During the Mubarak era, art was utilized and controlled by the government. Art became used as a way to define the state of Egypt and its progression into a modern, globalized country. Mubarak’s Minister of Culture encouraged art that resembled European Modern Art- hoping to place Egyptian art, and thus Egyptian people, on the same level of these stronger nations. This period was when Winegar was doing her research and many of the artists she interviewed are negotiating the ideas of copying, authenticity, and grappling with an Egyptian and modern identity; conflicting currents of nationalism, traditional Islam, modernism, rejection of West and colonialism. Groups of Egyptian artists broke into different factions about where they stand in the art world, the asala and the mu’asira artists, even though they both shared the same idea- Egypt is important for their art.
In Jessica Winegar’s Craig Barnes show interview, she discusses the use of graffiti art as a way of protest. It was interesting to look at these images in light of the Revolution. These images are not only speaking to what’s going on in the Revolution, they are also the backdrop to the Revolution. In Tahrir Square, the graffiti represents themes of Egyptian nationalism triumphing over pop culture. The Egyptian narrative throughout the graffiti is symbolic of a resistance of a “Western commercial materialism”.
Coverage of the Egyptian revolution as it relates to women has for the most part looked at, acts against women, women’s responses to acts against them, and fear or suspicion about what will happen to them. These are all important concerns. There should be real attention paid not only to what voice they have in the revolution but what a new government and country will hold for them. We see these stories in part because of notions about Islamic women that the West has. If the Egyptian Islamic woman needs to be saved there is ample evidence that she can save herself, at least in the context of the revolution.
Jessica Winegar writes in her article ‘The Privilege of Revolution: Gender, Class, Space, and Affect in Egypt” about the women at home in Egypt and how their work affected the revolution. No, they were not in Tahrir Square in the same numbers as men but we have to look at how we place value and whether or not their work at home was just as important and necessary to the revolutionary effort as that of any man or woman protesting in the streets. She writes, “ Women in Egypt also cooked for their neighborhood watch committees, donated medical supplies and food to the people in Tahrir, and encouraged friends and relatives who were able to go downtown to do so. They also cooked for their male relatives who were demonstrating, took care of the children whose schools were closed, managed the household budget after banks closed and people were not paid, and stood in long lines for food in anticipation of shortages.” Winegar examines space and why we place more value on the work done in certain spaces and not others. The functions that women serve at home provide support necessary to sustain the revolution
Women in Egypt have not just been at home working to support the revolution. Women in Egypt have been strong on a variety of fronts as homemakers, revolutionaries, and as individuals questioning their status. While it is easy to harp on their roles as victims or homemakers there have been many women on the front lines. There are women in the street protesting, a woman ran for president and it can be argued that a young woman Asmaa Mahfouz with her viral video helped sparked the protest in Egypt. These stories should be embraced and talked about just as much as any story of victimization.
“Could a revolution happen in Egypt?” This question lingered in the minds of Egyptians, both government officials and the common people, after the Tunisian President abdicated and fled the country. While Egyptian news and officials said that Egypt is not Tunisia, and thus will not be likely to have a revolution, the common people thought differently when citing lines from poems by two popular Arab poets
Poets are another group who is silenced in the media. While poetry did not necessarily drive people to the streets, Reem Saad focused on this particular group because of what they had to offer. Their way of expressing their thoughts and feelings during the protests gives a better insight to the situation on the ground than what political scientists were saying. Writing poems or reciting poems of other poets allow them to convey what they want to say in a non-restricted way. In terms of “non-restricted”, compared to the news, where information is censored and needs to be first approved, poems are a more open venue to say what’s going on.
Saad points out this contrast out, stating “[Poetry] was not only a source of inspiration but also carried more explanatory power than much social science.” The Egyptian protesters repeatedly chanted a verse from a poem called “If the People Wanted Life One Day” by Tunisian poet Abu al-Qasim al-Shabi: “If, one day, a people desires to live, then fate will answer their call. And their night will then begin to fade, and their chains break and fall.” While al-Shabi wrote in the early 1900s and died at the age of 25, his poetry still sparked a degree of motivation among the people.
The second poet is Egyptian Ahmed Fouad Negm and he lived through Mubarak and his two predecessors’ reigns. Each of his poems became more scathing of the rulers.
Who are they and who are we? (هما مين و إحنا مين?)
Ahmed Fouad Negm
Although poets did not start the Revolution, they do offer a venue to see what is happening among the other protestors.
The majority of the news coverage did not mention the roles of older generations of Egyptians in the revolution. The only times they were briefly mentioned was in discussions of how some older workers supported the revolution, but wanted life to get back to normal so they could get back to their jobs, which they relied on their daily wages from. The news sources had many stories focusing on young protesters and often had quotes from them about their ideals and goals and often presented the revolution as a youth movement. Winegar’s article “Egypt: A Multi-Generational Revolt” explicitly focuses on the role of older generations of Egyptians within the revolution. She argues that although young activists were integral in raising support and awareness for the demonstrations, the uprising would not have succeeded if it were not for older generations of Europeans. She discusses how in the years leading up to the revolution, workers (that were often in their 40s and 50s) had launched thousands of strikes protesting the effects of the Egyptian government on their society and rights. Winegar argues that “These workers laid necessary groundwork for the uprising by creating (anew) bonds of solidarity as well as by raising awareness of the widespread nature of the deplorable working and living conditions of average Egyptians.”
This insight, which is not available in the news sources is important since it provides more specific analysis of why people decided to join in the revolution since they had to deal with their grievances with the government for the duration of Mubarak’s 30 year reign. Winegar emphasizes the importance of every individual in revolutionary processes, and by talking about older generations of demonstrators, she makes sure their voice and actions can be heard.
Winegar points out that during the revolution, these older Egyptians participated in the revolution, along with donating money and supplies to the cause. She stated that even though they were not focused on in the news coverage, large numbers of older Egyptians participated in every major demonstration to fight for a better life for the younger generation and whatever remained of their own lives. Winegar concludes by arguing that attention needs to be paid to all of the participants in the revolution, not just the youth and states that “Recognizing this fact is extremely important at this juncture, because transitional government figures have started referring to the uprising as a “youth” uprising and the demands of the people as demands of the “youth” in a familiar paternalistic way that diminishes not only the importance of what has happened, but also the demands that the vast majority of Egyptians, no matter their age, have of the post-Mubarak government.”