Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage on

Images of Tahrir: Egypt's revolutionary art

By Tim Hume, CNN
August 10, 2012 -- Updated 0947 GMT (1747 HKT)
Egyptian artist Nermine Hammam's first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, "Cairo, Year One," is currently on display in London. Pictured is detail of a work from her series called "Unfolding." Egyptian artist Nermine Hammam's first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, "Cairo, Year One," is currently on display in London. Pictured is detail of a work from her series called "Unfolding."
HIDE CAPTION
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
Painting the revolution
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egyptian visual artist Nermine Hammam is exhibiting her first solo show in the UK
  • She says Egypt's revolution has made her extraordinarily productive
  • She has taken more than 70,000 photos of events in Tahrir Square for her work
  • It remains to be seen whether there will be an artistic revival in the new Egypt, she says

Editor's note: Each month, Inside the Middle East takes you behind the headlines to see a different side of this diverse region.

London (CNN) -- The tumultuous months since January 2011 have confronted Egyptians with uncertainty, triumph and despair on an almost daily basis.

But for one Cairo-based artist, the violence, disruptions and ambiguities of the revolution have also inspired a burst of unprecedented productivity.

Cairo, Year One -- Nermine Hammam's first solo show in the United Kingdom -- contains just a portion of the work she has produced in reckoning with the upheaval reshaping her country.

"Any artist, wherever they are, responds to their surroundings," she said. "It just happens to be that what is happening here is a revolution."

The year following the revolution saw her produce five different bodies of work -- combining elements of photography and painting -- incorporating images from the 70,000 or so snapshots she has taken of events in Tahrir Square and the surrounding neighborhoods.

"I have never done five bodies of work over such a short period, I don't think many people have," she said. "I was responding to each and every feeling I was getting, because everything is moving very quickly. One day you think there's no hope, the next you think there's a lot."

See also: Artists reflect Egypt's revolutionary spirit

Any artist, wherever they are, responds to their surroundings. It just happens to be that what is happening here is a revolution
Nermine Hammam, Egyptian artist

Hammam initially went out every day with her camera, "plunging" herself into Tahrir to document the turmoil playing out around her: "The army, the people taking care of the people on the street."

After that, she said, "when the police were beating up people in the street," she turned to sourcing images of the revolution from the internet. She placed the images incongruously against utopian, postcard scenes from nature -- mountains, flowers and green fields -- or against backdrops modeled on the stylized landscapes of traditional Japanese screens.

Her goal with some of the works was to "conjure harmony" and hope, she said.

Hammam said the momentous events of the revolution were something every Egyptian artist would be drawn to address in their own way, either explicitly or implicitly.

"If other artists haven't yet, they will," she said. "Even if they don't do it directly, psychologically things will change."

See also: Young upstarts plotting Mid East art revolution

But she added that it was too early to say whether the revolution would trigger a lasting artistic revival in her homeland.

Hammam's work was censored under the old regime -- "I took some pictures of the state-run mental asylum and they didn't like that," she said -- and she believed it remained to be seen whether there would be greater space in the new Egypt for artistic expression.

"Maybe perhaps now things will be different; maybe the idea of democracy will allow people to express how they feel," she said. "But for the time being, we have no clue."

The exhibition runs until August 24 at the Mosaic Rooms, London.

Follow the Inside the Middle East team on Twitter. Presenter Rima Maktabi: @rimamaktabi, producer Jon Jensen: @jonjensen, producer Schams Elwazer: @SchamsCNN, writer Tim Hume: @tim_hume and digital producer Mairi Mackay: @mairicnn.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1103 GMT (1903 HKT)
Where better to start a record-breaking solar powered flight than the desert?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Ahmed Eldin is the 18-year-old behind the prog-rock band's new album cover. Shine on you crazy diamond.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
The Humans of New York photo project exposes the hopes and fears of ordinary people in Iraq and Jordan.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0247 GMT (1047 HKT)
At first glance, the UAE seems ill-suited to ice hockey: the only snow and ice to be found is usually in fabricated form in a shopping mall.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0206 GMT (1006 HKT)
Dubai's appetite for construction continues with multi-billion dollar boost to build the world's largest airport.
September 8, 2014 -- Updated 0440 GMT (1240 HKT)
Does faith have a place on the sports field? One Muslim NFL star believes so.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0302 GMT (1102 HKT)
The UAE is becoming a hub for plastic surgery with more Emiratis going under the knife each year.
August 21, 2014 -- Updated 1120 GMT (1920 HKT)
Meet Erdal Inci, a digital artist from Turkey who is transforming the medium.
August 14, 2014 -- Updated 1339 GMT (2139 HKT)
Iran is pumping billions of dollars into a scheme to save a lake. What's so important about it?
August 8, 2014 -- Updated 0218 GMT (1018 HKT)
A volatile Middle East has changed the tenor of Ramadan programming in Egypt. Now, no topic is too taboo.
July 29, 2014 -- Updated 0253 GMT (1053 HKT)
Dubai has got some big animal attractions in its mega malls. But not everyone is wild about the idea.
July 28, 2014 -- Updated 0314 GMT (1114 HKT)
Orhan Pamuk, Turkey's Nobel Prize-winning author, is neither afraid to confront the human condition nor the state his country is in.
ADVERTISEMENT