Folk arts: Rocks and ballots at Darb 1718

Nabil Shawkat , Thursday 17 Mar 2011

At Darb 1718, a whole wall is draped with posters taken straight from Tahrir Square, and include witticisms and loud calls for the president’s departure

photo1 by Nabil shawkat

"The name of Darb 1718 art space, was something of an insider’s joke," explained Moataz Nasr, owner of Darb. The 17-18 January uprising in 1977 was a nationwide bread riot that almost brought down the government, a precursor of the 25 January revolution.

Nasr, the man who craved a revolution now has it on tap. At Darb 17-18, on the night of 12 March 2011, exactly a month after President Mubarak stepped down, he celebrated with an “exhibition for the revolution”.

Much of the art that comes through Nasr’s place is highly conceptual but this time the mood was rough and the sentiment was raw. The art was straightforward and angry, gloating and triumphant, proud and harsh like the rocks that pelted the old regime out of existence.

Veteran artist and critic Yousef Limod, 47, contributed an unusual piece, made entirely of rocks. The pieces of masonry, bricks, tiles, and chipped tarmac he hauled from Tahrir Square to a corner of the exhibition space in Darb 17-18 are not arranged in any discernible fashion. They are just piled against the wall, looking like an abandoned monument.

“It looks like a section of the pyramid, like Egypt was hit by something big. I wanted to do something that lacked ambiguity, that has no hidden meaning, that brought not just the spirit, but the substance of Tahrir here,” Limod said.

Not to be outdone, Nasr goes for the most straightforward feature of the revolution. His reproduction of the Egyptian flag replaces the traditional eagle with the now famous words. “The People Want to Bring Down the Regime” flashes in yellow neon between the red and black stripes of the Egyptian flag.

Three walls are covered with newspaper cuttings of the pre-and-post revolution newspapers. Arrows exclaiming “ridiculous”  point to the contradictions in official and media statements, the political musings of a regime gasping its last.

A whole wall is draped with posters taken straight from Tahrir Square, witticisms and loud calls for the president’s departure.

Then a bit of target practice. A ballot box is hanging from the ceiling and there are darts you can throw at the box. The darts are made of genuine Egyptian ballot forms, folded like paper planes and topped with pins. When you throw them at the ballot box, they stick sometimes, but more often they fall on the floor, uncounted, wasted, as voting used to be in the past.

The exhibition runs until Saturday 19 March

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