Egypt: Youth paint and sing against the Muslim Brotherhood: Street artists in Tahrir to defend freedom of thought

30 November, 18:51

(ANSAmed) – CAIRO, NOVEMBER 30 – ”They beat us and they stop us from expressing our ideas. They say they are our brothers, but of brotherhood they have absolutely nothing”: that is, except for the name by which the movement founded by Hassan Al-Banna is known.

Young graffiti artists in Tahrir Square refuse to give up, despite a law banning the use of spray paint issued after the January 25 revolution. They continue fearlessly expressing their thoughts through what they paint on the walls around and in the square. They draw on the walls, but the authorities waste no time in sending someone to paint over their work. Or at least they try to.

Those in power consider the words accompanying the pictures on the graffiti to be offensive. After the swearing-in of President Mohamed Morsi, the graffiti on the walls of the square symbolising the 2011 uprising and the surrounding streets was removed. However, in these days of high tension, in Mohamed Mahmoud Street (where security forces and protestors clashed violently) the walls are once again full of their drawings. ”We are constantly beaten,” said Hana Maged, a 20-year-old film student at Cairo’s October 6th University. Her friends are a bit more wary, but also join in a moment later. Saiko and Kim are roughly the same age, and also claim to spend a good deal of their time in the streets. Since January 25, 2011, many artists and intellectuals have supported what they call the ”Art Revolution”, and many people have passed by Tahrir Square to see them and show their support, including such well-known journalists such as Yosri Fouda, Galal Amer and Reem Maged, as well as the poet who has become the symbol of the revolution with his “O Egypt, It’s Close”, Tamim El Barghouti. Even politicians – such as El-Baradei – have put their ‘stamp of approval’ on it.

Cairo’s International Film Festival, which is currently being held in the Egyptian capital, has offered them a space inside of the Opera House. ”They asked us to go slowly,” Hana said. And so no frontal attacks on specific politicians and only graffiti expressing such concepts as freedom and justice through visual arts and music.

Ramy Essam, the most famous of the ‘revolutionary singers’, was entirely unknown before the revolution, he told ANSAmed. ”I was playing with a group of friends called Mashakel (problems).” What brought him to the limelight were the 18 days that led to the fall of Mubarak. Essam studies engineering and at the age of only 25 he has become a hero for Egyptians. In November 2011 he received the Freemuse Award in Stockholm, an award given every year to a musician struggling for freedom through his music. His winning song was ‘Erhal’, which translates as ‘go’ or ‘leave’ – an imperative addressed to Mubarak. Many production companies (for the most part British and American) later tried to get him to sign on with them.

”But I turned down their proposals,” he said, ”I prefer to stay independent.” According to a ranking compiled by the London magazine Time Out, among the songs that have changed the world ‘Erhal’ comes just after John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ and Public Enemey’s ‘Fight the Power’. And this evening, once again, Essam will be in the middle of the protest called by opposition groups against the presidential decree with which Mohamed Morsi took on sweeping new powers. (ANSAmed).

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