Believing that art plays a crucial role in raising people’s awareness about important social issues and introducing happiness and joy to their lives, a group of young graffiti artists from different Egyptian governorates gathered in Damietta to launch an initiative called ‘Gedary’. The initiative included eight artists dedicated their time to drawing murals between 29 June and 3 July in Kafr El-Ghab village.
Their paintings show faces of little children, loving mothers, elderly people, and many motivational sentences that will urge observers to positively overcome life’s hardships, pains, and suffering. Each graffiti design conveys a message and holds a unique idea that deserves attention and consideration.
“The idea came to my mind at the beginning of Ramadan, when a group of young people from Kafr El-Ghab civil community suggested doing something new for their village,” said Ahmed Gaber, a 24-year-old street artist known as Nemo, and the main coordinator of the initiative.
“I suggested gathering the largest possible number of graffiti artists in Egypt to hold the first graffiti event here. I contacted a huge number of artists and all of them were willing to volunteer in the event, but the community was dedicated to paying for the tools, brushes, and colours used,” he added.
The event started on Facebook, where the public were introduced to the idea of the initiative and the artistic works of the participating muralists. Graffiti artists from all over Egypt started to gather on 28 June. The artists held a number of meetings to agree on the messages these murals would convey.
“Artists from Alexandria, Cairo, Mansoura, and Damietta managed to paint more than 25 murals on different walls in the village. We were astonished by people’s feedback, as they were impressed by the paintings and started to take dozens of photos of them, before posting them on social media. People from neighbouring areas also started to come to the village to see what we were painting,” Gaber said.
In his opinion, the idea of mixing different graffiti schools and styles helped enrich the experience in Damietta, as each artist managed to convey the same message through a completely different method of implementation, using his or her own technique and style. The experience opened the door for dozens of graffiti artists, who had been following the event on social media, to overcome their fears of roaming the streets and dealing with people.
“The event was a great chance for novice artists to get out of their hometowns and spread their artistic works and painting styles in different places,” said Ahmed Nofal, one of the participating muralists from Cairo.
“It wasn’t a difficult task for me to choose the kind of paintings I wanted to implement because I wanted to draw something attached to the culture of the village itself. So I started looking at the carts, people’s simple way of dressing, and the shapes of the buildings and houses, which inspired me and gave me many interesting ideas,” he added.
However, for Medo El-Rayan, a graffiti artist from Alexandria, the main objective behind participating in this initiative was spreading the idea of graffiti in rural places and convincing people that graffiti is not just about some random colours on the wall. Instead, it is a valuable kind of art that carries positive messages that may help improve the place. “Honestly, I thought we would encounter difficulties in dealing with the residents of the village, but I was actually surprised by people’s high level of awareness and their willingness to cooperate with us and spread beauty all over the place,” he said.
Ahmed Fathy, a graffiti artist from Cairo known as Al-Nakash, selected some Sufi ideas for his paintings, as they appealed to residents of Upper and Lower Egypt. In his opinion, such an initiative is a positive step towards spreading graffiti art all over Egypt.
On the other side, Islam Abo-Zeid, an interior designer who decided to start his first graffiti experience with the initiative, said that a significant number of Damietta residents had not even heard about graffiti before the Gedary initiative. It was a good opportunity for many people to learn a new way of expressing their opinions freely and peacefully, without hurting anyone or getting into fights, according to Abo-Zeid.
“Most of the people asked us to stay longer and create more murals, and they volunteered to show us the most suitable places to draw graffiti. It was quite easy for me to choose the topics I would discuss through my paintings because I belonged to the place and I know exactly how people here think and what they believe,” he said.
On the event’s Facebook page, the project was received by waves of praise and support. Khaled Assem, one of the residents of the village, emphasised the great efforts exerted by the artists and wished them success and good luck. Additionally, Mohammed El-Shahawy, another resident, believed that the project has changed the map of the place and beautified a lot of places. “Many people started to ask artists to draw on the front of their houses and shops. It also inspired people who had the talent but did not know how to make use of it, and urged them to learn graffiti art. I can say the project has introduced a new spirit to the place,” he concluded.