Murals painted to honor Egyptian revolution

Egyptian artists paint detailed murals and portraits of those killed during the revolution on the streets of downtown Cairo where protesters clashed with security forces.

Mohamed Mahmoud Street a broad avenue that connects the interior ministry to Tahrir Square has been a staging ground for deadly clashes between pro-democracy protesters and the security forces during the uprising that toppled the Mubarak’s regime last year and amid the turmoil that has since followed.

This main avenue along with its side streets have witness the use of tear gas, batons, birdshots as well as live ammunition on demonstrators by police and soldiers, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.

Following the latest February clashes, a group of artists took the initiative to convert the district into an open air exhibition with art enthused by the uprising.

In the capital’s main square, Tahrir, a painting of Mubarak can be seen.

In early March, a “Drawing Through Walls” graffiti campaign was launched to mark the one-year anniversary of when the military forcefully broke up a demonstration in Tahrir and detained activists and sent them to military courts.

The campaign saw graffiti inscribed on barricade blocks placed in key areas around the interior ministry and the People’s Assembly. Activists see the graffiti as an artistic way to continue to challenge those in power and to remind them that the street is still alive and vibrant.

Walls in Mohamed Mahmoud street exhibit large portraits of angel-winged 'martyrs,' along with ancient Egyptian funerary scenes and clashes.

The artists say they are inspired not only by the revolution, but also by the ongoing struggle to oust a regime that still clings to power after Mubarak's fall.

Ammar Abu Bakkar al-Siddiq and his colleague Hana al-Dayghim have recently worked on a new piece which depicts the shortage of cooking gas that has taken a toll on poor Egyptians.

Al-Siddiq said while protesters have given life and limb for their struggle, art is his way of contributing to the struggle.

"From very early on we embraced the sentiment 'whatever you do, I will go on painting'. This idea of being worried our paintings will be erased doesn't occur to me. On the contrary, we try to express ourselves and the people themselves sympathize when the paintings are removed -- then we come back and paint something even better. The whole idea is we are careful to record everything by photographing it and making video recordings of it, and that is the memory of our effort," he said.

Mahmoud Youssef, a 14-year-old, said the portraits of the “martyrs” are an appropriate tribute.

"These paintings remind us of the revolution and those glorious days for Egypt and the Egyptian people. These pictures are an expression of the martyrs, and if we painted a thousand pictures we would not be able to repay the martyrs because the martyrs are great for us -- they are the ones who set us free," he said.

While the authorities continue to paint over anti-government graffiti, the artwork on Mohamed Mahmoud street has survived, and is attracting questions among passers-by.

While the revolution may be on hold for many Egyptians as the elected parliament struggles to move the country forward, the revolution continues for the artists who are keeping the uprising alive on the streets of downtown Cairo.

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