Prior to the Arab uprisings, street art in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait was seen as a funky, yet westernized, form of expression. Over the past two years, street art has become the new wave of expression, after photography and graphic design became too popular. There is a certain power to this emerging phenomenon as it gives visibility to certain issues and shows discontent among the youth.
In Kuwait, street art targets issues of undocumented migrants and gender tensions, but there’s also plenty apolitical, individualistic works. In Saudi Arabia, pictures of street art circulate and are feverishly documented before they are erased by the state.
The works in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were clearly influenced by Egyptian street artists. The figure of Sad Panda, for example, appears inJeddah. The images of celebrities are used to send messages, most famously Um Kulthoum as a feminist figure. A few years ago in Beirut, the Mashrou’ Leila singer did the widely-known Um Kulthoum “Boos al-wawa” graffiti. Similar depictions of Um Kulthoum illustrated the clash between eras.