Exhibition:

Al-Rihla (The Journey)

by Bahia Shehab

1 Dec 2016

Mediamatic and Framer Framed invited Lebanese-Egyptian street-artist Bahia Shehab to create a brand new graffiti wall at Mediamatic Biotoop right next to our terras. In order to celebrate her receiving the 2016 Prins Claus Award, she demonstrated her workings during a live stenciling session and introductory talk. The Arabic mural is accessible 24/7.

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Al-Rihla - Bahia Shehab (LB/EG) - Mediamatic and Framer Framed invited Lebanese—Egyptian street artist Bahia Shehab to create a brand new calligraphic graffiti wall at Mediamatic Biotoop. Bahia Shehab became a political activist during the Arabic Spring when she decided to transform her earlier research and exhibited art project about Arabic calligraphy into graffiti in the streets of Cairo. ‘Al—Rihla’ means ‘The Journey’, and depicts a poem by Mahmoud Darwish Bahia Shehab, Anisa Xhomaqi

With: Bahia Shehab

Artist and activist

Bahia Shehab became a political activist during the Arabic Spring when she decided to transform her earlier art project "A thousand times NO" about Arabic calligraphy into graffiti in the streets of Cairo. Especially iconic is the "blue bra" which Bahia started spraying after a woman was stripped of her clothes and beaten by the police - exposing the blue bra underneath.

Her work at Mediamatic Biotoop

In order to celebrate the Prins Claus award she received, Bahia created a new mural featuring a poem by Mahmoud Darwish, Palestinian poet and author, which she wrote in an abstract geometric Arab font: "One day we will be what we want to be. The journey has not started and the road has not ended".

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Bahia Shehab working on her mural Al-Rihla - Anisa Xhomaqi

With: Bahia Shehab

Continuing research on Arabic script culture

The artist is continuing her research about historic Arabic calligraphy as a PhD candidate at Leiden University, pursuing to create an encyclopaedia of the Arabic script. She takes an active role now of inspiring our young generation by teaching and mentoring students of the Arts Department at the American University of Cairo. There she developed a design curriculum that focuses on Arabic visual culture and how to maintain this heritage in our modern world, which for example lacks in diversity of especially Arabic digital fonts.

Additionally to demonstrating her work, she shared her research and political activities during an artist talk in our Haeckel Room.

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Working together on the Arabic mural Al-Rihla (The Journey) - Anisa Xhomaqi

With: Bahia Shehab

Prins Claus Award

For the past 20 years, the Prince Claus Fund has honoured visionary artists and organisations for their excellent, pioneering work in culture and development. On Thursday 15 December, HRH Prince Constantijn of the Netherlands presented the 2016 Prince Claus Award to graphic designer, artist, educator and historian Bahia Shehab.

 

"Graffiti is like flowers. They are beautiful, but they don't live long." An interview with Lebanese-Egyptian street-artist Bahia Shehab about the role of art during the Arab spring: "You cannot resist ideas. They can travel into any mind."

"I am a quiet person, I don't know how to scream", says Bahia Shehab. "My contribution to the revolution was to paint on the walls, was to be an artist." During the Arab spring many artists felt the urge to rush to the streets, Shehab explains. At the time, there was no tomorrow, one did not think of possible repercussions, she says: "When you loose hope with everything around you, you go down to the street. Your only hope is the people. This is who you paint and work for. It's their minds, you try to influence."

At the time Bahia became known for a series of graffiti centred around the word 'no' - No to Military Rule, No to Emergency Law, No to Stripping the People, No to Blinding Heroes, No to Burning books, No to Violence, No to Stealing the Revolution, No to a New Pharaoh besides others.

"Our work gets erased very quickly on the street. That's why TV and the internet are very useful tools - you can communicate your messages in the digital sphere. That's the game-changer now. The government can resist you, it can try to hide, what you try to communicate, but it's a completely different ballgame now."

"I believe, that art can change lives", Bahia Shehab continues: "It's a very powerful tool. It's a therapy. In some civilisations art is used to cure you from a disease." Art can be perceived by anybody on different levels. The more art there is in the public sphere, the better the society around it.

"In our case, we are not trying to install beauty. We have not yet reached that level. We communicate ideas of change to society. Because we believe in change and we believe in art as a tool for change. We are still on survival mode."

"It takes time to create change. New ideas are always opposed. Humans like normality, we like our comfort-zone. they don't like change, that is drastic. But enlightenment is not selective. Some people keep dreaming. Dreaming of a better future. We hope to grow the circle of dreamers. Society is not driven by people, that are pragmatic and realistic. It's only driven by the crazy ones, the dreamers."

Bahia Shehab (b.1977) is an artist, designer and Islamic art historian studying ancient Arabic script and visual heritage. Shehab is a Creative Director with MI7-Cairo working on projects relevant to cultural heritage and she is also associate professor of professional practice at The American University in Cairo. She has developed and launched the new graphic design program for the Department of the Arts with courses mainly focused on the visual culture of the Arab world. She is currently a PhD candidate at Leiden University in Holland. Her research is on Fatimid Kufic inscriptions on portable items in the Mediterranean basin and beyond.

Bahia Shehab was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner

Filmed by Steen Møller Rasmussen

Edited by Kamilla Bruus

Produced by Marc-Christoph Wagner

Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014

Supported by Nordea-fonden

Information
Al-rihla by Bahia Shehab
Open 24/7

Mediamatic Biotoop, Dijkspark 6, Amsterdam
The mural is located at wall of Mediamatic Biotoop, right next to our harbour and terras of our restaurant Mediamatic ETEN.

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Start of the graffiti wall Al-Rihla by Bahia Shehab - Mediamatic and Framer Framed invited Lebanese-Egyptian street-artist Bahia Shehab to create a brand new graffiti wall at Mediamatic Biotoop right next to our terras. In order to celebrate her receiving the 2016 Prins Claus Award, she demonstrated her workings during a live stenciling session and introductory talk. The Arabic mural is accessible 24/7. Anisa Xhomaqi

With: Bahia Shehab
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One layer of paint for the Arabic mural Al-Rihla is almost done - Mediamatic and Framer Framed invited Lebanese-Egyptian street-artist Bahia Shehab to create a brand new graffiti wall at Mediamatic Biotoop right next to our terras. In order to celebrate her receiving the 2016 Prins Claus Award, she demonstrated her workings during a live stenciling session and introductory talk. The Arabic mural is accessible 24/7. Anisa Xhomaqi

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- People helping to put the letters in place Mediamatic and Framer Framed invited Lebanese-Egyptian street-artist Bahia Shehab to create a brand new graffiti wall at Mediamatic Biotoop right next to our terras. In order to celebrate her receiving the 2016 Prins Claus Award, she demonstrated her workings during a live stenciling session and introductory talk. The Arabic mural is accessible 24/7. Anisa Xhomaqi

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Bahia Shehab quickly checking the process of installing Al-Rihla - Mediamatic and Framer Framed invited Lebanese—Egyptian street artist Bahia Shehab to create a brand new calligraphic graffiti wall at Mediamatic Biotoop. Bahia Shehab became a political activist during the Arabic Spring when she decided to transform her earlier research and exhibited art project about Arabic calligraphy into graffiti in the streets of Cairo. ‘Al—Rihla’ means ‘The Journey’, and depicts a poem by Mahmoud Darwish. Anisa Xhomaqi

With: Bahia Shehab
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- Working on the graffiti wall Anisa Xhomaqi

With: Bahia Shehab