Overlooking the quiet water of Stavanger’s bay there is a quote (How big is the idea, How small is the state), which has just appeared at the docks. It’s from a poem by the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish and it was painted during Nuart 2017 by the Egyptian activist and artist Bahia Shehab:
“How wide is the revolution
How narrow is the journey
How big is the idea
How small is the state”
Brightly standing out from a black background, this mural is both a political consideration and an invitation to interact with the local community of Arabic people by asking the meaning of the words depicted.
An art historian by day, Bahia Shehab began painting on the streets in 2011, when the revolution swept through Egypt. Back then, she felt the urge to communicate to the thousands of people who were demonstrating in the streets and to further spread the voice of the revolution through her art.
Today, she is painting her messages of resistance and Mahmoud Darwish’ evocative poems all around the world.
For the indoor exhibition ‘Rise Up!’ (3 Sept. – 15 Oct. 2017) Bahia realized the installation “Doors of Perception”: a series of doors hung in the ‘tunnels’ of the former brewery Tou Scene on which she sprayed her iconic stencils from the ‘One Thousand Times NO’ project.
This project was realized in 2010, when she was invited by the Khatt Foundation to create an artwork using Arabic calligraphy. For this exhibition, she collected one thousand of different Arabic scripts for the word ‘NO’. When the Egyptian revolution began, she reacted to the violence she saw in the streets by grabbing a spray-can and stencilling her NOs all around the city of Cairo, and she accompanied them with different messages such as “NO to military rule”, “NO to violence”, “NO to killing” and many more.
The story of how she did it is part of the documentary movie “Nefertiti’s Daughters”, which was screened during Nuart Plus -the excellent series of in-depth discussions that goes with the artistic side of the Nuart Festival. Featuring female street artists from Cairo, this movie documents the critical role that political street art played during the Egyptian Revolution.
Text and photos by our on the spot representative Giulia Blocal from www.blocal-travel.com
ISSA is an official Media Partner for this year’s Nuart Festival in Norway.