Women on Walls
A film by Neta Norrmo
“There have been no significant women in Egyptian history,” a young man said to his girlfriend observing the street art project, Women on Walls.
He’s wrong of course. There have been many but we rarely see them anywhere. Not in history books, not in newspapers, not in paintings…. not in any country.
We see the truth when we see the world, but we each have our own perspective. In 400 AD, the Alexandrian philosopher, Hypatia, wrote about the importance of what we see with our own eyes. According to Socrates, she could “directly confront the powerful and attend men’s meetings without fear.” She was hence mutilated by a group of provoked men, and her dead body was burned.
I was asked to follow the project, Women on Walls (WOW), or Sit El 7eta, an initiative using graffiti and street art to talk about women and women’s rights. I didn’t need much time to make my decision. I traveled to Egypt and started to document the WOW workshop that was held in the spring of 2013.
As a Swede, it is a privilege for me to meet and hear the point of view of young Egyptians of today. We seldom see or hear forceful voices working with positive projects from countries in crisis, whether in the news or elsewhere. The situation of women is a global issue, aside from the fact that the Egyptian people have to deal with other pressing problems. Women are also killed in Sweden by domestic violence; and women are abused and harassed when taking part in the public sphere such as in the media.
We have a lot to learn from each other and from discussing these burning women’s issues in public.
To see and to be seen is vital in life. We talk so much, but what is said and heard isn´t at all as powerful as what we see.
Women on Walls shows so many images of the half of humankind to which we are so seldom exposed. It is so rare that it is easy to think that women don´t matter.
In the film we meet graffiti painters of both sexes. Men are also welcome to take part in WOW’s street art and graffiti projects, and all with their own experiences.
The film is poetic but also effectively forceful in revealing the problems of today. Art has the advantage of not presenting us one interpretation of the world. It gives us many. Street art and graffiti bring the full complexity of our lives into the public space.
What we see changes how we think.
Neta Norrmo has an extensive background as a filmmaker, producer and reporter in the field of culture at Swedish Television, making both documentaries and programs. She developed the Gothenburg International Film Festival’s daily magazine into a Web TV show, she is a contributor to Swedish Radio, and publishes audio books of classical poetry as editor and narrator. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a master’s degree in Art and a MFA in curating from Gothenburg University.
Today she also makes experimental films for museums, apps and alternative screenings.