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Aya Tarek, an internationally known street artist from Alexandria, Egypt, doesn’t necessarily need a paper or canvas, or even a gallery to showcase her work – instead, every nook and cranny openly displays her art. Tarek is a woman of few words, yet her art yells and screams. The emerging muralist wants her art to be free for everyone to look at and wonder.
Aya’s very first influence was her grandfather, a poster artist in the 1960s. She joined Art school with vigor but the monotony she encountered wasn’t good for her inquisitive mind, which is why she decided to start experimenting with her expression as an artist in her grandfather’s studio.
“There [in the Art school] I had to study oil painting and nothing else. They bring you these objects, like a pot with a lid, and you have to draw this pot with lid for four years. So I started getting bored, and the first year I went back to my grandfather’s place and cleaned it up, and I told my friends to come over and experiment with stuff.”
Like many other contemporary artists, Aya found herself unwelcome at many galleries, whose structure and culture imposes certain stereotypes and beliefs. Experimenting with graffiti and various media, the artist started a war against the system with powerful weapons like the paintbrushes, paint, and paint rollers. Aya spilled her perspective on the walls of downtown Alexandria and has since wielded her weapons on three different continents.
Opening Up Minds
Aya changed the sad reality she faced and continues to succeed with her every work. Tarek creates enigmatic abstracts and has developed a specific style with satire in her art that gives a little controversial twist to the public issues. She just wants to awaken people and make them ponder.
“I just want to open the wonder-box and allow people to go wherever they want. You just have to think, that’s all.”
She was monumental in the Egyptian revolution that was taking many countries by storm, her artwork triggered many to join the graffiti scene in Egypt. In 2010, Aya starred in a feature film called Microphone explaining the art scene of that time: the propaganda and politicizing of every art movement and piece of work. While political climate and on-going social issues are a current presence in many of her works, Aya Tarek wants her work to be taken as art, a form of expression; not to be judged as always being a rebellion against political oppression. She puts emphasis on the fact that art should be for everyone and can be about anything. “The street is for everyone.”