[INTRODUCTION] The quantity of images produced during this past year and a half is incredible. This material is so overwhelming that our problem ceases to be the availability of images, but the lack of time to handle them. Now, our need is for a moment of de-briefing and critical thinking, to look back at what has been produced and discuss its content, form and distribution before moving forward. In the context of overwhelming social and political change in Egypt, the Alternative News Agency (ANA) has become the physical and mental space for twelve people to do so. This project takes up from the 2010 ANA pilot, whose central methodology was to put emerging image-making practitioners (artists, photojournalists, and bloggers) in a rare critical encounter with each other. This year, however, the shift in global revolutionary politics from hypothetical to actual caused us to seek out experienced practitioners whose work is already having an actual impact on the perception and lived reality of these changing times. As before, participants of this group are working in and across different fields (art, photography, journalism, activism) and have met weekly for a period of two months during the turbulent period of December 2011 to February 2012. The workshop has been informed by self-educational and knowledge sharing practices, with group meetings and discussions led both by participants and invited professionals such as Lina Attalah, editor of Egypt Independent; Thomas Hartwell and Aladin Abdel Naby, independent photojournalists; Rana ElNemr, artist; and Tayssir Hawari, web-developer. During this process, each participant has conceived a different project that, through their own idiom, somehow questions visual production and distribution in the country during these times. Participants have been invited to think and practice all at once, towards a publication assignment with no real limitations. Not all projects published here are, by no means, finished products. They rather constitute still-images of ongoing researches, experiments and reflections. As a consequence, this publication has highly subjective contributions and does not claim any unified editorial line. In fact, all offer perspectives that are alternative not just to mainstream visual media but also to each other, in contrast to the constant demand for a constructed, consistent narrative. With still-frames from different videos and text, Jasmina Metwaly presents her introspections and reflects on ‘left-over’ images, the visual content normally edited out of activist videos as useless for representing any narrative or argument. On the complete opposite front, Lilian Wagdy’s un-edited selection of crowd-sourced photos from across Egypt presents the tide of visual information so characteristic of today’s media landscape. Salma Arafa, instead, surveys three national newspapers’ front-pages and inquires their editorial choices on the visual content published during the first 18 days of uprising. Mohamed Elmeshad talks with a young man injured during the uprising, focusing on his personal relation with the injury, beyond the mythologising process imposed on him. Mohamed Allam invites other friend practitioners to visually play and work on an image he created in 2005 as a critique to the Egyptian militarised state. Nadine Marroushi and Rowan El-Shimi look in two different ways at the urban area of Downtown Cairo and how people have dealt and will deal with the meanings with which spaces and architectures have been charged. Tarek Hefny opens micro-platforms for self-expression, with white stickers ready to be disseminated. Osama Dawod provides a critical campaign that aims to reach out as many people as possible in their daily lives. It is impossible to fully represent the group’s lengthy and wide-ranging discussions. Instead, Mohamed Elmeshad attempts to reflect on those discussions in a text interwoven between the project contributions. We were also incredibly fortunate to have had the participation of Nagham Osman, Maggie Osama and Tamer El-Sayyid during the workshop period. The Alternative News Agency is a project conceived by the Contemporary Image Collective in Cairo, and is funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Silvia Mollicchi Mia Jankowicz
Tarek Hefny i think
Notes â€“ Mohamed Elmeshad Before working on our projects, participants in the second ANA workshop sat through several sessions where they discussed their practice as many other issues regards the use of images in the journalistic realm. Many nuances of these conversations could not be directly tackled through the projects themselves and so this is an attempt to recapture some of their main elements.
A picture does not always need to concern itself with what comes before or after. Sometimes a picture can just be what it is. Journalism concerns itself with context, chronology, preface, and follow-ups too much sometimes. What is before and after a picture can be anything or everything. What if the world were a truly open medium, or a large subset of media? Are opinions as short-lived as a stickerâ€™s life? As open as the internet can be, as a market place for information, it still has directed forums for the dissemination of ideas and images through blogs, news websites, social networking and ads. When the dissemination process is completely in the hands of those with the opinions, information, or images it may produce differing results however inconspicuous they might be.
