Bahia Shehab, art historian, designer, artist
“When you want to deny all of the stereotypes that are imposed on you and that try to define your role in the world.
When you want to reject almost every aspect of your reality.
When you want to decline every political reality you live under.
When you want to dismiss all of the options available to you.
When you want to negate all the accusations that go hand in hand with your identity.
When you want to refuse to be an imitator or follower of the West, yet you also refuse the regressive interpretation of your heritage, a thousand no are not enough.”
Bahia Shehab: A Thousand Times No: The Visual History of Lam-Alif
For many years, the Lebanese-Egyptian art historian, designer and artist Bahia Shehab has studied ancient Arabic script and the visual heritage of the Islamic world. In 2010, she published A Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif on the development of the Arabic character for “No”. During the revolution in Egypt she began spraying the word on walls around the streets of Cairo, in conjunction with political statements such as “No to dictatorship”, “No to violence” and “No to military rule”. Her protest campaign became known across the world via the internet and attracted plenty of attention and recognition.
Bahia Shehab is currently Associate Professor at the American University in Cairo where she has developed a new Graphic Design program focused on the visual culture of the Arab world. She is a PhD candidate at Leiden University in the Netherlands studying Fatimid epigraphy. Bahia is also Executive Creative Director with MI7Cairo working on projects relevant to Egypt’s cultural heritage.
Shehab’s artworks have been displayed in galleries worldwide, including Italy, Germany, China and the UAE. Her graffiti art remains a part of Cairo’s cityscape.
Publications and statementsA Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif. Amsterdam 2010
TED-Talk “A Thousand Times No”, 2012
Cairo as Canvas – Bahia Shehab on her work at citysharing.ch