Interview on “Crying in the Cairo Curfew” painting

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Why did you paint this painting?

When I saw the crowds gathering in Tahrir Square to overthrow the 30 year reign of “president” Mubarack, I knew I had to start a painting on the revolution.  This was the first revolution started on Twitter and Facebook.

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How did the social media make a difference?

Social media allowed the citizens to organize its protest groups and outwit the state police sent to disperse the gathering people.  The police literally could not stay ahead of the breaking news via social media.

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What were the triggers to this revolution?

I believe strongly that the historic election of Obama and making his speech in Cairo sent a shock wave across the muslim world where no black man had ever risen to power.  Here was a man of the people overthrowing the established powers that be in a visible way.

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Why did the Mursi, the recently elected president go wrong?

First, I would say that it was a shame that they didn’t use democratic means to overthrow Mursi.  Second, the Supreme Court prepared the way for chaos by completely dismissing the recently elected Parliament.  That election was not totally clean, but was very important to frame the new Presidency of Egypt and curtail any abuse.  Once Mursi was completely in power he made the mistake of overstepping his power and not seeking consolation from all parties in moving forward.  Additionally, the current mess is mainly due to overly bureacratic government that was there before Mursi came to power.

What were the underlying problems in Egypt?

Besides the dictators posing as Presidents in Egypt, there are several out-of-control issues.  One of the major issues is real estate with 92% of property held without title or basically most of the countries private wealth.  Without title, no financing can be done, so the property is severly underdeveloped.  This is also why most cars are bought with cash, so only 10-20 year cars are imported since citizens can only come up with $2000 – $3000 to buy a car in cash.  Another major issue is that 6.8 million people work in the black market or one in every 12 people in Egypt due to lack of paperwork to make the work or the business legal.  This leads to major frustration as small shops can never become chains or large corporations.  So inefficient large businesses remain in power; there is no positive destruction of bad business like in the West.

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Is there a book on this economic tragedy?

Yes, Hernando de Soto wrote an excellent book on the economic problems of Egypt and other 3rd world countries called, “The Mystery of Capital”

 

Is the painting available?

No, but you can get a print at http://fineartamerica.com

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

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Interview on “What a Jasmine!” painting

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So what is this painting about?

This painting was done in response to Ai Weiwei getting arrested by the Chinese police over one tweet! He was sent to jail for several months for tax evasion right after this tweet.

What did he actually tweet?

“I didn’t care about jasmine at first, but people who are scared by jasmine sent out information about how harmful jasmine is often, which makes me realize that jasmine is what scares them the most. What a jasmine!”

Why do you think the CCP authorities responded so harshly?

This was only the cherry on the sundae so to say. As the Arab Spring started to awaken across the whole Middle East, China was blocking any news from the entire area to avoid a rise up in China. There were a few risings in China, which was called the Jasmine Revolution after the tea. The CCP censor then blocked any reference to tea, Jasmine, Arab Spring, revolution on any social media.

Is this the first time they used such drastic censorship?

They lightened up a bit during the 2008 Olympics, but got the feeling they got their fingers burned opening up, since all the protests about Tibet poured in globally as they toured the Olympic torch under guard– the only tour under guard ever. Not even Hitler was that paranoid in the 1936 Olympics! Hitler tried to prove race superiority, but was thrown astray by US runner Jesse Owens.

nazi olympicsphelps

After US swimmer Michael Phelps crushed the Chinese 2008 Olympics with 8 Gold medals, China said he was a “fish” and tried to accuse him of doping after having entered several underage kids in gymnastics. You see the parallels?

You can see earlier versions of Chinese news censorship during various US elections, they only put up the likely winner candidate and no other photo to minimize the feel of freedom in democracy. Chinese citizens never got to even see any face but Obama as if he was appointed as in China.

What does the lettering in the painting say?

ShawNshawN says…
Ai Weiwei says…
Confuscious says…
Chiang Chai-shek says…
Mao says…
Dalai lama says…
Drink Tea!

What are the various elements in the painting?

The main letting “Drink Tea!” had a background of a popular Jasmine tea in Hong Kong on the left. On the right the background is an image of Mao as the Cool-Aid man saying “Drink!” in a funny commercialization. It is a way of toning down the crimes against humanity under Mao with his image used in pop art.

Putin has done the same recently in Russia with his ridiculous poses in every possible Russian sport to hide his blunt use of power.

putin astronaut putin 007 putin swim putin judo putin ski putin beer putin glide

In the white lettering is the outline of the Bird’s Nest stadium that Ai Weiwei helped consult on. At that time, Ai Weiwei was a celebrated artist by the regime as the modern face of China. Ai Weiwei later distanced himself from this project.

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Why did you get interested in the Ai Weiwei?

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Well, I had been interested in Ai Weiwei since his infamous backpack art display. He had investigated the deaths of child students in the Sichuan earthquake, who died due to shoddy construction techniques in their school buildings. The CCP tried to block the investigation, but Ai Weiwei gathered all the names of the victims to list in his studio in Beijing. Later the CCP bull dozed his studio for being illegal.

