In the third and final event co-hosted by the University of East London and Arab Awakening, Professor Charless Tripp argued that 2011 was not, as is often taken for granted, "year zero for Arab creativity". Rather, he argued, the Arab spring represented a more focused concentration of well-established dissident art, pointing to the defacement of a picture of Saddam Hussein by defeated Iraqi soldiers in 1991 as a powerful smashing of the symbolic power of the dictator's face.
Art is a reaction against oppression, and the danger for any observer, particularly in the west, would be to separate the art from its context. There is a risk of imposing a western interpretation, or embracing only the most "western-friendly" face of Middle Eastern Art that western commentators like ourselves have to guard against. Near the end of his talk, Tripp related a story of Banksy painting on the controversial West Bank wall. An elderly Palestinian told him it looked beautiful, before adding: "We don't want it to be beautiful, we hate this wall. Go home."
Special thanks are due to Alice Wagstaffe and Mazen Zoabi who went to great lengths to record the event and to edit the video.