The photo may be an end in itself. If it is placed in the context of news, a photo may itself be there to be interrogated. Traditional news outlets tend to insist on photos playing active roles. In conveying the news, pictures tend either to fill a visual gap; thereby completing a text, or conversely they create a literary gap; where text becomes necessary to complement the photo. In the realm of nonnarrative photography, this gap becomes a self-contained space that is detached from its surroundings.
Tear film is a layer protecting the eye from drying, constantly lubricating its surface through the motion of the eyelids. A human being blink an average of 1-2 times every 10 seconds, where each blink lasts for about 1/3 of a second. With a conscious and controlled effort, we can limit the frequency of blinking, but the intolerable itching of our eyes would make us capitulate after no longer than two minutes. By that means, our eyes defend and protect themselves from drying. Vladimir Umaniec shook this physical phenomenon during his performance, “Inspection” . For over two hours the artist remained his eyes open. Self-consciously he didn’t allow his eyes to blink – they were open as if he had his eyelids blocked with an ophthalmologic restrain. Tears appeared, but they did not visualize sadness; they were an effect of a planned torture. These were not tears from eyes. Tears from eyes that see nothing but the shadow of a sentence; a judgment delivered by the artist himself, “Inspection” had the character of an execution, carried out in front of unprepared eyewitnesses. The spectators looked at a large projection displayed on the wall, while Umaniec looked into the lens of the camera ahead of him. What linked both, the viewers and the performer, was the image of the running eyes.
Left-over images Image is a reflection of/on information. It can depict an ongoing struggle through representation, but it is not the struggle itself. Hammo says that the big elephant freed itself and is now running all over the place. It was tightened with thin ropes and it could not move for so long. Why not if it’s so strong? Well, perhaps it was not sure where to go. Images, like an elephant, can free themselves from the restraints of their submissive nature. Photographers, videographers and other image professionals are urged to capture what is “hidden”, “substantial” and “beautiful”. What if one strips it from all meaning, from all hidden content and presents an image that does not represent anything but itself, the moment it was captured in. An image that was perhaps made by accident, unintentionally, not part of the report, art work, post or prior to the actual event. Does this left-over image become less valid? In 1924 Dziga Vertov wrote in his manifesto “The birth of kino-eye”: “the cinema-eye is the cinema-truth”. What he meant is that cinema-truth does not belong to the surrounding reality, it is a parallel reality that lives on its own, giving birth to spaces that cannot survive in the real world. This reality consists of a series of projected illusory messages directed at the audience provoking them, awaiting applause. There are no limits to what it can do, as the camera does not only “witness” occurring movements, but it registers and through montage, it “plays” with minds. This is why right from the beginning of its existence, film was used as a tool for propaganda by those who wanted to manipulate masses by recreating history as Vertov depicts. In this sense, film is the first universal mass medium, travelling with the speed of light into the spectator’s gaze, influencing masses in a single moment. It would be hard to understand what it actually means without going back to 1895 and the first film made by Lumière brothers. In “Workers Leave The Factory”, (1895) it takes 45 seconds to empty the factory of its bodies (workers). For 45 seconds we (spectators) watch the workers (actors) leave their factory. The scene is repetitive, automated, people looking like marionettes leaving theatre. It could be the beginning or the end of a sequence. Although the first camera in the history of filmmaking was pointing at the gates of the factory, we realize a hundred years later that the lives of workers are not explored in the cinema enough, and that most films are not drawn into the life of workers, inside or outside their spaces. Workers leave the factory, and yet we learn nothing about them, what they think, where they are going, if they are angry or content with their work. The remaining image here is the intentional 45 second scene, but the uncertainty is the same and it is timeless. We will never know about their day in the factory, we will not know about what happened later. Everything and anything is possible.
Many images attempt to monumentalise the injured or dead as heroes, as permanent visual reminders. While these emphasise their immense sacrifice, and the terrifying collateral of conflict, the pictures can sometimes take away from some of the more intimate effects of the trauma on the damaged subject. They attempt to create consensus around the subject photographed through an assumption of shared emotion. Another side of it is the subject’s relationship with him or herself, and with the situation portrayed. An internal process ensues whether through healing, denial, rejection, acceptance (or any other mechanism) that is difficult to capture and, if captured, it is still difficult to comprehend. “There is no ‘we’ when looking at others‘ pain.” (Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, 2002)
Comprehension, sympathy, and acceptance may be perceived byproducts of images depicting pain or limitations, although these may all be illusory as well. At the same time, the photographer consciously self-censors when internally negotiating the ethical elements of these types of photos.
Sitting in the passenger seat alleviates thought from going and engages it on destination. Before sitting, he thinks about getting to the seat. He sits. Everything that has passed is passed.
With people and machines around him, “I can do everything pretty much,” he says, but he does it mostly without actually doing. He loves those around him, but they are always there. It is not uncommon for him to not notice or get lost in thought when others are around, or when he is doing something.
When the mind cannot control the body, it partially re-appropriates its reflexive desire to manipulate it.
“Sometimes, one (anyone) gets lost in thought thinking of the future. I’ll be telling my wife and children of these days,” he says.
Any chronic condition or daily ceremony will eventually impose itself as the norm, life as we now know it. Normalcy and repetition in life breed boredom. Boredom breeds daydreams. The mind wanders while the body is at work, or is worked on.
Whenever children play, adults and their activities become obscured somehow.
“Whether the photograph is understood as a naive object or the work of an experienced artificer, its meaning - and the viewer’s responsedepends on how the picture is identified or misidentified; that is, on words,” Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others .
“All photographs wait to be explained or falsified by their captions.
“Now I’m on a break. A break from life.”
He only refers to it as his “condition.” And will refer to the moment when he got injured and was in the hospital as, “when I was first ill.”
Even in speech, Abdelhady refuses the insinuation of his injury as an irreversible sacrifice. “This is not what I wish to have offered. I want to be remembered for anything else. Even if it was just having a job and doing my small part in the world,” he said.
Those around him have become part and parcel of his most intimate activities. It is during these basic activities (eating, drinking, taking medicine, engaging in any hygienic rituals) that he refuses to be pictured in. Physical reminders of the magnitude of his injury are unwelcome.
He then asks me to transfer my photos to his laptop. “This is the only folder of photos with pictures of me I have.”
“I don’t want to be portrayed as someone who sacrificed and needs compensation. That is pointless and impossible.”
Before this transition, Abdelhady, hated to have his picture taken. He still does, he says. “Recently, we were looking for pictures of me when I was older, and could only find one.” The sparse moments when I raised the camera, he was not bashful, nor unwilling, even though he refused to be filmed or photographed in other media that wanted to meet “a hero from the revolution”.
Going to the protest was a revolutionary act. Its perpetual after effects are an unfortunate happenstance. “I could have had the same injury playing soccer,” he says, remembering far-off days when he was a semi-professional footballer.
As always, he waits.
It was only a peck on the neck. He did not see the blood, and will never be able to see the 1cm speck on either side of his neck that changed his life. His sister has seen it. She no longer looks at it. It is no longer a curious thing. It has become another one of life’s perennial and banal concerns.
Abdelhady received the stipend for those injured in the revolution, but has said the government has since offered little to no continuing support. This is despite the fact that he needs to undergo tri-weekly physical therapy sessions, and has a continuing regimen of prescribed medicine to take for the foreseeable future. He recently resumed his studies at an institute and will hopefully transfer to a university to continue and gain his bachelor’s degree.
Abdelhady Farag is a 21 year-old student who was shot in the neck by a live bullet while walking in a peaceful demonstration on 28 January 2011 in his Sayyeda Zeinab neighborhood, causing quadriplegia. By his doctor’s own account, he survived against great odds and can now engage in minute nerve functions.
“When I stand, I am happy. It makes me feel like I am closest to my full strength,” he says. Standing is a luxury. It takes a lot. A lot of people, pain and time.
Maybe, this is why Abdelhady hated having his picture taken? Maybe it is why less scrutiny is offered to photos that portray the horrors of war because their function tends to go beyond showing what it is in real life?
“Photographs tend to transform, whatever their subject; and as an image something may be beautiful - or terrifying, or unbearable, or quite bearable - as it is not in real life,” Susan Sontag, ibid.
