obsession sessions had a brief hiccup and we’re broadcasting on a Tuesday, blasphemy yes … but the show must go on. This week, meet the “Egyptian Banksy” as I like to call him, mysterious and anonymous, graffiti street artist El Teneen. In his own words “I started doing street art as El Teneen (Arabic for “Dragon”) anonymously in the first days of the Egyptian Revolution in 25 January 2011. Tear gas and protest chants inspired my first piece which was the face of Egypt’s ex-tyrant Hosni Mubarak with the word “Leave” underneath it. After Mubarak stepped down, I have tried to expose the lies and conspiracy theories of Egyptian state media, to condemn the brutality of the military junta that ruled Egypt more than a year and half, and now to mock political Islamists and their extremist take on freedoms.

I: What’s the earliest memory of a creative activity you did?

T: I had a case of fever when I was 9 and had to stay in bed for about a week. I had with me an empty notebook and two colors Turquoise and Aquamarine, and by the time I got better I filled the entire notebook with illustrations with these two colors. I don’t remember the drawings I made in this notebook well but I remember the experience of exploring the infinite possibilities of mixing just two colors.

I: If you weren’t doing what you do right now, what would you be doing?

T: I would be finishing my PhD.

I: Inspiration, who? what? where?

T:  Jokes. Puns. Taxi drivers. Ahwa (Cafes). Protest chants. Politician slip-ups. Street ads. Sheikhs. Youtube clips.

I: Share any of piece your work, recent or old and talk about it.

T: The word “Backwards” in Arabic is written under the face of angry sheikh Abdel-Monem El-Shaat. I made it as a poster a couple of weeks ago and pasted it in Cairo streets commenting on the reverse direction political Islamists are trying to steer Egypt to. Since Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi won the presidential elections earlier this year, voices of sheikhs are on the rise calling for backwards/retarded demands regarding issues such as the freedom of speech, human rights, and women rights.

Such anti-freedom voices use the name of revolution but they are trying to build an oppressive system not so different from Mubarak’s regime. They are, however, worse in the sense that instead of focusing on solving the problems for which the Egyptian revolution happened (for example social justice), they link religion with their power and their politics. Unfortunately, many Egyptians have easily fallen into the trap of believing this propaganda. I hope the “Backwards” campaign I am starting with this poster will be a counter movement.

I wrote about this piece but I didn’t translate it yet.

I: Name 5 websites that you check often.

Juxtapoz Street Art
Mobstr
Unurth
Arabawy
Suzee in the city

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Hi, I'm Ibraheem Youssef
I'm a Creative,
currently based in Toronto.

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Art Direction / Alignment / Colours
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