Seminar at VMU Analysed Graffiti in Egypt

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On Thursday 17 April, 4 pm, associate of VMU Centre for Social Anthropology Ieva Zakarevičiūtė held a seminar entitled Imaging Woman in the Streets of Cairo: Analysis of Cairo Graffiti at the VMU Building No. 3 (K. Donelaičio Str. 52, Room 423).

Revolutionary and post revolutionary period in Egypt created emerging and vivid public spheres that became communication milieus for various strata of society, where new ideas and concepts were confronting old and established perceptions. Hereby, the genre of political graffiti in Cairo was formed and eventually became an integral part of revolution itself. Shortly graffiti started to be seen with glorified and romanticised connotations, graffiti artists presented as resistance fighters: first against the regime, then against the security forces and finally against the Muslim Brotherhood. The graffiti were seen as both an illustration of and a tribute to the revolution.

Although approaching graffiti as the resistance of the dominated against the dominator indeed explains the wide realm of this societal conduct, nevertheless it regards graffiti only as a pro or counter statement. Thus, often significant side-meanings and social perceptions on various matters are omitted.

However, Cairo graffiti can be seen not only as a revolutionary narrative, but also as a prevailing public sphere where a debate takes place. Analysing the “side-messages” that are drawn on the walls, Ieva Zakarevičiūtė examined social attitudes and public opinions on a variety of revolutionary and nonrevolutionary issues. In particular, the seminar’s focus was on how graffiti pictures have created a space for the questioning and discussion of the role of women. The analysis sought to determine how women are regarded in the context of revolution and what role has been assigned to them. Moreover, the seminar’s speaker questioned what discourses regarding certain women’s liberties, privileges or duties were reflected in the graffiti genre.

In summary, by analyzing the images of femininity, on one hand, Ieva Zakarevičiūtė looked at the role of women in a society at a given time; on the other hand, she also outlined ideas and images of women who are fighting in the public sphere for legitimacy to be adopted by the society at large. In other words, this analysis of Cairo graffiti studied the conceptions of a woman that already exist in the society and the ones that are still to be established.

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