Sometimes he sits up, sometimes he lies down. He prefers to sit up, but does not want always to burden others, or himself with what that would entail. His relationship with items around him changed. He cannot fully possess certain items because he cannot fully manipulate them. “Since I became ill, my most prized possessions are the people I know.”
Right now, his relationship with his body has changed. As it lies before him, he more actively wills what limited activity it can manage. “The charisma of your everyday life changes,” he says.
His body to him seems normal. He has seen wounds before, on TV and in person. He can feel his body, and can budge his shoulder. “What I know about this “condition” is that I should not be able to feel anything under the injury,” he says. But the doctor says he cannot lift his limbs. He does not need a doctor to tell him that. He needs/wants a doctor to give him faith in his body’s ability to overcome.
Those around him are his limbs. His surrogates. What was a moment of tragedy is now a matter of fact. Besides sustenance, to him they offer a form of life force. “Even without being ill, it would be difficult to have any will power living alone in the middle of a desert. I think that’s how human beings are”.
AlShurouq: Day of Rage
AlAhram: President Mubarak Meets Leaders of Armed Forces
AlAhram: Mubarak follows Events and Phones Suez to Check on Citizens
AlAhram: Thousands Join Peaceful Protest in Cairo and Governorates
AlShouruq: US Backs off, Demand Smooth Transition of Power
AlShouruq: Angry Egypt on Street
AlGomhuriyya: Security Forces Intervene to Save Egypt and Restore Order
AlShouruq: ElBaradei Upon Arrival: A Need for Immediate and Thorough Change
AlGomhuriyya: Protesters Block Traffic and Instigate Riot in Tahrir Square
AlGomhuriyya: Sherif: Egyptâ€™s Leadership Will Not Flee and Resist to Serve Country
AlAhram: Fresh Government Without Businessmen
27 Jan. AlAhram: 4 Dead, 118 Civilians and 162 Policemen Injured, and Hundreds Arrested in Cairo and Governorates AlShouruq: Random Violence and Repressive Security Measures on Second Day of Rage
AlShouruq: Armed Forces Statement: We Will Not Use Violence Against Egyptians AlGomhuriyya: Government Without Businessmen, and Without Adly, Rashid, Ghali, Al-Ghibli
AlAhram: Mass Protests in Cairo and Governorates, Curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez AlShouruq: People Want Change
AlGomhuriyya: Mubarak Orders Curfew in Cairo, Alexandria and Suez
AlAhram: Million Man March Demands Change
AlShouruq: Mubarak: I will Not Run for New Term. President Asks Parliament to Amend Articles 76 and 77 of Constitution AlGomhuriyya: Homeland Remains, Individuals Perish. Egypt Is Immortal.
Salma Arafa Between News and Fact Keep Your Mind Alert
Al-Ahram: Omar Suleiman Vice-President of the Republic and Ahmad Shafiq Prime Minister Al-Shouruq: Omar Suleiman Vice-President and Ahmad Shafiq Prime Minister AlGomhuriyya: Change Start: Suleiman Vice-President and Shafiq Prime Minister
Traditional journalism can be transparent. Different newspaper outlets chose to immortalise certain images on their front pages. We are inundated with so many photos on a daily basis that the editorial process of selection becomes just as important as taking the image. The largest newspapers especially have enormous archives with thousands of pictures that will never see the light of the day, so those that make the front page are there for a reason. Traditional media have long grappled for the right to tell the national story in real time. The internet and non-traditional forms of information dissemination challenges that. Newspapers seem more and more like forums for directed political thought, which are a part of a media puzzle that all collectively tell a story of sorts. Iconic images tend to tell their own story and are used on their own, based on what the editor feels like showing. Images however, can be the same over different media, but the captions and accompanying text tell completely different stories.
Lilian Wagdy January 28th, 2011 is a pivotal day in the chronicles of the Egyptian Revolution. Millions of Egyptians flooded the streets to bring down a regime that burdened them for over 3 decades. â€œFriday of this great its events Square but
Anger ... Streets and Memoriesâ€? seeks to pay tribute to day and how citizens contributed to the documentation of not just in Cairo but everywhere ... not just in Tahrir in streets and alleyways.
