Continuing to think about the role of humor in Egypt’s ongoing revolution, I’m intrigued by some of the funnier mahragan (“festival”) music that directly mocks or comments on politics. A great example is “Morsico Systems” by Ahmed Samih.
I learned of this piece from Ted Swedenburg, who writes:
[M]ahragan artists are also more than willing to aim their barbs at figures of authority, including Egypt’s post-revolution, popularly elected president, Muhammed Mursi. “Morsico Systems” from mahragan artist Ahmad Samih sets a presidential speech to a sha‘bi beat, and splices Mursi’s sonorous message together with autotuned, impertinent commentary. To Mursi’s claim that “there is support for that,” meaning for his regime’s “organization,” the singer replies, “There is an elephant.” The recording goes on to repeat and counterpose the words of Mursi and the singer, “support” and “elephant,” several times, reducing the president’s intonations to nonsense.
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Remember the popular committees? Those ad-hoc groups of citizens that started as neighborhood watch teams and maintained security and organized neighborhood life when the state stopped services?
In “Egypt’s Popular Committees: From Moments of Madness to NGO Dilemmas,” Asya El-Mahy describes how some of them have evolved into social service providers with complex ties to the state.
According to El-Mahy:
Some of the popular committees disbanded after Mubarak fell and police slowly reappeared. The end of Mubarak’s rule ushered in tighter state controls over civil society organizations, as well as a near monopoly for Islamist parties over formal political institutions. Nonetheless, many popular committees remained independent and active, holding their first national conference in April 2011.
In popular discourse,
“Whoever has something to say in Egypt these days can write it on a wall,” begins a recent photo-essay by Samuli Schielke and Jessica Winegar.
Titled “The Writing on the Walls of Egypt,” it appears in a recent issue of Middle East Report and is available on-line as a public access article.
After emphasizing that wall-writing as a form of art and political expression predates the current revolution, the authors focus on post-Mubarak efforts to control what appears on the walls of Cairo.
While generals, presidents, judges and other powerful leaders jockey for control, street art reminds us that street politics continues to have relevance, and that the art and poetry of slogans, graffiti and murals gives concrete form to “anti-hegemony” sentiments (Shokr 2012) but also to the sentiments of those supporting the SCAF, or the government of President Morsi.
Indeed, street art not only expresses differences of political opinion, it can itself be a battleground:
The Muslim Brotherhood coalition that currently rules Egypt offers an example of a “political groups that seize power on a wave of mass mobilization, only to revert to a politics of pragmatism under the mantle of revolutionary ideals” writes Ahmed Shokr.He’s writing in an article entitled “Reflections on Two Revolutions” published in a special issue of Middle East Report and available for free on-line.
In their effort to maintain a facade of idealism while pursuing a pragmatic course of action, Shokr writes, the MB is not unlike the Free Officers who seized power after the revolution of 1952.
How the emergent order in Egypt will eventually look, and how much of the past it will retain or abandon, are matters that remain to be worked out. Since coming to power, the Muslim Brothers have engaged in a delicate balancing act: maintaining enough continuity to win international acceptance and protect their ruling coalition, while projecting enough change to give credence to their promise of a new Egypt. The result is an emerging leadership of reluctant revolutionaries: They tread carefully, keeping stability a top priority and steering clear of dramatic policy changes, while boasting of being Egypt’s first democratically elected rulers.
But there are also important differences.
As the dramatic social changes in Egypt continue, every anniversary there is a call for reflections on how Egypt got to where it is, and where it is going. Last year, for example, I took part in a workshop at Oxford University entitled “The Egyptian Revolution: One Year On.” Now the winter 2012 issue of Middle East Report offers reflections on “Egypt: The Uprising Two Years On.”
Many of the articles are available through free on-line access. These include:
Reflections on Two Revolutions by Ahmad Shokr,
The Writing on the Walls of Egypt by Samuli Schielke and Jessica Winegar,
Egypt’s Popular Committees: From Moments of Madness to NGO Dilemmas by Asya El-Meehy, and
Egypt’s Music of Protest: From Sayyid Darwish to DJ Haha by Ted Swedenburg.
There are also a number of articles you must buy the issue to get. These include: