Cairo Art – Artists are always on the front line

From the Old Kingdom to this mural in 2012

Art has always been political, but look first for the beauty and talent.

Thinking of Egyptian Art, the mind initially jumps to ancient, mythical and symbolic, but what is happening in present-day. This is a country forced to speed up, as are all southern Mediterranean and Middle East worlds. “Forced to speed up,” would that make the locals bristle, defending their traditions.

Risk their life – All cultures move at their own individual pace until communication and economy-building requires certain styles of sports shoes. Egyptians have strong feelings and their art expressions are springing bold and large. Much of their Art product is grandiose, mostly in public spaces and often anonymous. Only recently have artists been bold enough to risk their lives for expression – risk their life.

Bring Art forward has always been culture-changing

Who are these Egyptian artists, and what are they doing.

Protest motivated – There is a sense of liberation in displaying large… no carved gold leaf frame needed.  Much art in Egypt is protest motivated, art that needs to be shouted and flaunted.   Egypt’s moxie is giving itself a public name

Painting by El Degham

March, April and May is a time for Art festivals – In what has been call the Spring Art “bloom,” : there were film screenings in the Alternative Solution; concerts and street performances; and the Digital Art Festival through out April 2013. The latter was presented as an installation displaying Slingshot, an interactive experience produced by Mostafa Adel Aty





SMSlingshot, interactivity took to the streets where a famous graffiti artist Ganzeer, projected a woman’s face through a shop window, moving its eyes to follow those on the sidewalk.

Both artists and audiences moved between festivals. “The concentration of events in downtown Cairo turned streets, restaurants and cafes into an exchange hub for artists of different nationalities.”

There was the event called D-CAF – what a great name – standing for Downtown Contemporary Art Festival. Ahmed El-Attar, art director of D-CAF said, “We are not making political statements” He said their aim was to present this festival to take audiences into another reality and a different perspective.

Artists were invited to build jackasses in mixed media – Equus afridanus asinus

As audiences experienced the Art, they were interpreting the symbolism in the story, and blurring the boundaries of all the elements; there was the actual stench of teargas, sirens and turmoil as police mingled in groups of protesters, a couple blocks away.

What is real… it’s all real.

Tribute to martyr Mariam Makram Nazeer, who died on “Friday of Anger” 2011. The mural is by Ammar Abo Bakr on a wall of the Karim El Dawla garage.

A martyr, Mariam Nazeer shows her angel wings.

“We’re squatters, trying to embed or build up on the past of these places (old buildings in shambles) and build above it another layer,” said Enrica Camporesi, D-CAF’s communications manager. Ever present archaeology.

On an inside wall of the garage – painting titled the Mona Lisa Brigade

A creative concept and a Spring of hope – Ismailia, a real estate investment company was a major sponsor for the festivals – they are buying up Cairo’s historic architectural relics, with plans to re-gentrify the cultural downtown.

Plans for the 1910’s Hotel Viennoise as an Art venue

“Egyptians view downtown with nostalgia, they see it as the remnants of a better time,”…  said Karim Shafei, the chief executive of Ismailia. “We can save the buildings and urban fabric by bringing cultural events and by private investment.” The government will not spend the money on renewal, “it’s simply not their priority.”

Art by Mozza – women watching a football match. They are not allowed to attend the game







Street Art – photo taken by Swedish journalist Mia Grondahl for a calendar







Their heritage – A year ago police placed huge masonry squares to wall out protesters and save government buildings from potential destruction  – like the building of ancient temples and pyramids. Do you see it – it’s their heritage.

Building or deconstructing the Berlin-Cairo Wall



Anti-Morsi protesters attempt to remove the wall, Dec. 11, 2012. Nine people were hurt.







Mural on Falaki St. wall blocks – the circles are windows on a boat, so that a wall won’t stop your view.


Mural on the Wall on Sheikh Rihan St. is fine art, spoken of as one of the Seven Wonders of the Revolution.

The Cairo walls are a kind of temple, dedicated to an ugly current history. Egyptians will never forget this history. They will move on but they won’t forget

Old Egypt battles wild animals

Mural by Alaa Awad on the Youssef El Guindy. Ancient figures battle next to hyenas, black panthers and a breast-feeding Egyptian Queen.

Mural as an ancient interpretation, by Alaa Awad








Whitewash and start over.










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