Mansoura (Daqahliya): A march passing by Al Nasr Mosque and the City Hall in Mansoura on the Friday of Anger Source unknown
Tanta (Gharbeia): Protester carrying a banner that reads “Leave» as people march towards Tanta’s first police station By Mohammad Abul Azm
Suez: Protesters clashing with Police at Arba’een Square Source unknown
Alexandria: Central Security Forces (CSF) Truck burnt by protesters on January 28th near Al Qaed Ibrahim Mosque Protesters on January 28th near Al Qaed Ibrahim Mosque by Mohammed Samir Shabaan
Kafr Al Sheikh: Heavy CSF presence near the Khayyat Mosque Square on January 28th by Mustafa Gafaar
Cairo: tear gas shower at Cairo University on January 28th By Mohammad Hassan â€œHe might have been amongst the first people shot with birdshots but I was still shockedâ€?. Mohammed Saadallah Hantira
Sometimes an image is pointed and functional. The picture of the mutilated face of Khaled Said is still used to fuel emotions with regards to police brutality. Photos confirmed the ubiquity of street protests and created a sense of oneness on the Day of Anger (January 28 2011) through functional and contextual images from around Egypt. Tear gas, helmets, chaos, and struggle look the same wherever you are. An image can sometimes create the illusion (or reality) of a shared experience. It may be aesthetic, but that does not matter as much. One way people have begun breaking through the confines of traditional journalism is by sharing experiences and allowing their perspective or captured image to blend into the greater visual consciousness of one specific day, place or event. An individual photo here does not need specific dispensation or attention. It does not need individual editing. Much of its value is derived from its contribution to a larger meaning.
Cairo: Galaa Square after the tear gas shower Mohammed Saadallah Hantirah
Mohamed Allam /
I started this project in 2005. I produced an icon that can be dealt with in different ways. The image was evidently challenging the Egyptian militarised state and its culture of violence. The project started through the “Nour Al Shakl” (Light of Appearance) 2005 exhibition, held at the Palace of Arts, Cairo. During the show, I presented a huge picture accompanied by a performance. The artist Mohamed Al Masry shared the risk by taking some photos. After that experience I produced a series of videos generally tackling military related issues. Now in 2012, I proposed a simple game, a creativity competition. I sent this picture to some artist friends and asked them to visually work on it and to do so fast, within a short time-frame and without thinking too much. In other words, my gesture was simply asking: “How would you imagine this picture from your own point of view?” The picture is available on my website … so you can play with it too! Down with the military regime. ahmad hosni
For further information visit the site: www.mohamedallam.com
hazem el mestikawy
When a picture becomes an open platform, its so-called narrative is open to infinite possibilities. Discussing an image does not need to limit it, and the discussion can actually be within the image. Performing within the frame and allowing other performers to use this space as their own personal forum can alter it to something more interactive and playful.
Embedded in the photo are all possible elements of narrative surrounding it. The original photo was not contemporary, nor was it temporal, but has been offered for reconfiguration as the times change.
Re-appropriating and re-imagining scarred spaces Downtown March 2012 A visible marker of the internecine fighting associated with Beirut’s 15-year civil war is the carcass of the Hilton hotel, which served as a base for snipers. Its bullet-holed and burned-out façade stands erect hovering over the five-star Phoenicia hotel, both overlooking the luminous blue Mediterranean Sea. Its totemic purpose is not intentional. A land and ownership dispute means that no decision has yet been made about what to do with the Hilton. In the meantime, it serves as a reminder to the small city, always seemingly on the brink, and to its glib, bellicose ruling elite, of the self-destruction and pain of its recent past. What the country fails to agree on in its history books, its buildings say anyway. Cairo’s architectural landscape, especially Downtown, has all the signifiers of battle, struggle, destruction and victory too. The Nile’s skyline is a collection of 1950s concrete slabs. It includes the maimed former headquarters of the National Democratic Party, the Nile Hilton under reconstruction (now called the Ritz Carlton), and Tahrir Square, all of which are symbols of space that is contested and politically charged; spaces that carry a heavy weight of history. Assuming that one day people will be able to look back on Egypt’s revolution that began in 2011 and reflect on its violence and victories, what will become of its buildings? How will streets that have carried the fallen and heard their cries, felt the stomps of protesting feet and heard their chants, remember this period? Will architectural planning take into consideration the collective memory of the revolution? This project is a collection of photographs of Downtown spaces that have been scarred by the revolution. They show how people are reappropriating contested locations for their own purposes and at their own initiative. In the accompanying essay, a group of intellectuals with a relationship to architecture, urban planning and documentation are asked how these spaces might be re-imagined and remembered in the future taking into consideration the burden of their history.
