One year ago Mostapha El-Shafey took this now iconic photo of a protestor, Abdulrahman Ezz, confronting police in Meydan Tahrir. Today, Egyptians aim to take back Tahrir and the revolution. There will be many more photos and videos of bravery, of violence, of fear and of triumph. As I now reflect on my thoughts from last year (I was very annoyed with the asinine media coverage, if you’ll recall), I find myself just as hopeful as before. The election results may not have been ideal, the military refuses to relinquish power while maintaining damaging neo-colonial economic and political relations with the West, patriarchy and rigid conservatism persist (and I’m obligated to cheer on Tunisia in lieu of Egypt in the African Cup of Nations), but Egyptians have been publicly and fearlessly resisting SCAF since Mubarak’s ouster.
This is no small thing. The vast majority of active Egyptian organizers have been realistic. There were no dreams that things would change overnight (or even over the span of a year), no denial of the realities of global social, political, racial and economic hierarchies. Just the ability to imagine and put into action the quest for a free Egypt, a free Palestine, a radical change throughout Africa and the world. True potential for liberation has always depended upon radical imagination — that is, the ability to see and craft a world beyond what we understand it to be. Nawal el Saadawi writes in her autobiography, A Daughter of Isis, that “imagination for me was like air. I had to breathe it.”
So while we wait again to see what happens in Egypt over the next few weeks, months, and years, think of the Egyptian and Tunisian artwork Orlando Reade has been sharing on the blog (and the street art well covered in many other spaces). Think of the new and old musical traditions of Egypt and their role in this movement. The media may be preoccupied with Barack Obama’s next speech on ‘what Egypt needs’ or the spectre of an ‘Islamic takeover’ in North Africa, but we aren’t.