Street artist Alaa Awad has traded in the typical spray cans for paintbrushes and acrylics, and though he draws most of his inspiration from ancient Egypt, his murals address modern issues such as women’s rights and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. Take a moment to get to know the Egyptian activist and artist below.
Looking at Alaa Awad’s murals is kind of like revisiting antiquity while keeping your feet firmly grounded in the present. As a street-artist, painter and Assistant Professor of Art at South Valley University in Luxor, Alaa Awad paints scenes reminiscent of ancient Egypt on the walls of Cairo, Luxor and various cities throughout the world. His characters, always presented in 2D and in profile, rub shoulders with mythological figures in scenes largely inspired from ancient frescoes. Even Awad’s technique draws on his heritage: rather than using the usual spray cans, he paints with a paintbrush and acrylics, much like it was done in ancient Egypt. Not exactly your typical contemporary street artist!
But there’s more to his neo-pharaonic style than just aesthetics. Awad’s goal is to celebrate his roots while representing the culture of his country. As he puts it: “To understand who we are, we must first know where we came from”. The characters portrayed in Awad’s paintings may appear to come from another time, but he uses them effectively to make statements on modern issues such as women’s rights and the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
“I don’t paint on walls for my own pleasure or because I want my work to be known. The frescoes I make are directly intended for the Egyptian people,” Awad explains. The crises of Egypt have been documented on city walls for centuries. So during the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Alaa Awad decided to take a break from working at the university, arming himself with his paintbrush and acrylics to create frescoes in Tahrir Square, the pulse point of the revolution.
Social and Political Art
Awad has continued to address social issues and defend Egyptian culture through his murals ever since. “Whenever I am painting, people always stop to encourage me and thank me for the work I am doing. It’s very inspiring to know that the Egyptians who see my work understand and approve of my approach. There are some people, of course – members of the Muslim Brotherhood, for example, who disapprove, but fortunately they are in the minority” says Awad.