Saturday, September 07, 2013

An Introduction to Street Art In The Kingdom of Bahrain


Anti Formula 1 Graffiti in Bahrain
The small group of islands that make up Bahrain may be known as the smallest Arab country in the world, yet it has the one of the oldest cultural histories in the Gulf region. It was the home of the ancient civilisation of Dilmun, which paved the path for a thriving visual history. With government funded initiates and annual art festivals, it’s no wonder why Bahrain today has one of the most vibrant street art scenes in the region.

The street art scene is also quite active. One initiative worth mentioning is “Paste it,” a project established by local graffiti artist Leon D aiming to develop the street art scene in Bahrain. Artists where encouraged to place wheat pastes around the City in an aim to beautify the area and promote artistic expression. Leon D is known for his signature wheat paste technique, which usually blends Arabic style and fantasy. He is also the founder of Bahrain street art crew [Mythicolo-G].

Wheatpaste by Leon D
Other notable initiatives include a Street Art contest aimed at Bahrain's youth, and Alwan 338, a month long art festival organised by Al Riwaq Space celebrating local and public art. This year, artists were invited to paint murals around the bohemian Adliya district. The results included some impressive pieces by artists Mercedes de Garay, Mohammed Sharkawi, Ali Hussein, and Ali Hakim.

In February 14th 2011, the regional Arab Spring hit Bahrain, and people turned to urban spaces to express their demands and views on the current events. Politically charged graffiti took over the streets and there was a clear territorial divide. The authorities monitored and censored political graffiti within the city, where further outside the city in smaller village communities, the art was left untouched.

The annual Formula 1 race also fell victim to the anti-government protests causing a surge of anti Formula 1 graffiti to appear around town. This forced Bahraini authorities to cancel the event. Although the political turmoil has since calmed down, Bahrain’s street art scene is going strong.

The people are using the walls to spread their message now more than ever, and they see its potential as a catalyst for change. This can only indicate a promising future for street art in Bahrain.

Check back soon for more extensive reviews on the street art scene in the Middle East.
Leon D for the "Paste It" project


Tamadher Ali for the "Paste It" project
Mytham and Batool for the "Paste It" project
Mohammed Sharkawy for Alwan 338 at Al Riwaq Space
Mercedes Gonzalez de Garay for Alwan 338 at Al Riwaq Space
Ali Hussein for Alwan 338 at Al Riwaq Space
Ali Hakim for Alwan 338 at Al Riwaq Space
Bahrain Spring graffiti, Arabic translation: Unarmed people (Matador), The violence of the ruling family (Bull)