On Codes and Translation: Understanding Alaa Awad


The following is a shorter version of a chapter I contributed to Translating Dissent: Voices from and within the Egyptian Revolution, ed. Mona Baker, out now via Routledge and available for purchase.  This content has been edited for brevity. 

In 2013, I gave a talk at the Petrie Museum in London to an audience of Egyptology students and academics. I presented the work of Alaa Awad, a 33-year-old Egyptian street artist who had painted murals of ancient Egyptian art around ahrir Square during the political protests of 2011 and 2012.

As I showed them a series of murals depicting women in fierce, coloured robes walking to battle, or a row of bearded men kneeling before the throne of a mouse being fanned by a cat, I could sense the room temperature changing as they began to realise that the paintings were almost perfect replicas of the ancient Egyptian murals they had studied.

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