#Jan25: Told Through Its Art
Five years ago, Egyptian streets erupted, giving way to a large popular movement that has continued to impact our lives ever since. Regardless of one’s position on the ideological and political spectrums, there is no doubt that January 25th , 2011 brought forth many changes, political and otherwise. For one thing, it has made virtually every Egyptian a political and strategic expert.
This article pays tribute to the Revolution’s cultural, literary and artistic effects on Egyptian society for the fifth anniversary, and commemorates the movements that have come out of it.
Perhaps there has been no artistic movement as greatly affected as the musical one, where real change has been felt. Encouraged by the new space opening up and inspired by the new and vast material offered to them, young underground artists began to experiment, borrow from other cultures and rise. Perhaps the onset of it was Cairokee’s Amir Eid and Wust El Balad’s Hany Adel’s instant hit Sout El Horeya, which involved new vocals and was not the romantic or heartbreak song that the Egyptian audience had generally been used to. More bands appeared on the scene, with the aim of introducing new types of music, as well as venturing into new topics, including politics, advertising, social norms and more. The mainstream started to hear of bands like Cairokee, Salalem and Masar Egbary. Some solo artists also gained more popularity with this chance, including Hamza Namira and Dina El Wadidi, to name a few, as well as independent singers like Ramy Essam.
This drift in, or addition to, the music industry undoubtedly has its critics as well as its fans, but there is no doubt that it has opened up a new scope of musical genres. Other Arab non-mainstream artists became popular on the Egyptian street, most famous of whom are Souad Messi and Mashrou’ Leila.
Television and Film
When the Egyptian National Soccer Team won the African Cup of Nations three times in a row, once of which was in Egypt, television and moviemakers were in an uproar. There was almost no TV show or movie produced without at least a reference or two to it. Imagine what a Revolution and all its ramifications can inspire. Movies and television shows alike either took the Revolution as their central plot, or managed to squeeze it into otherwise unrelated storylines.
Documentaries were also made. Perhaps the most famous of these has been Jehane Noujaim’s The Square. Tracing the Revolution’s eruption and continuation through different character’s perspectives up until Morsi’s ousting in the summer of 2013, The Square attempts to give a solid view of the events. It has come to be widely known in Egypt for managing to score an Oscar nomination in 2014 for Best Documentary, as well as four Emmy Awards.
Authors and intellectuals also had their fair share of contributions. Just as inspired by the historical change, they have contributed both fiction and non-fiction. Non-fiction books, like documentaries, have attempted to trace the Revolution’s eruption, the reasons behind it, the experience of living it as well as predictions for the future. They include academic work, internationally acclaimed author Ahdaf Soueif’s book, Cairo: My City, My Revolution, as well as educator Hoda Rashad’s, Rising from Tahrir. There were also other less serious non-fiction works. Tweets from Tahrir is a humorous account of the events through the tweets that had been written about them, keeping history alive by documenting what would have otherwise been lost.
Fiction works, like their movie counterparts, incorporated the Revolution into their plots or alluded to it. Ahmed Mourad’s 1919 and Alaa El Aswany’s Nady al-Sayarat are great examples of historical fiction used to weigh in on what was happening at the time. This trend continued onwards with Essam Youssef’s novel 2 Dobat, which attempted to bridge the gap created between the police and the people.
Literatue also witnessed a surge in other genres in the wake of the Revolution. Poetry became ever more mainstream, with legendary poets like Abdel Rahman El Abnoudy and Ahmed Fouad Negm becoming an integral part of popular culture. Their works were used in the emerging new music, as well as to narrate other works of art, such as movies and documentaries.
The Egyptian art movement was also heavily affected by the Revolution. In addition to the significant increase in art galleries and exhibitions, many revolving around the Revolution as their central theme, there was also the introduction of graffiti as an art form and its appreciation by the Egyptian audience. All over Egypt’s walls was street art that not only added color to its dusty roads, but also told the story that was continuing to unravel. It was living testament of the change that was happening.
Lina Mowafy, Pulse
It is no secret that events affect the cultural movements around them, and are, in turn, affected by them. It comes as no surprise then that, apart from its political, ideological and economic aspects, the Egyptian Revolution of early 2011 has had such a profound influence on the artistic and cultural scenes in Egypt. If anything, these changes are simply proof of the fact that we have all been witnessing history unfold for the past five years.
Revolutionary graffiti, from disoriented.net
Feature image from Motherjones.com