Popular culture: a tool of resistance and revolution

Ahram Online, Thursday 27 Sep 2012

Discussion at AUC conference turns to explosion of popular creativity that has gripped Egypt since revolution

Intellectuals and artists discussed the relationship between revolution and the art of resistance at a conference called Aesthetics and Politics at the American University in Cairo on Tuesday.

"The January 25 Revolution created its own forms of expression through alternative media vehicles, leading to a movement dubbed ‘popular culture’," according to Professor Randa Abo Bakr of Cairo University, "which has manifested itself as graffiti, music, caricature, and other art forms."

Abo Bakr said the millions who took to the streets during the revolution did not do so merely to protest and demand the downfall of the regime; they also protested in the hope of regaining their rights, including the rights of representation and expression.

The session also hosted musician Yosra El-Hawary, caricature artist Amr Selim and graphic designer Heba Helmy.

Revolutionaries have earned the right to free expression, not only through protests, but also through an explosion of creativity represented in their use of so-called popular culture, a term used by Abo Bakr as an alternative to folk culture.

Such an outburst of contemporary art and popular culture in the aftermath of the revolution, which sought out practices that clearly contrasted with the official cultural institutions and major mainstream media, was, in Abo Bakr's assessment, a sign of the failures and limitations of such formal cultural institutions.

Abo Bakr said youth, energy and rebellion characterise popular culture – a movement that was formed after the revolution.

Heba Helmy displayed examples of her revolutionary graffiti, which for her is a form of cultural resistance

The graffiti artist attacks the state twice, Helmy said. First, when he conquers the empty space once controlled by the security forces, and second when he succeeds in transmitting this forbidden, rebellious message through the official mainstream media.

Amr Selim discussed how he used caricature as a method of resistance before and after the revolution, and how he thought that after the revolution he would be able to paint freely about less revolutionary subject matters, such as beauty, but he discovered that caricature was still needed as a form of opposition and resistance.

"It is hard to wake up every morning and feel hopeless. I don't know how much longer we will live with this frustration," he added.

Yosra El-Hawary presented her song, El-Soor.


Short link: