This is the kind of thing that make you love those who “break the law”. When approached by the Homeland series to make a set more authentic, three Cairo-based street artists took things to another level.
When the Showtime series first reached out to an artist known as ‘Stone’ to find graffiti artists, he said that those he approached were reluctant due to the series’ deep racial issues and political standpoints. But then, he thought,
What if we could use this as an opportunity to be subversive, to make a point with it?
The three artists, Heba Amin, Stone, and Caram Kapp were given images of pro-Assad graffiti (“apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp”) as inspiration.
Our instructions were: (1) the graffiti has to be apolitical (2) you cannot copy the images because of copyright infringement (3) writing “Mohamed is the greatest, is okay of course”. We would arm ourselves with slogans, with proverbs allowing for critical interpretation, and, if the chance presented itself, blatant criticism directed at the show. And so, it came to be.
The reason? The artists feel that Homeland relies on “inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans”. And, if you have taken the time to watch the show, is pretty true.
It’s very important for us to address the idea that this kind of stereotyping is very dangerous because it helps form people’s perceptions of an entire region, a huge region, which in turn affects foreign policy. It was a way to claim back our image.
Here’s a scene with #HomelandIsRacist seen on the wall:
And other scenes featured in Homeland’s Season 5, Episode 2:
But how did the artists get away with it? Apparently, they only had two days to complete the work – and shooting would take place on the third.
Set designers were too frantic to pay any attention to us; they were busy constructing a hyper-realistic set that addressed everything from the plastic laundry pins to the frayed edges of outdoor plastic curtains. It looked very Middle Eastern and the summer sun and heat helped heighten that illusion.
In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanising an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees.
The show has thus created a chain of causality with Arabs at its beginning and as its outcome – their own victims and executioners at the same time.
As was briefly written on the walls of a make-believe Syrian refugee camp in a former Futterphosphatfabrik (animal feed plant) in the outskirts of Berlin, the situation is not to be trusted.
So what exactly was written on the walls? Phrases such as “Homeland is NOT a series;” “Homeland is watermelon;” and “This show does not represent the views of the artists” as well as slogans containing cultural references, such as #BlackLivesMatter. Check out each of the images below, provided by the artists themselves.
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