Street Art, Graffiti, is definitely not vandalism. This is artform rooted in an underground subculture so provocative that it must and can only exist beyond the walls of art galleries. “Uncommissioned” art plays a crucial role in a city’s landscape and contributes positively to social activism. This is why 350 Africa / Arab World has embraced artivism as a mobilising tool, and, in that regard, the 350 Arab World & Africa team organized a two-day “Graffiti for the Climate” workshop in Cairo, Egypt in early August attended by 7-12 persons, some of which had no previous graffiti experience.
The workshop was organised in co-operation with the Megawra Al-Khalifa built environment collective and co-facilitated by graffiti artist Mahmoud Magdy and it had two particular goals: to build capacity of artivists in support of the climate movement, and to create a climate graffiti mural in the historical Cairo neighbourhood of Al-Khalifa.
One of the workshop participants, Ahmed Abd Elfattah, who’s a 19 year-old graffiti enthusiast, wrote the following account to share his experience in the workshop:
The idea of interpreting global climate issues and Egypt’s in particular through art is fascinating, as it doesn’t only deliver the message and the information through the global language of art, but it makes it remarkable and saved in the memory much better than words. Show don’t tell, this is the basis upon which the entire workshop was built on.
The first day of the workshop, was about the thinking process, and the first activity was a visual exercise, where we were each given very simple pictures that can be almost considered logos, and the participants were asked to explain these icons from their point of view: for example two pictures, one contained a logo of train car carrying coal vs a solar panel logo. The discussion that happened after each photo was eye-opening and led from an idea to another, going through facts about climate change and global warming.
Afterwards we were taken through a brief history of graffiti and murals, while displaying certain similar works and also discussing the connection to global warming. All participants were then asked to start sketching ideas within 15 minutes, and what I found really great about the designing process was that somehow we figured out a way to combine the ideas together, with consideration of how they would be applied through free-hand painting and stencil. The end results were creative and well thought-out, and took into consideration the urban context we were at, and the culture of the people, including popular proverbs and certain icons that the people of the area can relate to easily.
In the second day of the workshop, everyone was busy cutting stencils. With the sun blazing at its peak at 12 noon, the heat wave in Cairo reminded us why we do what we do. But everyone was excited as ever and we were all motivated to continue the art project at hand. Cleaning the mural wall, hanging the stencil, spraying and painting naturally drew the attention of the passerby who were wondering what we were doing. With no inhibitions, they slowly approached and asked us to explain. And so we did. The kids in the area start gathering,wondering perhaps if they can help with the painting, and then they started painting fearlessly, while learning about climate change, and what they should do to help in not breaking the 1.5 degree record.
We were done with the graffiti at around 6 PM. Tired, but feeling our message was successfully delivered.
“You who betrays my benevolence, tomorrow when I leave you, only then will you appreciate me” is the translation of a popular Egyptian proverb that was written within the graffiti.
350 Arab World & Africa was amazed by the media attention this workshop received, and the interest expressed by other local groups who want more of these workshops to happen. So, we are absolutely looking forward to leading more artivism projects in the region.
For more photos from the workshop click here