Like the other revolutionary countries – most notably Egypt, but also Tunisia, Bahrain and Syria – Libya has seen an explosion in street art. Under Gaddafi, neither political opposition nor independent cultural expressions were tolerated. Graffiti pieces like those you can see all over the streets today, mocking Gaddafi, celebrating the Libyan people, were unthinkable. Mashallah has put together a gallery with some of the street art of post-Gaddafi Libya. The photographs were taken in Benghazi, Tripoli and Misrata during February and March.
This mural can be seen next to the historical arch in Tripoli’s Old City.
Hands breaking free from chains, birds flying towards the sky, graffitied graffiti. A symbolic mural from Tripoli.
“No to the killings of innocent” says this piece just off Benghazi’s Freedom Square. The man carefully painted over the wall around the mural, leaving the message intact.
Omar Al-Mukhtar is a popular resistance hero who was hanged by the Italian colonialists in 1931. During the Gaddafi regime, he was omitted from national history and never mentioned in history text books in school. Today, his portrait can be seen everywhere in Benghazi.
Scribbles on a destroyed house on Misrata’s Tripoli Street, where fighting was heavy for several months.
In many Libyan cities, street names and the names of squares have been changed; formally or informally. According to graffiti, many streets now bear the names of martyred people from the neighbourhood. This wall in Misrata is filled with names of those who were killed in the fighting.
On a wall in Tripoli’s Old Town.
Painted on a wall on the outskirts of Tripoli’s Old Town.
Murals mocking Gaddafi are everywhere. This one has a sign that says “Exit”, pointing in the direction to where Gaddafi is headed. The old leader is being crushed by the weight of his Jamahiriya, the word he used to describe his so-called “state of the masses”.
A beautiful piece from a tunnel in Benghazi.
“Libya – the hope of generations”.
“The random firing of bullets scares us” says this mural in central Tripoli. After the war ended, an abundance of weapons in the country has led to many people being accidentally shot.
The green-painted doors were everywhere in Gaddafi’s Libya — green was the official colour of the past regime. Today, they are popular canvases for street artists.
A painting in Tripoli’s Old Town.
Dignity, Equality, Rule of Law, Justice, Struggle — concepts familiar from all the revolutions of the past year.
A Tuareg with the Libyan flag.
“Misrata — the city of resistance/endurance”. This is a message that can be seen all over the formerly besieged town.
In central Benghazi.
“Who am I” — a phrase alluding to Gaddafi’s infamous February 22 speech in which he asked the Libyan people “Min antum?”, “Who are you?”
An ever-present motif on the streets: the restored pre-Gaddafi red-green-black flag. In this Tripoli mural, the green Jamahariya flag is ripped down to reveal the new banner behind it.
A Benghazi wall shows how big inspirations Tunisia and Egypt were to the Libyan revolution.
Edits by Josef Burton.
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Jenny Gustafsson is one of the co-founders of Mashallah News. She lives in Beirut since 2009, and writes independently for publications in Swedish and English. Most of all, she enjoys being on the road – she has reported from places like India, Bangladesh, Libya, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, USA, Tunisia and Egypt.
Karim Mostafa is a photojournalist working for magazines and newspapers, mainly documenting issues relating to society and development. During the last few years, he has worked across the Middle East, in India, Bangladesh, Honduras and Guatemala.
22 thoughts on “Where the streets have new names”
Amazing :) , good job.
come on. if street art is the expression of the people, then there has to be street art out there that is pro-gaddafi and hating the new regime. I’m sorry I just don’t buy it that Libyans are all happy their country is destroyed and leader killed, because the majority weren’t rebels. I saw the pro-gaddafi rally video. That was a lot of people.
propaganda: you’re right that pro-Gaddafi sentiments exist, as do hatred of the new regime. this, however, is not something that’s expressed on walls in the main cities (let’s just say now is not the time to do such graffiti)
I agree with the Mashallah Team and further – the pro-gaddafi rally video that you speak of (in Tripoli on July 1st 2011 with the long green flag, if I am not mistaken) did indeed take place however it was no where near as popular as the videos would lead you to believe. Subsequent analysis of the video revealed that some people were, somehow, present in more than one place on the square – which means one of two things – 1) That Gaddafi was way ahead of everybody with cloning technology or 2) Magic touch of photoshop was used to multiply the appearance of attendees….
“Who am I” – a phrase alluding to Gaddafi’s infamous February 22 speech in which he asked the Libyan people “Min entum?”, “Who are you?”
FALSE! He said “Who are you?” to the filthy Qataris who were funded and arming the rebels from the beginning. He blamed them for the trouble they caused in Libya.