If you’ve seen this tremendous photo above blowing up your newsfeed, then you’ll know that this is the fantastic calligraphy work of Tunisian street artist, El Seed, in the Cairo area of Mansheyet Nasser – one of the poorest and most destitute areas in the city. El Seed is renowned for his intricate Arabic calligraphy gracing buildings from Paris to Sharjah, to Djerba, to Brazil, but also for his use of graffiti as a message of love and peace – watch his TED talk here.
Photo and header photo courtesy of El Seed on Facebook
But what you should know is that this isn’t the first time a graffiti artist has painted in a Cairo slum area to bring hope to its residents. We’ve had other international artists visit us, but we also know that Egyptian street artists have been doing it for years now. Case in point:
Photo courtesy of the Mona Lisa Brigades on Facebook
The Mona Lisa Brigades worked in the Cairo area of Ard El Lewa in 2013 and 2014, where they painted the faces of the neighbourhood’s children to essentially acknowledge their existence and give them a sense of presence, pride and belonging. Check their Facebook page here.
Photo courtesy of Hamdy Reda on Facebook
This initiative is by the oldest on this list – dating back to 2011 – when over sixty contemporary artists, including Ashraf Raslan and Osama Abdel Moneim, worked alongside the residents of Ezbet El Saida in Imbaba to create murals outside of their homes in an attempt to beautify the grey and dusty neighbourhood. See more of the project here.
Photo courtesy of Nemo on Facebook
Ok so we know we’re cheating by adding this Mansoura-based street artist to the list as most of his street art is outside of Cairo, but take a look at his photos; he’s used provocative and emotional street art and posters to raise awareness about the poor and hungry around Mansoura. How could we not add him?
Photo courtesy of Coloring a Grey City on Facebook
This group of Fine Arts students formed in 2014 to paint pedestrian staircases, bridges and pillars around the city, including the May 15th Bridge, Ghamra Metro station, Kitkat and Helwan University. Their aim is to inject colour and joy back into the city and judging by their photos, we’re sure they’ve brought some colour back into grumpy pedestrians’ days. Check out their inspiring work here.
Photo courtesy of Ahmed Hayman
We’re cheating again, but hear us out. If this image looks familiar, it’s because this graffiti stencil by Zeft spread across social media and around the world and has been appropriated by feminists and activists against sexual harassment as a symbol of women’s rights. We saw the stencil pop up on Downtown Cairo walls and on posters used during women’s marches, on pins, t-shirts, bags, and then it went global when Amnesty International took it on for its Egypt campaign. It might not follow suit with others on this list as an example of graffiti in slums, but there is no more perfect example of how one piece of street art can become a national and global message for a social cause.
By Biouxsie Bioux