Mad Graffiti Weekend storms the Egyptian capital

Mohamed El Hebeishy, Monday 23 May 2011

Graphic artist Ganzeer teamed up with a group of graffiti artists at the weekend and took over Zamalek and Downtown, painting murals of the martyrs and life-size tanks

Working under the banner “All Egyptians are one hand” – Photo by Mohamed El Hebeishy
Working under the banner “All Egyptians are one hand” – Photo by Mohamed El Hebeishy

The weekend of 20-21 May was declared Mad Graffiti Weekend, an initiative by graphic artist Ganzeer. The event involved several artists getting together and painting graffiti in both Zamalek and Downtown Cairo.

“We [graffiti artists] often work alone, and I wanted to see what we could do if we got together. This is one of the reasons why I organised Mad Graffiti Weekend,” says Ganzeer.

Among the event’s highlights is the new martyr mural, dedicated to 18-year old Islam Raafat, who was run over by a security truck during Egypt’s revolution.

Islam’s memorial mural was first painted earlier in March, before the public toilet - which carried the graffiti - got a fresh lick of paint. Ganzeer decided to repaint the mural in thesame spot in Falaki Square. “We will never forget our martyrs. We should have them portrayed in more locations and I hope to be able to paint all 850 martyrs,” he declares.

Martyr murals are the most widely-spread graffiti theme in Egypt, with martyrs depicted in various locations across the capital, as well as other Egyptian cities.

In Alexandria, there is one huge wall portraying several martyrs, including Khalid Said, located not far from San Stefano, in the direction of Montazah.

The most popular piece is undoubtedly the bicycle and tank graffiti, which was painted over a period of two nights in Zamalek. It portraits a child on a bicycle carrying a large tray of bread, a typical Egyptian sight in many neighbourhoods, though this youngster is confronted by a full-size tank.

Ganzeer and a group of volunteers hung a banner proclaiming that “All Egyptians are one hand”, while working on this graffiti. The bicycle and tank attracted a number of passersby who stopped to admire the graffiti art in the making.

Fans hope that Mad Graffiti Weekend is not only a one-off event, but a regular occurrence, reaching out to a wider audience.  This time it was in Zamalek and Downtown, perhaps next time it can move into working class neighbourhoods around Cairo.

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