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Political art capturing hearts

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Hannah Butler discusses the use of art in political campaigns.

Whatever you thought about the slogans attached to each candidate’s campaign in the recent Sabb elections – whether they struck you as ingenious, or merely a bit of over-the-top cheese qualified with a forced rhyme – one thing is almost certain: they made an impact. When you battled your way through the cascade of flyers to wherever you were headed, regardless of knowing the face of the candidate or even their full name, that slogan was probably still floating around in your windswept and rain-addled mind.

Image credit: Courtesy of Mona Lisa Brigades via the Egyptian Independent
Image credit: Courtesy of Mona Lisa Brigades via the Egyptian Independent

Those rhyming, alliterative, or pun-fuelled catchphrases effectively turned the campaigners using them into artists. For isn’t that one of the purposes of art? To take raw materials – canvas, clay, or in this case, words – and from them, craft something which grips hold of an audience’s mind, refusing to be shaken off and eliciting all sorts of conflicting attitudes? These campaigners used words to generate art which would both represent their cause in a fun, light-hearted way, and create a lasting impression on audiences.

Yet it is no wonder that art and campaign often go hand-in-hand. The aims of the artist and the campaigner are remarkably similar: both want to convey a particular perspective to the public, and both hope to impress upon audiences the merits of their idea, potentially inspiring others to empathise with their views. Therefore, more often than not the campaigner becomes the artist.

Egypt is a prime example of this. In the on-going battle for women’s equality, rights and fair representation, campaigners in recent years have turned to street art to convey a very potent message. Noon El Neswa and the Mona Lisa Brigade are among various visual campaigns aiming to ‘challenge the low status of Egyptian women by painting them in a positive light.’ This simple phrase, reported by The Egypt Independent, represents the power of art to provoke new perceptions and help campaigners to illustrate their cause in a way which makes audiences take notice.

Shady Khalit, co-founder of Noon El Neswa, stated aims of “reclaiming women’s rightful position in public spaces” by filling streets with images of popular Egyptian female icons. These campaigns use art to confront audiences with scenes they are not used to seeing, challenging widely-held perceptions on women’s position in society, and illustrating both the possibility and the benefits of reversing these perceptions.

Also in Egypt, Campaigners for Operation #ColoringThruCorruption cover public surfaces such as walls, water pipes and fencing with colourful paint. Raising awareness of a ‘shameful’ reality created by a corrupt government not using money to sufficiently care for its citizens, the campaign uses art to make audiences look at mundane objects in new ways, provoking attention to issues the campaigners feel of vital importance.

It can be argued that art and campaigning will always remain intertwined. As demonstrated both on campus and in the wider world, the use of art in campaigning is both logical and effective. After all, art in itself is a campaign, to translate a reality recognised by one into a message that can influence and inspire others.

 

 Hannah Butler

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