Amid the strident chants and countless tweets, art adorned the uprising day after day; photographs illustrated the events, and the protestors created posters that conveyed their viewpoints with remarkable wit and originality.
After three decades of oppression and frustration, millions of Egyptians unleashed their pent-up energy through 18 days of protests, and ousted former president Hosni Mubarak, who has long had a monopoly over power.
As the events of the past few weeks played out, art has been an integral part of the revolution. Photographs served to show Egyptians and global citizens alike the sheer number of protestors that poured onto the streets of Egypt, demonstrating to the world that there is indeed, power in numbers.
Such photographs inspired more people to step up and step in, and so the crowd swelled. Photos portrayed the cooperation between the people and the armed forces, and our pride swelled. Snapshots revealed the occasional violence and the martyrs of the revolution, and the tears fell. Photo-journalism, and even more so, citizen photo-journalism, helped to not only document, but also to show the revolution, in its highs and lows, exposing all its bold, brutal, and beautiful angles.
Egyptians and people around the globe held up ‘Mubarak Must Go’ signs, either elaborately printed or scribbled on paper. But Tahrir (or Liberation) Square proved that Egyptians have been able to pull off an incredibly creative revolution, exhibiting a vast array of inventive, and at times attractive, posters that help solidify their stance and express their views without any inhibitions.
In the centre of Tahrir Square, where millions have marched and chanted for freedom, a long line of posters was show-cased, created by committed revolutionaries who have spent days and nights in Tahrir, seeking liberation.
It is an exhibition of witty cartoons, creative paintings and mock film posters that simultaneously deliver the message and raise a chuckle. Some are extremely simple, such as spelling the word ‘Leave’ on the license plate of a car.
Meanwhile, more creative caricatures showed former president Mubarak extending an open palm to a sorcerer who tells him “travel awaits you”. Another cartoon depicts the ‘revolution bride and groom’, two people who actually got married in Tahrir Square. Caricature refers to the communicative art that employs exaggeration of a certain portrait to communicate a witty message to readers.
Loaded caricatures are often used for political commentary, and are found as editorial cartoons, which usually meant that, in light of limited press freedom in Egypt for the past 30 years, self-censorship is applied. However, in this youth uprising, caricatures were painted by the people, who had shed their fear, and created extremely expressive, unrestrained caricatures.
Some posters were extremely childlike, and featured rainbows, a bright yellow sun, and the nation’s flags, while others crudely (yet understandably) likened the revolution to a woman in labour.
The simple paintings that the young protestors proudly held up highlighted their desire to be listened to, and understood. Since modern art revolves around ideas; and is not simply aesthetic, the revolution artwork, which clearly convey a set of revolutionary themes, can be considered as an interesting addition to Egypt’s contemporary art scene.
Through the revolution, nonetheless, one distinct combination of colours prevailed: red, white and black. The Egyptian flag was vehemently waved around in an outburst of rage on 25 January, until they were waved again in frantic jubilation on 11 February, when the revolutionary youth made history, and painted a life of democracy and freedom for Egypt.