The NDP building Torched on 28 January, the Day of Anger, former president Hosni Mubarak’s political party headquarters stands as a powerful visual reminder that corrupt and dictatorial regimes can fall. No one is sure who set the building alight, or how much damage the fire did to its internal structure. “The responses you get to these questions are more political than technical. People who want it off the landscape say it cannot stand,” says Randa Shaath, photo-editor at Al-Shorouk newspaper, who formed a campaign last year to discuss the building’s potential. She thinks the façade should be kept as it is “to remind people and the next generation, who won’t know what was there … It could house a museum of the revolution with pictures, videos and memorabilia. The memory is important to build on history and move forward.” Mohamed Elshahed, a doctoral candidate and author of the blog Cairobserver, also says “the skin of the building should continue to show proudly the marks left by the flames that toppled one of the most powerful and oppressive regimes in modern Middle Eastern history.” May Al-Ibrashi, co-founder of architectural hub Megawra, thinks “what is needed now is a process that involves the community and that reuses it for their benefit. A multi-purpose weddings hall, maybe?” But the current government has other plans, which could include tearing it down. Antiquities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Ali recently put in a request with the prime minister for the building’s land to form part of a garden extension to the nearby Museum of Egyptian Antiquities.
Tahrir Square It has become synonymous with Egypt’s struggle for liberation and justice. For 18 days last year people camped in the square and successfully brought down the Mubarak regime. Since then, most protest marches start, end, or pass through Tahrir, while a few sitin tents remain. Prior to 25 January, Tahrir Square was not a public space. People would not go there to meet and discuss ideas. It simply functioned as a roundabout, and attempts to do otherwise were crushed. One exception was in 2003 for the anti-Iraq war protest, which was the biggest demonstration prior to 2011. Shaath says the authorities “didn’t expect how people would get angry and come to Tahrir from all the surrounding streets, so they were unable to completely control it.” After this, green metal barriers were built around the Square to prevent such an incident reoccurring. Al-Ibrashi says “the only thing I want changed is the awful fences [green barriers] that are there to prevent people from jaywalking. They should be removed.” A few people have suggested that the square should be pedestrianised, including Elshahed. But he also distinguishes between what he would like to happen, and what he sees actually happening. “More than half the square has been fenced off for two decades where they are allegedly building an underground parking garage,” he says of the area behind the Nile Ritz Carlton. He adds: “I always imagined this space as densely-planted with trees, a park and paved area with benches. The government says it wants to make a public plaza on top of the garage once it’s finished but that could potentially be a space for protests, which they don’t want. I’ve heard suggestions of a terraced area with palm trees on top, which doesn’t sound very beautiful, but a terrace can’t be used for protests like a flat space.”
Streets and walls One of the most noticeable markers of tension between the state, currently the military-controlled government, and society is the graffiti that marks the walls of Downtown streets, and walls put up by the army and police. The walls and the art that fills them are ephemeral and constantly changing. Just as quickly as youths paint murals of martyrs and signs of protest, the authorities paint over it, smother it in white paint, create a new canvas, and tempt a new round of confrontation. The streets around these walls were all once filled with rubble where rock-throwing rained back and forth and amber flames smoked out the smell of tear gas. There are few remaining signs of this struggle now, so how do we preserve the memories? Elshahed suggests doing so through photography. â€œThe best thing to do is constantly document with photography and video these citizen-made memorials. Official memorials are usually about propaganda; while, citizen memorials donâ€™t last as long, but they are more true to the event.â€?
