In 2013, a report showed that Egypt was the worst country for women’s rights in the Arab world. The main factor causing this result was due to the amount of sexual harassment Egyptian women face. A UN report in April said 99.3% of women and girls in Egypt had been subjected to sexual harassment.
With the above as context, you can understand how important it is for people to highlight the issue of women’s rights in Egypt. One such person is Mohamed Radwan.
Children of the Revolution
Mohamed Radwan, started started spraying graffiti in the streets during the Egyptian Revolution. His motivation came through his opposition to the political status quo, and his art started as a form of political expression of this opposition and solidarity with certain revolutionary figures and ideals.
“I believe that graffiti must serve a social purpose, or have a cause. I paint to express that cause or rather my position from it.”
Women’s Rights in Egypt
Whilst change in women’s rights is very much heading in the right direction, there is still a lot that needs to be done, especially regarding the national perception of women.
“As it is, women’s rights in Egypt is still a cause that needs much development and advancing. Women have not received their full rights in the Egyptian society, there is still discrimination against women in the workplace, and on the street, despite the fact that in recent years, things have been improving, with the presence of multiple advocacy groups and NGOs, as well as a shift in perception towards women and their rights after the revolution.
But still, it’s an ongoing process that will take time for women to receive their full rights and end the discrimination against them.”
This project was initiated by the owners of Sea Hub, a commercial destination on Egypt’s Northen Coast. They approached Radwan to create artwork on their commercial strip. Radwan, in theory, could have painted anything he wanted for this project but it was important to him that this project invoked social change.
“I wanted the mural to have a social value, so I pitched to them the idea of using the massive wall (70 meters long by 5 meters high) to celebrate women and advocate for women empowerment and women’s rights. The owners were convinced and I developed alongside my assistant, Abdel Rahman el Bialy, multiple artistic approaches for tackling the subject.”
The owners were more inclined towards a pop-art direction, so the team developed the mural artwork centred around recognisable pop-art elements, in order to appeal to the visitors of the strip, to fit with the general theme of the location, whilst still pushing the overall message of empowering women and defending their rights.
Challenges Behind the Project
The first challenge for the team was the size of the wall. The wall is 70m long and 5m high, a size the team have never dealt with before.
The second challenge was the very limited time for implementation, the owners required the mural to be done within 7 days, which meant spraying 10 metres a day. This, coupled with the hardships of the coastal weather in Egypt, which is extremely hot by morning, very windy and humid by night, made it very hard for the artists to work continuously for 7 days. Not only that, but the humidity and wind were also affecting the stencils on site.
“Thankfully, I was blessed with putting together a crew of highly professional and highly committed artists and volunteers, who were intent on making this happen.”
The Impact of Artwork to Help Women’s Rights in Egypt
No one is so naive to believe this one project in itself will bring about change in Egypt regarding women’s rights but it’s projects like this that puts the issue in front of people’s faces, it starts conversations and shows that change is wanted and change is needed.
“Well, all that an artist can hope for is give exposure and attention to a cause. How a certain artwork helps is not really measurable or quantifiable, at best all we can do is cause a stir or spread the message, put it under the spotlight and then see how people will react.”
“So far the mural was well received by the public, both at location and on the social media, and we also enjoyed rather good coverage from the local media.”
Many thanks to Mohamed Radwan for talking to us!