By Heba Fahmy
Tahrir Square has not only witnessed the emancipation of hundreds of thousands of Egyptians who found their voice for the first time in 30 years, it gave birth to various art forms that mirrored the endless possibilities generated by the Jan. 25 revolution.
Creativity flooded through Tahrir’s corners giving thousands of people inspiration to document their experiences through art.
The main attraction for the revolution art was a large corner created in the middle of the square and named “The Museum of the Revolution.” Artists used whatever raw material they managed to get their hands on to create a memorial capturing their thoughts and documenting the myriad events of those 18 days.
Banners, slogans and caricatures were neatly put up on plastic sheets set firmly on wooden pillars representing a museum created by and for the people.
The banners ranged from the witty and original to the blunt and the downright offensive.
“Leave means go, don’t you get it?!” one banner read. Another, addressing Mubarak, asked “If I cry, then will you go?”
A bend in the museum was dedicated to “The Battle of The Camel” referring to the bloody brawl of Feb. 2 when a pro-Mubarak mob stormed Tahrir Square — at one point on camels and horseback — attacking peaceful protestors with guns, knives and stones.
Veteran artist Mohamed Abla was one of the artists who contributed to the museum.
“A group of youth came up with the idea of the museum and started gathering the banners, slogans and caricatures that were used during the revolution,” Abla told Daily News Egypt.
Abla added that the protestors created patterns representing slogans and artwork using only rocks at the entrances of Tahrir so that the newcomers could enjoy it.
Even children were invited to participate in the creative process. They were given paper and colors and gathered in a circle to allow them to scribble their experience on paper.
“We also talked with the children about the concept of freedom and what it would mean for Egypt,” Abla said.
A few steps away from “The Museum of the Revolution” lies another small-scale art space called “The Association of the Revolutionary Artists.”
“It started when me and my friend, director Mohamed Diab, started writing the slogan KFC instead of koshari using koshari boxes in the street in front of the actual KFC restaurant in Tahrir,” theater writer and colloquial poet Zaky Khelfa told Daily News Egypt, scrutinizing state TV’s widely-spread accusations that protesters were given KFC meals and paid in American dollars by foreign agents to continue demonstrating and create chaos.
“The people received it very well and found it hilarious, we started getting ideas from the protestors and sketching them in our sketch books to later exhibit them in the square,” Khelfa said.
The association included university professors and a variety of poets and artists, according to Khelfa.
Others found Tahrir the perfect outlet for their revolutionary poems inspired by the hectic pace of events and overflow of emotions in the square.
Several bands decided to support the revolt in Tahrir with their electric performances, including Wust El Balad, Eskenderella and El-Masriyyeen (The Egyptians).
These performers were known to have no political affiliations prior to the revolution.
“I saw an Alexandrian boy raise his hands in surrender implying that he’s unarmed when security forces shot him dead on TV…that’s when I decided to participate in this revolution any way I can,” Hany Shenouda, prominent musician and keyboard player in El Masriyyeen band, told Daily News Egypt.
“A country that kills its youth can’t sustain its power,” he added.
“When I saw the pictures of the victims of police brutality like Khaled Saeid, I knew that something was seriously wrong with our government and the way it rules Egypt,” Ayman Bahgat, vocalist in the band, added.
“I just wished I could be part of (the revolution), I couldn’t imagine myself just staying at home and doing nothing about it,” Bahgat said.
The Egyptians rocked the stage set up in Tahrir, singing inspirational patriotic songs that the crowds responded to with warm applause and chants crying, “Long live Egypt.”
“I felt truly reborn when performing in Tahrir. I felt like I restored my dignity,” Bahgat said. “I felt human in the fullest sense of the word.”
Shenouda said he felt “like an Egyptian soldier fighting for the dignity of my country during the occupation while performing on stage.”
“Once again we win the battle of dignity between the people and the regime,” Shenouda added.
Although the art in Tahrir Square came to a halt after Mubarak stepped down to make way for the flow of traffic, the artists stressed that the revolution’s inspiration would persist.
“When an artist is gagged by the regime, there’s no way he can tap into his full potential,” Khelfa said. “But now after we’ve all tasted freedom, new forms of art will emerge representing the people’s new sense of liberty.”