A spread from 'Walls of Freedom' (all images via wallsoffreedom.com)

A spread from ‘Walls of Freedom’ (all images via wallsoffreedom.com)

Egyptian customs officials in Alexandria have reportedly seized a shipment of 400 copies of the art book Walls of Freedom: Street Art of the Egyptian Revolution, over fears that it might incite rebellion. Ahmed al-Sayyad, the undersecretary of the Finance Ministry, told Al-Masry Al-Youm that the book, which features images of murals and tags that appeared on Egyptian streets during and in the aftermath of the 2011 revolution, is “instigating revolt” and offers readers “advice on confronting police and army forces,” according Egypt Independent.


The copies of Walls of Freedom had been shipped by From Here to Fame Publishing, the volume’s Berlin-based publisher, and were en route to the Dar Al-Tanweer cultural center and bookstore in Cairo. The book, which was published in May of last year and edited by street artist Don Stone and design scholar Basma Hamdy, includes works by 50 artists and documentation by some 100 photographers. According to al-Sayyad, the books have been turned over to prosecution services. The seizure of the street art book is in keeping with the Egyptian government’s recent repressive tactics.

“Generally, confiscation has become an absurd method amid technological progress. No one can prevent individuals from books that have been censored or confiscated,” the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression‘s director Emad Mubarak told Egypt Independent. “Add to that, the fact that the law on publication contains a lot of loose terms that give authorities the chance to interpret them as they please.”

A spread from 'Walls of Freedom'

A spread from ‘Walls of Freedom’ featuring a trompe l’oeil mural

Novelist and art historian Ahdaf Soueif, who wrote the foreword for Walls of Freedom, took to Facebook to denounce the seizure of the books and published her foreword in full.

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Gaseer’s Sisi poster, which riffs off Shepard Fairey’s Obama Hope poster, is one of the images that might be considered controversial in today’s Egypt.

“Our street art exemplified the difference between the revolution and the system: the system murdered, the revolution immortalized,” Soueif wrote in her foreword. “The system used teargas and live ammunition, the revolution used stones and drums and fireworks. The system built brutal, obstructive walls partitioning the streets of downtown, the revolution transformed these walls into rainbows, tropical beaches, and playful trompe l’oeil vistas of the streets themselves.”

h/t Dazed

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...