Ganzeer and his mural for NEWTOPIA
Ganzeer (also known as Mohammed Fahmy) is a street artist, graphic designer, illustrator, visual artist, blogger and activist although he would probably refuse all of these labels. He has become known for his murals depicting the martyrs of the Egyptian revolution; for his graphics stencils and graffiti exposing political repression in Egypt; and for his outspoken criticism of the Egypt’s ruling military council. His work has become one of the driving forces of political and revolutionary graffiti on Cairo’s streets.
His street art and graphic work have become emblematic of the uprising, and at the same time have given it an iconic visual language that resonates in public space. The Mask of Freedom, for example, which circulated as a sticker, depicts a man who is gagged and blindfolded with tiny wings on each side of his head: a deliberately decorative idea of freedom. The caption beneath reads, ‘Salute from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to the Loving Sons of the Nation’. The visual language here is direct, symbolic, inventive, and memorable.
Part of a new generation of courageous, outspoken politically engaged artists who are actively working to effect change in Egypt, and who are – for the first time in the country – claiming public space through critically creative means of expression, Ganzeer is also a staunch anti-militarist who has stated that, ‘If world leaders and policy makers are sincere in wanting global peace to prevail, the dismantling of armies and weapons of war is not a very absurd thing to demand’
For Newtopia Ganzeer was invited to make a new mural for public space in Mechelen – for the wall of the new wing of the City Museum Hof Van Busleyden. The mural was to be ready for the opening of Newtopia on September 1st. Though the artist applied for a VISA to enter Belgium well in advance, it was refused and so Ganzeer was not able to come to Mechelen at that time. After many weeks of waiting and a subsequent VISA application Ganzeer will finally make it to Mechelen to carry out his work. The results will be unveiled on the 21st November, just three weeks before the closing of the exhibition.
Ganzeer’s mural will bear the title Anarelic. In the artist’s words: “Exactly one year from Egypt’s January 25 revolution, millions of people marched to Cairo’s Tahrir square throughout the day. Some carried flags, some donned scarves in anticipation of a governmental crackdown, and others carried the portraits of our fallen martyrs. Most dominant of the martyr portraits was the face of Khaled Said, the Alexandrian kid tortured to death by local police. January 25 was the day of revolutionary pilgrimage, Tahrir Square was revolutionary Mecca, and Khaled Said was revolutionary Jesus Christ. Experiencing that day made me ponder what would become of the January 25 mythology as time went by. Would stories of Khaled Said’s belief and lifestyle be made up and shared? Would details of his torture be passed down from one generation to the next? Would Tahrir Square become a holy shrine where millions of people went in hopes of summoning some sort of revolutionary spirit? Taking the idea further, well what if a completely fictional “prophet” was created? One that advocated a global revolution that never really happened. What if portraits of that so-called prophet adorned walls across the globe? What would be made of these surviving portraits 5 years from now? How about 10 years from now? 50? 100?” Come to Mechelen to find out!
Ganzeer was born in Giza, Egypt in 1982. He lives and works in Cairo, Egypt.