 

Do you have a monthly newsletter?

Yes. I send about every 4-6 weeks at http://shawnshawn.co/Site/Contact

Qatari poet jailed for life for poem celebrating the Arab Spring

I found this great blog on http://www.artthreat.net. Check it out!

Qatari poet Muhammad ibn al-Dheeb al-Ajami was sentenced to life in prison for writing and performing a poem celebrating Tunisia’s Arab Spring.

The poet’s lawyer, who is appealing the decision, has said that the trial was held in secret, the poet was not allowed to defend himself or even to enter a plea. According to an article inThe Guardian, Ajami was charged with “insulting the Gulf nation’s ruler, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and inciting to overthrow the ruling system”, a crime punishable by death.

Ajami is a third-year student at Cairo University studying literature.  The poem came to public attention after a video was posted on Youtube. Ajami has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in November 2011.

Qatar is home to the international news network Al Jazeera, including Al Jazeera English whose coverage of the middle-east and international news in general has garnered increasing respect from Western audiences.   It is a cruel irony indeed that the government that funds such journalistic integrity also restricts freedom of speech in such a violent and reactionary manner.

Daraa Drought Drowned by a Bloody Bath

So how did you come up with such a long title to your work?

Yes, it is a bit wild and long. Daraa was the epicenter in the Arab Spring uprising when it came to Syria. People first started to protest and march to demand reforms. After no reforms were offered, the people started demanding President Assad step down from power. Assad decided to terrorize the people to get the people back in line of fear. Many could speculate that Obama’s rise to power in the US showed the world that a new face could come to power outside a traditional power base in the US. Additionally, much of the population was suffering under ill thought of central socialist planning and was united via social media. We could perhaps say this was the first revolution coming out of the power of social media.

Why did you get interested in the Arab Spring?

Well, I happen to know a few people in the region from my Master’s program and was concerned over the welfare of the people. By now, over 40,000 civilians have died in Syria simply because the leader refuses to step down gracefully. He is following his father’s footprints of a scorched Earth policy in the 1980s with the last civilian uprising.

So what are the elements in your painting?

I have multiple layers to the painting. I looked back on the long history of Syria for inspiration. The Assyrians were the first invaders of Egypt during the Pharaohs, so the history is very long and has multiple rulers over these flat lands with no natural defense like say Switzerland with its mountains. There were multiple kingdoms: Egypt, Assyrian, Islamic, Roman, Persian, Macedonian and Ottoman just to name a few. Hence, I added symbols of the major kingdoms: Roman coins under Caesar, Persian stamp of Cersus, Umayyid coins, Ottoman flags and Russian flags. There are also other currencies and flags of recent major powers backing either side: France, Russia, US, UK, Israel, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Besides multiple symbols I have taken recent news articles on the Syrian Civil War in major power languages: Arabic, Persian, English, French, Chinese, Russian and Hebrew. Syria has always been a pawn of the major powers with its recent boundaries drawn by France in 1920 after breaking up the Ottoman Empire.

So what is the fist about?

Interesting enough the fist originally comes from the Black Panthers as well as the symbol of communists worldwide; the hand extended out is from the fascists under Mussolini and Hitler. The fist was adapted by the Free Syrian Army. I left out the other radical Islamic symbols of al-Queda and others although they would have been relevant as well.

So why is the painting in Christmas colors? Isn’t that a bit gruesome irony?

Actually, the green and red colors are the colors of the current and 1932 flag. Black is another color in both flags, which I originally was going to use as drips from the text of the poem. The poem is in gold, which represents the stars in both flags. So is this a battle cry poem of war or of ancient times? Originally, I had wanted to use an Assyrian war poem as that would really pull together the very long and intertwined Syrian history. I found text, but had no translation available on-site, so decided to try more modern prose, since that was easily translateable or so I thought. My research uncovered a famous Syrian poet living in exile that had written poetry over 20 years and revolutionized all Arabic poetry with modern prose and style. As this was revolution, I thought revolutionary prose is and was appropiate.

So what is in the poem?

This poem is actually a small piece of an epic poem of Adonis called “This is my name”. The poem was written only 2 years after the bitter defeat of the Arab allies trying to take Israel in 1967. The poem has the sense of the meaningless of war and hopelessness without focusing on Israel (in this section). I felt it was appropiate as it has the focus on a lost child, which is poignant considering many children have been killed needless by the regime in the war.

Can you give a translation of the poem?

And I shall call this city a cadaver

And I shall call Syria’s trees mournful birds

A flower or a song perhaps

Will be born of the naming

And I shall call the desert moon a palm tree

Perhaps the earth shall awaken and become

A child again or the dream of a child

There is nothing left to sing my melodies:

The dissenters shall come and

The light shall come at its appointed hour…

Only madness remainsImage