Events that take place in the public realm can be perceived differently simply by the selection of images produced around them. The act of taking a photograph in a shifting urban setting becomes a method of memorialising negative monuments. Pictures can both be timeless or fleeting as well. When a photographer sets out to depict changing landscapes (whether as a result of destruction or conflict), the images produced can monumentalise the period in which they were produced. Sometimes physical monuments and landmarks are meant as propaganda or a means of creating a certain memory. Revolution-era photographers seem to be burdened with trying to depict a memory in an effort to combat any potential future attempts to manipulate memory through the reappropriation of public space. Through such images, photographers collectively create a story of space and movement that can somehow inform other changes throughout the same period. In that sense they contribute to the larger tapestry of memory of a certain period with all other forms of media and dissemination. Their version of the truth then becomes one of many versions trying to affect the overall perception of a certain period, event, location, or individual.
We all agree that it is unclear how the revolution will be remembered in 50 years. We also all agree of the importance of attempting to contribute to the revolutionary memory in a way that we see most honors the truth. Streets, buildings and history are already being manipulated only a little more than a year after the beginning of the revolution. So the struggle to write history and impose our own versions of history is already in a critical phase. As photographers/journalists/activists, knowing that we are a part of this struggle, and not just passive recorders of history, is integral to our work.
Rowan El-Shimi Breaking barriers: Walls as a product of our society March 2012 Urban structures and society The question of urban structure and its interaction with the society living within it, is not new. Philosopher, sociologist and Marxist theorist Henri Lefebvre, coined the expression ‘social production of space’ in his eponymous book. He refers to social space as a product of society - a reflection on the thought and life of the people who live within it. Power and walls The Egyptian government has built eight concrete walls to supposedly protect the Ministry of Interior, targeted by protesters. In addition to urban structure mirroring its society, Lefebvre’s theories explored urban spaces being used as means of control, hence for domination and power which could not be more relevant in this case.
Walls beyond political contexts Walls - in the political context - might be new to Egypt. However, if we take a step back and look at the big picture, walls are everywhere in our infrastructure. Maybe not the traditional sense of the wall, but as a way of dealing with any issue that arises. High speed roads are full of speed bumps, to get drivers to slow down, which end up creating more accidents. One would find a lane of a road closed on one end, to enforce a one-way street status, which ends up creating more traffic due to the bottleneck effect. Walls are even built within the city’s neighbourhoods to seperate citizens of different incomes from each other. Some communities emerged in Cairo’s suburbs isolating themselves from society with these walls. That is not even scratching the surface with how many walls that exist in our infrastructure, whether we chose to put them up or they were forced upon us by those who are high up. If we go back to Lefevbre’s theories – these ‘walls’ reflect government control, social class divides, and cultural barriers as a norm of our society.
Mohamed Mahmoud Wall I remember the day this wall was erected. It had already been 6 days of continious battle between the protesters and the Central Security Forces. The sentiment on the street, as the wall was put up, was torn – some were quite relieved there would be a physical barrier to stop the battle. Indeed, as the days went, no one was quite sure for what the fighting was about anymore. Others instead were enraged referring to the behaviour as reminiscent of Israeli containment of Palestinians, and worried about the meanings of such walls. Even within myself I was not sure what to feel. I had seen so much blood, loss and suffering which made me glad this battle was ending. However, as they put it up block by block, I just knew this was not the last we would see of this tactic by the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF).
