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High Rise Condos to Replace NYC Graffiti Art Mecca 5Pointz

The New York City council recently approved a plan for developers to replace an iconic factory in Queens with luxury high rise condos. For 20 years, the owner of that Queens factory has allowed artists to cover the building’s exterior in elaborate graffiti, an area now known as 5Pointz, has become an iconic draw for tourists from around the world.

From Atlantic Cities:

Developers Jerry and David Wolkoff offered to provide 10,000-square-feet of “art panels and walls” in the new buildings. But that arrangement did not satisfy artists, who immediately filed a lawsuit and were granted a 10-day injunction. On Tuesday afternoon, the court ruled against a permanent injunction.

That decision leaves the artists scrambling to re-apply for landmark status before the Wolkoffs rush in with the wrecking ball (a previous application to the Landmarks Preservation Commission was rejected in August). A spokesperson for 5Pointz insists, however, that the fight is not over. “The building is not going to go down before 2014,” she told The Queens Courier, explaining that a demolition permit still needs to be issued and tenants have until January to move out.

So far, the public has been split on the news. Banksy, whose New York residency spurred street art mayhem last month, left these parting words on his website: “It’s been fun. Save 5pointz. Bye.”  But others support the plan, saying the current site is in noticeably bad shape and an inefficient use of space.

Stay tuned and read more at The Atlantic Cities

Women in Graffiti: A tribute to the women of Egypt
February 17, 2013

It’s a battle, being a woman in an Arab country, but perhaps the dire conditions makes us fighters. Since January 25, so many foreign reporters have waxed on about the awakening of Arab women in the Arab Spring; and how the revolutions liberated us/made us wake up and smell the coffee/made us throw off our headscarves and run happily through the meadows.

This, in my opinion, is crap. When you look at the videos and photos of the eighteen days of Tahrir, you’ll see Egyptian women side by side with men in the thick of battles, some even at the front lines, braving tear gas and live bullets. We participated as Egyptians first, not as women, in January 25. And it’s incredibly patronizing to assume we ‘became’ liberated; 1. as if it was a revolution led by men that awakened and inspired us women 2. as if women were living in caves and making mud paintings before the revolution.

The Arab women I’ve met are some of the fiercest women in the world with sincere dedication to their work, cause and sense of identity. We didn’t experience an ‘awakening’ since the revolution; but we’ve definitely had to fight harder.

The last two years’ stories of horrific sexual and physical violence against women in Tahrir and many other depressing news could very easily break your will, change your mind about a woman’s place in protests and in Egypt as a citizen with equal rights. But then I think of these remarkable women and I am reminded of their strength, creativity and perseverance.

There are many powerful, brilliant Arab women, including several in the graffiti scene. Graffiti is a dangerous cause as it is, and with perpetual violence against women in Egypt, you’d think female graffiti artists would be too intimidated to work on the city streets. But they’re not; they’re young, tough, talented and just as worthy of recognition as their male counterparts.

Photo 1: Pharaonic women in battle by Alaa Awad

Photo 2: Alexandrian painter and street artist Aya Tarek is considered by many of her peers to be one of the pioneers of graffiti in Egypt. She holds her ground against her male contemporaries, and has exhibited recently in Germany as well as Beirut. Aya appeared in Microphone, Ahmed Abdalla’s brilliant 2010 film about the underground art scene in Alexandria. She is the first graffiti artist in Egypt to appear in a feature film not only playing herself but also correctly representing the graffiti scene in Egypt.

Photo 3: “Don’t touch or castration awaits you” - Hend Kheera is the first Egyptian graffiti artist to be profiled by Rolling Stone. Her work has a tough, extreme and honest quality to it, and there’s nothing stereotypically feminine about her aesthetics. Hend made stencils in Mogamaa and around Tahrir during sit-ins in 2011. She participated in an anti-sexual harassment campaign by spraying the stencil ‘Warning! Don’t touch or castration awaits you!’. The stencil was shocking and provocative, compelling some bystanders to even berate Hend for making it, a surefire sign that her message was powerful and effective.

Photo 4: Hanaa El Degham’s mixed art mural on the Lycee wall is to this date one of the most astounding street artworks I have seen in Egypt. She worked several layers over many days, combining barely finished paintings with stencils and newspaper collages. If you looked closely at the newspaper clippings, you’d find them completely spot-on and appropriate for the beautiful social commentary she was making by portraying the poorest of Egyptians carrying gas cylinders on their heads. A women fully clad in black niqab carries a gas cylinder with ‘Change’ sprayed on it. That visual in itself has so much to say.

