While the media glare of the Arab Spring receded with the chaos and anarchy of the revolution, the people of Egypt are still battling for the freedoms that incited the rebellion. The brutal breach of human rights – especially those of women participating in the uprising were well documented, with accounts of public rape and sexual assault splattered among the international headlines. While these acts of brutality cannot be understated, the Arab Spring itself provided the women of Egypt with something they had been denied before. A voice.
Armed with this new weapon, Women on Walls or WOW have taken to the streets, creating murals in four of the major cities, Mansoura, Alexandria, Cairo and Luxor to highlight the plight of the female gender. Founded by women’s activist, Angie Balata and journalist, Mia Grondahl the campaign began as a small endeavor for female empowerment. WOW has grown from this low key operation of 20 graffiti artists, to include 60 people – both men and women – visual artists, videographers and musicians on a month long crusade ending in mid May.
Graffiti has long been the vehicle of choice for disenchanted males in the Arab belt which stretched from Morocco to Bahrain during the revolt. But, the addition of WOW to the streets of Egypt adds a different cultural perspective to the graffiti landscape. Many of the murals depict eminent women of cultural or political significance, helping to ameliorate and expand the current conversation.
Despite their best efforts, WOW still battle through an obdurant path. The women frequently face a torrent of slurs from by-passers while they paint and the collective relies on its male members to provide a safe artistic environment. “Let’s be frank: a woman cannot try to do this on her own in Egypt. Surrounded by men and with the collective, we know they are safe,” Angela Balata remarked in an interview with France 24.
Nevertheless, a voice challenged by hostility is better than no voice at all.
You can follow their progress via WOW.