The wall, as of the time of writing, is the only one that came down. Following the Port Said football events that left more than 70 football supporters dead due to (some say deliberate) mismanagement and incitement of crowds, massive protests took place in the form of a march from the Ahly club to the Ministry of Interior. When met with the concrete barricade, many protesters started taking down the wall, block by block on Feburary 2nd. While this created a small passage, it wasn’t until a few days later when local shop owners hired a private crane to remove the remains of the wall. No permits, and no one stopped them.“We had considered we
“We had considered this time [referring to the battles and wall in place] an unplanned vacation,” one shop owner said later after the wall was brought down. During the time between when the wall was constructed and taken down, people dealt with it in different ways; some simply changed their routes, going around the block. The road leads to several businesses and public service sectors, which was an inconvenience for many, not just residents. With the continious erection of walls, it only got more difficult. “It used to take me a few minutes to go through Downtown, now it can take up to an hour,” said a passerby headed to the Health Ministry. Maybe the most interesting phenomenon about this wall was the “Mesh 7antaty [we won’t bow down]” hole. One stone was moved in its place, creating a small space which allowed one person at a time to crouch down and crawl through. A whole culture was created around the hole: people helping each other pass, some convincing others that it was safe to use, and even Sayid, a homeless man in the area, sat there protecting the hole asking for 25 piasters for its usage. The wall became a space for expression featuring anti-SCAF graffiti art, reminding passerbys of the meaning of these walls as tools of oppression. The Mohamed Mahmoud wall was painted over and painted again time after time, demonstrating the persistence of the street to react to the walls. Colonial walls These walls, barbed wires, and security check points are reminiscent of a colonial condition. The military regime took over power after the Free Officers coup that overthrew King Farouk’s regime in 1952, commonly called the “52 Revolution”. At the time, the movement had promised social rights and a democratic state to the people of Egypt, but through a mix of patriarchal and nationalist positions the army has ultimately emerged as a dominant power that, instead, advanced the politics of popular dispossession. Egyptian rulers have favoured private interests over public ones, taken advantage of their position to exploit resources, generate personal wealth thus spreading corruption on all levels, resulting in the alienation of the majority. The army continues to maintain a stronghold over society in different yet deeply intertwined forms (economical, social, political, cultural). Thus when thinking of the January 2011 uprising one should not only implicate Mubarak’s regime, but the forces at play since 1952. Perhaps this is why, in spite of the ousting of Mubarak, the Egyptian revolution continues to challenge these power structures – potentially breaking the ground for a different society. In essence, walls are simply one of many tactics of hegemonic control. After all, if as Lefebvre stated, ‘urban structures are products of society’, perhaps it is not essentially shocking that walls are part of the everyday life of Egyptians. But then again – one wall was brought down by angry protesters and fed up citizens. And I am sure others will follow. So perhaps the society in question is in fact changing.
Osama Dawod .Egypt
The name given to a piece of land located in the North East of the African continent, owned by the Egyptians who inhabit it. Its size is 1,000,000 (one million) square kilometers.
are a group of people who inhabit the North-East of the African continent. They own Egypt, its natural resources, and its permanent and variable assets within it. Their number is comprised of between 80 and 90 million persons.
is the contract that gives ownership of the land (Egypt) to all the people (Egyptians) and preserves their rights and extends their duties in ordinary circumstances or in cases of disaster, war, chaos and anarchy. It is agreed upon by all parts of the contractors (the people)
A group of individuals, numbering 500, chosen by the people and given regulatory and legislative responsibilities. The elected group takes actions as representatives of the people. The members of the parliament are subject to the control of the people. An explanatory example: the peasant who owns a small piece of land can take care of it by him or herself, or can use some help if necessary. Whereas if a very large group of people own a nation like Egypt it is impossible to reconcile daily activities and the assigned specialisations within these, with the supervision of the government and president of the republic and legislation. So the people assign those who undertake these jobs, and they are the members of the parliament.
.The President of the Republic The manager of Egypt.
He is chosen by the Egyptians and is given the responsibility of running Egypt. The objective of his mandate is to protect the interests of the people and their welfare. Subject to the control of the people and the parliament, he is questioned in the event that he directly or indirectly breaches his responsibilities, which are to preserve the interests and the welfare of the citizen.
Project participants: Jasmina Metwaly Lilian Wagdy Mohamed Elmeshad Mohamed Allam Nadine Marroushi Nagham Osman Osama Dawod Rowan El-Shimi Salma Arafa Tarek Hefny A special thank to all the session leaders and mediators for their invaluable input: Rana ElNemr, Artist Lina Attalah, Managing Editor Egypt Independent Gamal Eid, Lawyer and Director of Arab Network for Human Rights Information Tayssir Hawary, Co-founder of Emerge Technology Aladin Abdelnaby, Photographer Thomas Hartwell, Photojournalist We would like to thank Rana ElNemr, Lina Attalah, Ahmed Ezzat, Pieter Blusse and Anja Van de Put whose encouragement and advice is hugely appreciated. Translation: Zeinab Bahgat Mohammed Abdallah Design: Amro Thabit Project Coordinator: Silvia Mollicchi Printed in April 2012, Cairo, Egypt Reference number: 22491/2010 Free copy, not for sale
The views expressed in the contributions are of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of CIC