This exhibit explores the visual arts and other expressive media of the recent Arab World Uprisings. 

Images are often used as communicative devices to present politicized messages. During the recent Arab World uprisings, demonstrators created images to express opposition to incumbent governments and members of the ruling elite. Over and again, activists, protesters, artists, and other individuals adopted the expressive media—including videos, photographs, painted and digital images, as well as slogans, music, and even puppets—to create visualized and performed modes of dissent within public space, both in the streets and online.

 

Photographic Truth-Claims

The Arab World uprisings were documented by films and photographs that were captured and disseminated through government sponsored media and opposition channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and other digital platforms. 

Garlands of Ammunitions, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Tahrir Square, Egypt, November 2011. Photograph by Mosa‘ab Elshamy.

Garlands of Ammunitions, Tahrir Square, Cairo, Tahrir Square, Egypt, November 2011. Photograph by Mosa‘ab Elshamy.

Sounding Walls

Protesters, activists, and artists often take their talents and opinions to the streets, the very locus of resistance. There, cement walls are most useful for the creation of images. 

 

No, and a Thousand Times No, three stencils by Bahia Shehab, Cairo, Egypt, 2013. Artwork courtesy of Bahia Shehab.  

No, and a Thousand Times No, three stencils by Bahia Shehab, Cairo, Egypt, 2013. Artwork courtesy of Bahia Shehab.

 

Humor and Subversion

During the recent uprisings, artists have used witty forms of commentary, including satire and subversion. More lighthearted forms of comic relief offer visual riffs for a good laugh, while more aggressive forms of humor serve to symbolically attack a perceived opponent. 

 

Tunisian Political Debate, “Willis from Tunis” cartoon series, Tunis, Tunisia, 2013. Cartoon by Nadia Khiari.

Tunisian Political Debate, “Willis from Tunis” cartoon series, Tunis, Tunisia, 2013. Cartoon by Nadia Khiari.

Performing Dissent

Alongside visual imagery, chants, songs, and theatrical performances have addressed political and social issues during the recent Arab World uprisings.

 

Finger puppet of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, photographic still from “Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator.” Image courtesy of Masasit Mati, 2013.

Finger puppet of Syrian President Bashar al-Asad, photographic still from “Top Goon: Diaries of a Little Dictator.” Image courtesy of Masasit Mati, 2013.

Revolution Reloaded

The uprisings that began in the Middle East in 2011 remain unfinished business today. In many countries that have witnessed the “Arab Spring,” the uprisings have yet to bear their fruits. Instead, battles have been re-launched, and they appear fiercer than ever.

 

Free Egypt, Lafayette Park, Washington DC, September 2013. Photograph by Nama Khalil.

Free Egypt, Lafayette Park, Washington DC, September 2013. Photograph by Nama Khalil.

 
 

 Creative Dissent: Arts of the Arab World Uprisings was on display at the Arab American National Museum, November 8, 2013 - February 9, 2014.

Exhibit websiteMap