA and Al-Azhar University Cairo Egypt

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This article traces the manifestations of the newly adapted artistic form of “calligraffiti,” or the synthetic braiding of poetry and graffiti on what became known as the “walls of protest” in post-2011 Egypt. This new mode of writing/drawing answers to the immediacy of an unprecedented revolutionary moment in Egypt and rewrites Egyptian history in peculiar artistic instantaneity. The image-text discursive dynamics of this hybrid form of expression enhance our understanding of the 2011 Egyptian uprising, enabling us to explore the potential of revolutionary impulse for stretching new artistic forms. This article therefore engages calligraffiti as a means to expand the scope of the literary, and specifically the poetic, to involve the visual dimension as coupled with the conceptual (linguistic). In this border- and genre-crossing artistic mode, Arabic poetry and graffiti meld as a revolutionary form of self-expression that defies local and international hegemonic, patriarchal regimes. Calligraffiti serves not only as a means of registering a revolutionary moment in Egypt or of celebrating the epiphany of the uprising, but more importantly it stands as a cultural and literary tool developed and used by Egyptian artists to represent the revolutionary artistic self and galvanize dissent during a highly contested moment in Egypt’s history. The article thus traces the ways that the calligraffiti of Egyptian artists like Bahiyyah Shihāb (Bahia Shehab) and ʿUmar Fatḥī (Omar Fathy), ʿAmmār Abū Bakr (Ammar Abo Bakr), Ganzīr (Ganzeer), Al-Mushīr (El-Moshir) and ʿAlāʾ ʿAwaḍ (Alaa Awad), are enmeshed with the poetic lines of Amal Dunqul, Pablo Neruda, and Yāsir al-Manawahlī (Yasser el-Manawahly) on the artistic canvas of muralled Egyptian revolution.

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