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Egyptian Artists Continue Work Despite State Oppression And Censorship

An Egyptian protester waves a national flag over Tahrir Square, the focal point of Egyptian uprising as opponents of President Mohammed Morsi are gathered in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, June 28, 2013.

CREDIT: AP/Amr Nabil.

Egyptians protested in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and demanded an end to Hosni Mubarak’s 30 year reign in 2011 and while Mubarak was dismissed as leader, the resulting regimes continued a legacy of oppression, the economy deteriorated, and police began using increasingly brutal practices.

However, the political and economic chaos in Egypt revitalized the country’s art scene for the good and bad. The artistic environment in Egypt certainly became both cathartic, allowing many artists to thrive and create art influenced by the political and economic state of Egypt. However, this community is also dangerous, as artists worked under an oppressive regime.

The Egyptian government passed a law regulating art-funding NGO’s back in 2014 and closed an art gallery in December. Many artists have also been banned from traveling abroad to receive awards for their artwork.

“In recent years, the Egyptian arts and culture sector has faced debilitating repression,” the Arterial Network, a non-profit network of artists and activists building democratic arts practices in Africa, stated in December. “In 2014, a new law was passed to regulate receipt of external funds for NGO’s and this had a devastating impact on the sector with some organizations forced to close or to relocate their offices and activities. Prohibitive restrictions affecting the freedom of artists and journalists are ongoing.”

Historically, contemporary art has been a powerful and impactful way to address pressing political and social issues. Luckily, artists are learning to work around the oppression and censorship in Egypt.

Police brutality is one of the major issues plaguing Egypt, but it is also a huge issue for American Millennials. A 2015 report by the Black Youth Project, conducted at the University of Chicago’s Center for Study of Race, Politics and Culture, found that about 55 percent of black Millennials claimed that either they or someone they knew had been harassed or physically harmed by the police. The study found that only a third of white Millennials and a quarter of Latino Millennials said the same.

The report used a decade’s worth of surveys and government statistics to study how opinions and views among Millennials varied by race. The recent police killing of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson in 2014 led to a national civil rights movement called Black Lives Matter.

According to the same report, about three-quarters of black Millennials said in 2014 that they believed they could make a difference through politics, while only about half of white and Latino Millennials said the same. Black Millennials also showed more support for federal policies that promote job creation and benefits for the poor in the United States, including the Affordable Care Act.

Alexandra Kilpatrick is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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