The past two years social and political messages have spread from Tahrir Square to cover the walls of Cairo and other Egyptian cities. In his pieces, El Teneen called out the blatant lies and conspiracy theories of Egyptian state media, condemned the brutality of the military junta that ruled Egypt more than a year and half, and now criticizes and mocks political Islamists and their extremist take on freedoms.
El Teneen lives and works in Cairo, Egypt
El Teneen (Arabic for "Dragon") started his anonymous street work in the first days of the Egyptian Revolution in 25 January 2011. Tear gas and flying rocks galvanized his first simple piece which was the face of Egypt's ex-tyrant Hosni Mubarak. For the first time, many Egyptians saw the face of their oppressor accompanied by the one word they have long whispered but only recently shouted at the top of their lungs: Leave.
After 18 days in Tahrir square, Mubarak stepped down and the his military junta (SCAF: Supreme Council of Armed Forces) took over both his power and his failed base methods. Celebration were short and sweet. After witnessing their brutality and deceit first hand in a protest, angry El Teneen stencils warning against the danger the junta poses to the revolution contradicted the murals glorifying them.
As the situation became more complex with the military junta refusing to cease its violent attacks on protests and began a ruthless campaign of military trials for civilians, El Teneen painted a large chess board with many pawns on one side and on the other side all the high ranking pieces standing still but with their king overthrown.
Calls for a second revolution rose and Tahrir continued to host Fridays of anger against SCAF. Libya, Bahrain, Yemen, and Syria followed suit, and some street artists including El Teneen put up pieces in solidarity with their cause. One piece showed defiant Libyan dictator Qaddafi riding his Toktok (car/motorcycle hybrid) and holding his umbrella and shouting "Forward." Another piece of bloody Bashar Al-Assad with a Hitler moustache with the words "King of the Jungle Rides a Tank" spread from the walls of Tahrir to Beirut, Gaza, and Saudia Arabia.
In October 2011, Copts (Egyptian Christians) organized a long sit-in in front of the state TV "Maspero" building protesting sectarian violence and the burning of a church in the Egyptain countryside. The military junta responded with tear gas, violence, and tanks literally rolling over bodies of protestors in what became the Maspero massacre. State TV also called on citizens to take direct action against the Coptic minority. It was clear by then that the most dangerous weapon the SCAF possessed was their media propaganda, and El Teneen painted the "Occupy Maspero" piece in response.
The next month, SCAF savagely broke up a large sit-in at the Egyptian parliament using firearms and in a speculator display of cowardice one soldier striped a female protestor of her dress and then repeatedly kicked her as she lay helplessly on the ground. After the video of this "blue bra" protestor spread and proved that Mubarak's Generals were working hard to put an end to the Egyptian revolution, El Teneen made a stencil of an Egyptian Superwoman to affirm that the revolution is still alive and that "It Continues."
Elections came next and the Muslim Brotherhood successfully played off the SCAF and the revolutionaries and they secured the majority of the parliament and afterwards their candidate, Mohamed Morsi, was voted president in 2012. Yet the Muslim Brotherhood and the Islamic fundamentalists (Salafis) paid little attention to the demands of the revolutionaries. Their actions and rhetoric tended to champion an Islamic state rather than the "Bread, Freedom, and Social Justice" that Egyptians shouted for as they took to the streets.
One of the achievements of political Islamists so far is their repeated promises of restricting freedom of expression and the arts. On the most popular bar in Downtown Cairo, El Teneen sprayed the stencil of the barman who works there and added a beard to his face along with the words he used to say as a joke that instead of alcohol he will "soon sell prayer beads." A few minutes after the piece was finished, the barman himself in an act of speculator self-censorship painted over the piece himself in fear of angry reaction from passerbys.
The latest campaign El Teneen is working on is a poster of an angry sheikh (Muslim preacher), and the word "Backwards" written underneath it resonates with many Egyptians who think this is the direction political Islamists are taking Egypt and its revolution.
2012 White and Black, Arthropologie, Cairo, Egypt
2011 This is Not Graffiti, Townhouse Gallery, Cairo, Egypt
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