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Modern-day hieroglyphs: military images in my work

November 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Revolution-Snipers in the filed

For the past 16 years, I have attempted to explore aspects of the complex Egyptian identity: the physical geography of Egypt as an African state with one eighth of its surface in Asia; Egypt as a Mediterranean country that interacts with the East and the West; and Egypt as a Middle Eastern state, affected by the century-long conflict in that region. In my work, I use the basic rules of Ancient Egyptian painting – the flat graphic surfaces, with human forms striding across rigid registers – because this medium lends itself so perfectly to my message. After all, ancient Egyptian art, a bit like today’s graphic design, always had a specific function, serving to document their life and times, or as a tool for religious and political propaganda.

Sniper and 3 goddesses

I have always been struck by the similarities, and cultural continuities, between this ancient use of the painted image and the modern use of imagery in advertising and the media. Nowhere is this similarity stronger than in today’s media-propagated imagery of military conflict. When I use military element it is not a literal reference to Egypt’s military forces. On the contrary, I use the chopper, the sniper, the tank etc… to develop a generic alphabet inspired by media propagated war images, the type you see in broad cast media. These modern-day ‘hieroglyphs’ explore the stereo-typing of the Middle East as a region solely defined by, and reduced to, conflict – a region viewed through the prism of war.  Now, subsequent to Egypt’s January revolution and with events unfolding every day, I feel the military imagery I use has taken on an added dimension for my fellow Egyptians: the military symbols, refer ironically to the toppling of Egypt’s former regime, by peaceful protest, and also to the events taking place at the moment.

Sniper 2011
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