I am just back from a very rich event by the American University in Cairo about the Tahrir graffiti. Artists involved in the mural design discussed the meaning behind the murals as well the nature of public art. They offered some very interesting insights into identity in art and the role art plays in informing the public.

One point which struck me was the issue of freedom of expression. The artists were largely critical of the media and interested in using art to display a truth about the Egyptian Revolution. In this sense they sought to develop their art to respond to issues evolving within the country. They felt that the media distorted events and that their graffiti offered also the chance to interact with citizens and tell the truth in a way which newspapers did not. Their stories of their experiences painting in the streets reflect how citizens changed their response to events following visiting the murals and speaking to artists. Their expression is a conversation, whereas print media largely stops with the reader, offering no place to dispute or discuss the ideas and information which it provides.

The murals are also a continuation of the revolution and demonstrate freedom of expression through the claiming of public space for citizens. One artist told the story of a controversial work which he produced over a number of days. Each morning he said he would come back and there would be paint splashed over it. He would begin the day touching up his work, re-shaping and continuing the work. This is a strong allegory which speaks both of discussion between different revolutionary voices and the creative process.

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