Egyptian Artists Work Around State Oppression And Censorship.

Ollah - installation by Hossam Dirar (2015)

Ollah – installation by Hossam Dirar (2015)


 Division (2013) installation by Hossam Dirar (Photo via Hossam Dirar)

Division (2013) installation by Hossam Dirar (Photo via Hossam Dirar)

In times of chaos, artistic expression can be cathartic. But artist expression in a place like Egypt can be insalubrious while working under an oppressive political regime.

“In recent years, the Egyptian arts and culture sector has faced debilitating repression,” the Arterial Network, a non-profit network of artists and activists building democratic arts practices in Africa, noted in December. “Prohibitive restrictions affecting the freedom of artists and journalists are ongoing.”

The Egyptian government passed a law that debilitated certain art-funding NGOs in 2014, and in December of last year, police raided and closed a gallery and a theater in downtown Cairo without giving an official reason. Some artists have also been banned from traveling abroad to receive awards for their work.

Crackdowns on the arts have led many Egyptian artists to avoid addressing politics altogether. “Most of the art since 2011 has avoided talking about political points, aside from a handful of artists,” Dirar told ThinkProgress.

“The current system is perhaps the worst in terms of attacking [or] not accepting people’s voices, whether artistic, political or social,” he said. “There can be no opposition; the state rejects opinions and ideas that differ from their own. The artist finds himself in a tight spot. If you like the system and choose to defend it, you’re fine, but if not, if you vocalize dissatisfaction, if your commentary does not match theirs, you could end up in jail for life.”

Politics may be taboo or risky, but artists throughout history have found ways to be subversive or rebellious to oppression. But for some artists, avoiding politics is impossible. Their impact casts a shadow over society and affects the calculated behavior of every individual Egyptian. To avoid repression, Egyptian artists create social and political commentary using Aesopian methods.

Justin Salhani has the Full Story at Think Progress. It’s a great read. What can I say? Artists must create, it’s not a matter of what we do, it’s what we are. These are artists working in highly dangerous circumstances, going ahead with making a statement and sharing that expression with others at personal risk.

Ollah Project.

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