Drawing counter-power

Reflections from State of Power illustrator, Ammar Abo Bakr

Working on this project was incredibly interesting and a rare privilege to create art work for such a wide variety of important causes across the world.

In these times, the question of popular power or counter-power is riddled with uncertainty. This uncertainty sometimes comes from the lack of new ideas suitable for shaping these times, but more importantly, it derives from the unpredictable nature of the current crisis and tragedy.

In such times, revisiting the past becomes more of a primal necessity, going beyond the desire of ideological interests. We soon realise that these historic attempts of counter-power, unfinished visions, or unresolved memories reflect the unresolved and unfinished aspect of our own visions and memories, in particular for me those relating to the recent unrest in Egypt following 2011. We know that it is nearly impossible to predict what is to come. This ambiguity is fierce and true worldwide. In the Northern hemisphere, thought and culture have become the main victims. In the Southern hemisphere, entire cities, villages, streets and homes pay the real price. I believe that discussions that question the future of popular power must accept this ambiguity and not ignore its existence. This means viewing the past, recent and distant, with the same distortion we see of our present.

In all the report's art work, there is an obvious digital distortion (glitch) to the sketches that I have drawn to illustrate the many interesting topics. I believe that what brings many struggles together is not just the noble ideas and principles of solidarity, justice and freedom, but more concretely, our vulnerability to this ambiguity, our shared universal scars from facing the unknown future, the distortion, the glitch.

The artwork was done in collaboration with the graphic designer Adam Shaalan.


Ammar Abo Bakr is a well-known muralist and graffiti artist in Egypt and worldwide. His work has depicted the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Egyptian history, and Islamic culture. Throughout the revolution, Ammar Abo Bakr painted despite police oppression, which would cover his art with white paint. His work often challenges government regimes or injustice and is most famously found on Mohamed Mahmoud Street in Cairo. However, it can also be seen in Alexandria, Beirut, Brussels, Amsterdam, Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt. In an interview with Jadaliyya Abo Bakr said, "...While we [artists] strongly oppose the military and want to mark that stance, we love the people and would also like to present art to the people... I want to present something of beauty to people who can see it, see that their streets have beautiful murals and feel joy".