Part III: Revolution
After January 2011, people may refer to this place simply as “the square” (as the title of the documentary suggests). This is where the hopes and dreams of millions of Egyptians were forged. It is also the site of some of the most horrific violence. Police reacted in brutal ways to the protest. Here is where Layla helps the doctors in their attempt to stabilize patients before an ambulance rush to the hospital.
There have been concerted efforts on the part of the current regime and other stakeholders to erase the evidence and memory of the revolution. To counter these acts of silencing and erasure, several initiatives have begun to archive what happened in Tahrir Square. For more about this attempted erasure and counter measures, read Lara Baladi’s essay “Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age, Archiving as an Act of Resistance,” IBRAAZ, July 28, 2016.
Some archival sites:
Vox Populi: Archiving a Revolution in the Digital Age: http://tahrirarchives.com/
Tahrir Documents at HAZINE: A Guide to Researching the Middle East and Beyond: http://hazine.info/tahrir-documents/
Tahrir Documents, sponsored by the University of California, Los Angeles: https://www.tahrirdocuments.org/
Filming Revolution (a meta-documentary about filmmaking in Egypt since the revolution): http://www.filmingrevolution.org/
In this tremendous composition, Ganzeer integrates the work of his fellow street artists to relay the message to Anna and Layla that lissa—still, not all hope is lost.
In following with our hopes to integrate the work of revolutionaries themselves, we were ecstatic that Ganzeer agreed to design the composition of the graffiti on page 235. Ganzeer was a street artist at the time of the Egyptian Revolution and is now an author and artist in the United States. He is a model of collaboration, often seizing opportunities to showcase the work of his peers. You can learn more about him here.
1. Ganzeer’s “Cat of Defiance” visually echoes the cats who moved through Anna and Layla’s lives and friendship. In this piece, we see the bandages on the cat’s injured eye, limb, and tail, and the characteristic wings of martyrdom that were used throughout Egypt’s revolutionary street art to commemorate those who died for the cause.
2. Directly under the cat’s wing is the work of graffiti artist Ammar Abo Bakr, who based this design on a photograph of the activist Sanaa Seif taken on January 25, 2016. On the one-year anniversary of the revolution, she walked alone from Mostafa Mahmoud Square to Tahrir Square to commemorate the marches that took place between those spaces from 2011 to 2014. Seif’s jacket was designed by Ammar Abo Bakr and Mohamed El-Moshir with the words “It’s still [lissa] the January Revolution.”
3. Immediately under the image of Sanaa Seif is an unaccredited stencil. It depicts a woman dancing, and is accompanied by the words, “Dance to the tunes of the revolution, not emergency law.”
4. Underneath this is graffiti artist Keizer’s stencil image of a woman shouting defiantly, “To the government— Fear us!”
5. The unaccredited calligraphy to the left of Anna and Layla reads, “The revolution will persist until victory.”
6. Just above this on the left margin, the iconic calligraphy by Mohamed Gaber reads “Be with the revolution.” This phrase was ubiquitous throughout the days of protest.
7. To the right of the calligraphy are two hands pressed together in prayer with the sign of the evil eye on them. This piece by El Zeft includes a thread of text along the bottom that reads, “May God let the revolution prevail and never perish.”
8. Just at the tip of the cat’s left wing is a stencil by Nooneswa of three women: one bare-headed, one with a head covering, and one with a full face-veil, with the words, “Don’t put a label on me.”
9. Finally, the blocked letters in the center upon which the winged cat sits, appear as a maze, but when turned clockwise 90 degrees, the Arabic letters—gesturing to the classic Kufic calligraphic style—spell out al-thawra mustamira: “The Revolution Will Never Die.” This piece was designed by Ganzeer.
Graffiti throughout Lissa
Page 163: The art in the last panel of this page is by Carlos Latuff. It is from an anti-Mubarak cartoon published in Ahram Journal on January 20, 2012, just before the first anniversary of the January 25 revolution.
Page 180: The mural by Amr Nazeer depicts Ahmed Harara, a dentist who was blinded in one eye by birdshot in January 2011 and in the other by a rubber bullet in November of that year. The graffiti reads, “Your silence is murder.” You can watch the artist render this mural live on YouTube.
Page 184: The image in panel 1 is by Omar Fathy and depicts, on the left side of the face, military ruler Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (February 2011 to June 2012), and, on the right side of the face, President Hosni Mubarak.
Page 204: This graffiti is also from Abo Bakr and others; it depicts slain martyrs of the revolution, and is painted on the wall of the American University in Cairo.
Page 229: “Lost Eyes,” by Ammar (Abo Bakr), is used on this page. According to Ammar Abo Bakr’s Facebook page, this mural portrays “some of the everyday people who lost their eyes in clashes . . . when thousands demonstrated against military rule.” We have only photographs and copies of this “wall of portraits,” as it was “whitewashed just before the Revolution’s first anniversary.” The graffiti depicting the lion is not accredited.
Page 230: The graffiti depicted here is also by Abo Bakr; it depicts the martyr Mohammed Serry.
Page 231: The graffiti is by Alaa Awad and is part of a mural entitled “Marching Women.” The part pictured is of “women in the funeral march” (the other is “women climb the ladder”); both parts are based on original images in the Ramesseum temple in Luxor.
Page 233: El Teneen is the creator of the original graffiti used on this page; it is entitled “Revolution Girl” and depicts a supergirl wearing a blue bra with the red letter tha’ above it on her chest. The letter stands for thawra, or “revolution,” and the blue bra became a symbol of dissent after a 2011 video caught police assaulting an Egyptian woman protestor in Tahrir Square. The sign beneath states, “It continues.”
The Voice of Freedom
An early folk anthem of the revolution was “Sout al Horeya [The Voice of Freedom],” by Hany Adel and Amir Eid. The song, which quickly garnered YouTube hits after publication, was reported to have reached a world record as one of the most watched videos in the shortest time.
The chorus translates as, “In every street of my country, the voice of freedom is calling.”
A CNN interview of Amir Eid and Hany Adel and other artists