Street art and the building of resilience in times of crisis: a view from the Middle East and the Gulf  

Hamad Bin Khalifa University 

Over the last few decades, the artworlds have witnessed a gradual expansion of art outside the strict confines of the museum space. Graffiti art and large communal murals in particular, regardless of aesthetic quality and political function, have been increasingly gaining terrain as platforms of resilience, the strengthening of ties between individuals and groups, and the development of stronger cultural and urban identities and ties. This is especially evident in situations of crisis, war, conflict or humanitarian emergencies or even situations of political crisis and transition. The present paper aims at discussing precisely the role of street art during such situations and the way street may acts as a catalyst for building communal resilience. It will focus on two case studies from the broader Middle East and Gulf region, with special reference to the role of female graffiti artists: first, the response of street artists to armed conflict and humanitarian emergencies, especially Yemen, Palestine and Syria. Secondly, the expansion of street art during the Covid 19 pandemic: while the art and entertainment sector has been severely impacted, and museums and galleries have closed down as part of confinement measures, street art, murals and graffiti walls have remained alive, building resilience and ‘spreading cheer’ as a response to the crisis.