At the Corner of a Dream
A Journey of Revolution and Resistance: The Street Art of Bahia Shehab
by Bahia Shehab
Published: September 2019
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Published with the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations
Lebanese-Egyptian street artist Bahia Shehab began taking to the streets during the Egyptian revolution of 2011. Since then, she has taken her peaceful resistance, using lines from Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish, to the streets of the world, from New York to Tokyo, Amsterdam to Honolulu. This book documents not only Shehab’s striking artwork itself, but also the stories of the people she meets along the way, and her observations from the streets of each new city she visits. It is her artist manifesto, a cry for freedom and dignity, and a call to never stop dreaming.
‘The world has been led to believe that the Egyptian Revolution has failed. The mainstream media would have us believe that law and order have been reinstated by the military regime. All forms of resistance and opposition have been silenced. This book aims to offer another side to this story; it is an expression of our human right to live in freedom and with dignity.’ At the Corner of a Dream hopes to illustrate how an idea that started on the streets of Cairo has travelled to the walls of the world.
‘I paint poetry by the Palestinian poet of resistance Mahmoud Darwish (1941-2008) on the walls of different cities around the world in new and originals forms of the Arabic script. I use lines from his poetry to tell the world that ideas cannot be killed, to show that we are united in our humanity and our struggle against oppression and dictatorship. Darwish is seen by many as a poet on the side of the People, whatever their race and wherever they are. ‘At the Corner of a Dream’ is a line from his poem ‘It was what it was going to be’. I paint Darwish’s words on the walls of cities around the world in anticipation of a dream that I believe is around the corner for all of us.’
Bahia Shehab is a multidisciplinary artist, designer and art historian. Her work is concerned with identity and preserving cultural heritage. Through investigating Islamic art history she reinterprets contemporary Arab politics, feminist discourse and social issues. She is Professor of Design and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo where she has developed a full design curriculum mainly focused on visual culture of the Arab world. She has taught over fourteen courses on the topic. She frequently lectures internationally on Arab visual culture and design education, peaceful protest, and Islamic cultural heritage. Her artwork has been on display in exhibitions, galleries and streets internationally. The documentary Nefertiti’s Daughters featuring her street artwork during the Egyptian uprising was released in 2015. Her work has received a number of international recognitions and awards some of which include the BBC 100 Women list (2013), TED Senior fellowship (2016), and a Prince Claus Award (2016). Her publications include “A Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif.” She is the first Arab woman to receive the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture (2016).
“Shehab uses the past to shed new light on the present and inspires the next generation of academics and graphic designers.”
– Prince Claus Fund, The Netherlands