Hanaa also worked for days with Ammar Abo Bakr and other painters on the Mohamed Mahmoud martyrs’ mural, adding frames and lotus flowers to several of the martyrs’ portraits.

Photo 5: I’d seen Bahia Shehab’s stencils around Zamalek and Tahrir for months, but it was only until I watched her inspiring Tedx talk on YouTube when I made the connection. Bahia spoke beautifully and powerfully of fighting for social and political justice through art. Her stencil below is one of my favourite pieces, a stencil I spotted on the bleak concrete wall of Mansour Street. When you see such an inspiring and pretty quote on a grotesque concrete military construction, you regain hope; at least in the power and potential of art.

Photo 6: “No to sexual harrassment” by Mira Shihadeh - There’s also Laila Magued, who works tirelessly day and night alongside Mohamed El Moshir and Ammar Abo Bakr in completing murals like this fantastic one on Sheikh Rihan Street, and there’s Mira Shihadeh who paints messages against sexual harassment, and draws crying faces on the streets of Cairo, with the simple message ‘Why’. I’m sure there are many other women to follow suit soon.

I am privileged to have met most of these women and watch them work. It takes a certain fierceness to persevere in creating unique, inspiring street art under the volatile and unpredictable conditions of the Egyptian streets.

Graffiti has also paid tribute to the women of Egypt, whether by honoring them like Alaa Awad’s pharaonic mural or by paying tribute to their bravery in battle like Zeft’s poster, or defending their rights to equality.

Photo 7: ”Don’t label me” - Nooneswa (Noon El Neswa) is a collective of activists that uses graffiti to raise awareness about women’s rights and to lobby for gender equality. Noon El Neswa organised street campaigns where stencils featured Laila Mourad, Soaad Hosny and other iconic women of the Egyptian cinema, and slogans included film quotes or simple demands for equality. Nooneswa is the first collective of its kind to focus solely on women’s issues and use graffiti to raise awareness on the streets of Cairo. Their ‘Don’t Label Me’ design has since appeared in Tunisia, replicated by feminist activists there.

Photo 8: This graffiti on Mohamed Mahmoud Street paid tribute to the Uprising of Women in the Arab World, an online platform with over 80k followers that promotes Arab women’s rights using provocative and personal messages/photos of women.

Source (Click for more Egyptian graffiti art created by women)

Cairo’s superficial clean-up brings graffiti artists out in forceOctober 9, 2012
Last month the authorities in Cairo whitewashed a mural that had become an international shrine to anti-establishment street art, raising the question of whether graffiti should be protected on the grounds of free speech.
The wall in Muhammad Mahmoud Street paid tribute to the martyrs of the revolution, a memorial to hatred of the army and police, and to the rebellious spirit unleashed during and after the uprising. The day after the clean-up, graffiti artists of all persuasions gathered to restore the memorial. They wondered why the authorities were in such a hurry to efface images which for months had attracted tourists and analysts from all over the world. Some suspected that overzealous officials, encouraged by the new Islamist regime, might be tempted to censor pictures supposedly banned by Islam.
But it seems that the motives of the newly appointed authorities are much more prosaic. In the past few weeks the new governors appointed by President Mohamed Morsi have been busily cleaning up the streets of Cairo and Alexandria with an enthusiasm only equalled by the widespread disrespect for the authorities that developed under formerPresident Hosni Mubarak.
Mubarak kept social unrest under control by allowing whole swaths of the population to work and find housing with total disregard for the rules. At best such policies fostered indifference to the law, but in many case they fuelled outright hatred of the authorities. How is Egypt's new-found democracy to put down roots with such a legacy?
In the absence of any far-reaching reforms the public space has become, since Morsi’s election, the focus of a wild drive to patch up appearances. Apparently inspired by some unrealistic desire to turn over a completely new leaf, the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to clean up the streets of Egypt, before even beginning to purge the rotten apparatus of state.
Around Tahrir Square, stripped of its tents, gardeners are planting flowers and palm trees. Meanwhile squads of police track down any errant graffiti and harass the thousands of roaming vendors who clog the city streets. Surely this is an unfortunate initiative in an overpopulated megacity where the informal economy represents more than a third of gross domestic product.
On 7 September the police in Alexandria raided the historic used-book market on Nabi Daniel Street, kicking over stalls, tearing up books and smashing shelves. This operation caused such an outcry that the culture minister in person expressed his disapproval.
As part of their cleaning frenzy the Brothers have also instructed several groups of well-meaning youths to deal with the heaps of rubbish which block the streets of towns all over Egypt. This cosmetic initiative drew sarcastic comments from the rag trade, which has been struggling to cope with the problem for decades.
The victims of the police clampdown are not fooled by the authorities’ dreams of flowerbeds and superficial tidying. Skulking in the entrances to buildings, street vendors are quick to voice their resentment. “To restore confidence the government should start by making gifts to people, rather than depriving them of the little they have,” said one trader struggling to keep hold of his goods. “Apart from the rubbish,” he added, stumbling over a heap of junk.
Any hopes of graffiti being legalised seem extremely unlikely, even if on the day after the destruction of the Muhammad Mahmoud mural the prime minister, Hisham Qandil, expressed reservations, condemning the whitewash and encouraging street artists to produce new graffiti on Tahrir Square “true to the spirit of the revolution”.
The response was almost immediate. “If you change your trousers without having a wash you get a rash”, read the message on a wall in Talaat Harb Street. And in Muhammad Mahmoud Street itself there was a face poking out its tongue in defiance and saying: "Erase it again, you cowardly regime".
Source

Cairo’s superficial clean-up brings graffiti artists out in force
October 9, 2012

Last month the authorities in Cairo whitewashed a mural that had become an international shrine to anti-establishment street art, raising the question of whether graffiti should be protected on the grounds of free speech.

The wall in Muhammad Mahmoud Street paid tribute to the martyrs of the revolution, a memorial to hatred of the army and police, and to the rebellious spirit unleashed during and after the uprising. The day after the clean-up, graffiti artists of all persuasions gathered to restore the memorial. They wondered why the authorities were in such a hurry to efface images which for months had attracted tourists and analysts from all over the world. Some suspected that overzealous officials, encouraged by the new Islamist regime, might be tempted to censor pictures supposedly banned by Islam.

But it seems that the motives of the newly appointed authorities are much more prosaic. In the past few weeks the new governors appointed by President Mohamed Morsi have been busily cleaning up the streets of Cairo and Alexandria with an enthusiasm only equalled by the widespread disrespect for the authorities that developed under formerPresident Hosni Mubarak.

Mubarak kept social unrest under control by allowing whole swaths of the population to work and find housing with total disregard for the rules. At best such policies fostered indifference to the law, but in many case they fuelled outright hatred of the authorities. How is Egypt's new-found democracy to put down roots with such a legacy?

In the absence of any far-reaching reforms the public space has become, since Morsi’s election, the focus of a wild drive to patch up appearances. Apparently inspired by some unrealistic desire to turn over a completely new leaf, the Muslim Brotherhood is determined to clean up the streets of Egypt, before even beginning to purge the rotten apparatus of state.

Around Tahrir Square, stripped of its tents, gardeners are planting flowers and palm trees. Meanwhile squads of police track down any errant graffiti and harass the thousands of roaming vendors who clog the city streets. Surely this is an unfortunate initiative in an overpopulated megacity where the informal economy represents more than a third of gross domestic product.

On 7 September the police in Alexandria raided the historic used-book market on Nabi Daniel Street, kicking over stalls, tearing up books and smashing shelves. This operation caused such an outcry that the culture minister in person expressed his disapproval.

As part of their cleaning frenzy the Brothers have also instructed several groups of well-meaning youths to deal with the heaps of rubbish which block the streets of towns all over Egypt. This cosmetic initiative drew sarcastic comments from the rag trade, which has been struggling to cope with the problem for decades.

The victims of the police clampdown are not fooled by the authorities’ dreams of flowerbeds and superficial tidying. Skulking in the entrances to buildings, street vendors are quick to voice their resentment. “To restore confidence the government should start by making gifts to people, rather than depriving them of the little they have,” said one trader struggling to keep hold of his goods. “Apart from the rubbish,” he added, stumbling over a heap of junk.

Any hopes of graffiti being legalised seem extremely unlikely, even if on the day after the destruction of the Muhammad Mahmoud mural the prime minister, Hisham Qandil, expressed reservations, condemning the whitewash and encouraging street artists to produce new graffiti on Tahrir Square “true to the spirit of the revolution”.

The response was almost immediate. “If you change your trousers without having a wash you get a rash”, read the message on a wall in Talaat Harb Street. And in Muhammad Mahmoud Street itself there was a face poking out its tongue in defiance and saying: "Erase it again, you cowardly regime".

Source