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Privacy & Cookies Policy
The tongues.cc website is operated by Voodoo Voodoo Ltd (‘TONGUES’).
This privacy policy applies to TONGUES.
We want you to enjoy our website and services secure in the knowledge that we have implemented fair information practices to protect your privacy. By visiting our website, you are accepting the practices described in our privacy policy, including our use of cookies and similar online tracking technologies. If you do not agree to the terms of this privacy policy, please do not use the website.
TONGUES may change this policy from time to time by updating this page and you should regularly check to ensure that you are happy with any changes. This policy was last updated on 11 February 2020.
The policy outlines:
1. General principle
2. How we collect information
3. Types of information we may collect
4. How we use your information
5. How we protect the information we collect
6. Access to your personal information
7. How to contact us
1. General principle
There are two types of information we may collect from you when you use the website: non-personally identifiable information and personally identifiable information. Non-personally identifiable information does not individually identify you, but it may include tracking and usage information about your general location, demographics, use of the website and the internet. Personally identifiable information is information that you voluntarily provide when you set up a user account, subscribe to a newsletter, or query that can individually identify you and may include your name and email address etc.
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As part of providing our website and services to you we use a limited number of third-party services that perform functions on our behalf, including but not limited to website hosting, server monitoring, tracking user behaviour, marketing automation services, and customer service.
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You may request a copy of the personal information we hold about you by submitting a written request to [email protected]. We may only implement requests with respect to the personal information associated with the particular email address you use to send us the request. We will try and respond to your request as soon as reasonably practical. When you receive the information, if you think any of it is wrong or out of date, you can ask us to change or delete it for you. 
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7. Contact us
If you have any questions about our privacy policy or our use of your information, please contact us at [email protected].

Bahia Shehab

May 05 / 2021


Bahia Shehab is a Lebanese-Egyptian artist, designer, educator and art historian. Her research focuses primarily on the Arabic script and its contemporary use as a manifestation of identity. Themes she explores include Arab politics, Islamic art, feminism and women’s rights. Inquisitive and questioning, she draws upon history and politics to depict the ongoing struggle against oppression and the role of creativity to inspire social change.


Q >Tell us about moments in your life that helped define or change your identity.

A >There are many key moments I think. For me, the first one would be living through the war in Lebanon. That was a very important learning experience in the shaping of who I am and my perception of the world in general. The other one would definitely be living through the [Egyptian] revolution. I feel like I’m very lucky — I mean some people would consider these two events quite unfortunate — but I think that living through major historic transitions brings out our humanity, at least to some of us. It helps put life in perspective.

Q >What’s your biggest source of learning?

A >I think if we are attentive enough, and our senses are tuned enough, then everything can be a source of learning. You can learn from a pet, from a plant, from a cloud, from a flower. The way the wind blows a curtain, or the way a bird is chirping in a different way in the morning. The children, the elderly, my students, my colleagues, people, even the garbage collectors on the street are a source of learning.

Q >Tell us about your most unconventional project (even if it did not materialise).

A >I wanted to create an exhibition to celebrate and commemorate the 2011 Egyptian Revolution. It obviously did not materialise as the revolution did not realise its aims, but I did write about it in my latest memoir: You Can Crush the Flowers: A Visual Memoir of the Egyptian Revolution, a book that was published by Gingko Press for the 10 year anniversary of the uprising. I start the book by describing what a museum for the revolution, from my point of view, would look like. 

Q >Could you tell us about your politically charged graffitis, and how has your activist work evolved over time?

A >I think I never liked to be labelled as an activist, it’s such a huge term, and it’s so uncomfortable for people who live under dictatorships because it really puts us in trouble so we try to avoid the label of activists as much as possible. I consider myself to be a concerned citizen, and not just in the country where I reside, but rather as a concerned global citizen. I’m concerned for all of us, and my work has evolved from a stencil on the street, to building a garbage pyramid to reflect on the state of our environment. My artwork varies a lot, it’s not just graffiti. To me the medium does not really matter — whether it’s graffiti, an installation or a museum piece, my concerns are all the same. How can we, collectively as human beings, take care of each other and of this planet?

Q >Social movements and protest art — through your work, what change do you wish to see happen?

A >Unfortunately, I’ve come to the realisation that I will never live to see what I wish to see happen. But I hope my children, your children, the children of this planet will live to see the change that we want to see happen. As a historian, I’m humbled that I have history to look at and understand that as a humanity, there’s always good and evil, and there’s always this fight between these two powers. We are the embodiment of these two energies, and this is a constant fight, it will never stop. How can we cut down on the misery, pain and injustice that we witness around us? Before we leave, another group of people will come to carry on the message and keep fighting for light. There will always be seeds of light everywhere; evil will never fully take over. I’m a realist and I know that good will never always take over fully either. It’s unrealistic, it’s part of nature. There’s always good and evil, this is in us. How can we cut down on the damage of evil? All of us together, collectively. These are the questions.

I will not see change happen, I just keep my head low and I work, trying to make ideas about justice, tolerance and our humanity more accessible. I don’t know if this will change anything, I just know that I need to keep working for it.

Q >How do you interact with people who share different views from you?

A >I respect them. But unfortunately, depending on the context, I try not to interact. When you have opposing views, it can be dangerous, people can be quite aggressive. I have the privilege of being at the American University in Cairo, where I’m able to have a platform to share my ideas, be respected and listened to. I know that people who don’t have this kind of privilege can get killed. Even if you have that privilege you can suffer unfortunate consequences if you voice your views. So I only share my views with people who care about listening, and hope that they will influence others. I don’t have a space where I can share views with people who are different from me. Right now, where I am, if you do that, you can get into serious trouble. I don’t know if we will be able to do that anytime soon, it’s extremely polarised.

Q >Which topics do you find yourself debating these days?

A >We need to reflect in order to understand, and we need to digest. 10 years ago, during the revolution, I said it would take 50 years for us to understand the impact of what this revolution means. Only 10 years have passed, and I’m still trying to understand what we lived through. The same applies to the war in Lebanon. I keep going back to these two events because they’re formative, in shaping history and shifting its course. As historians, we love transitional periods. This is when you get the most intense melting pot of ideas, between what’s before and what is coming. To me, introspective moments are always what I’m interested in, reflecting on social shifts: where are we going, and how do these shifts occur within our community?

Q >Unpacking and documenting the Arab visual culture and design — could you share some of your favourite designers and projects?

A >After publishing and co-authoring the book: A History of Arab Graphic Design, I feel intimidated to mention specific names. There are many less known artists and designers who we were able to collect in this book. I would recommend exploring it to discover the rich history Arab visual culture has. There are so many creatives that nobody knows much about.

I wouldn’t say I have favourite creatives, but to mention highlights from each country — from Iraq, I would mention Dia Azzawi, Hashim Al-Samarchi. From Egypt: Hilmi Al-Tuni, Mohieddin Ellabbad and Mohammad Hijji. From Lebanon, Samir Sayegh. From Syria, I would highlight Youssef Abdelke and Abdelkader Arnaout. Kamal Boullata from Palestine. Mohamed Melehi from Morocco. From Sudan, Hassan Musa.

These are just a few quick references since there are so many more, hundreds of brilliant talented people. 

Since I only mentioned men, I’m going to highlight a few generations of women designers, some of them are not documented in our book. Mouna Bassili Sehnaoui and Rana Salam in Lebanon. Also from Lebanon but based in the UK, we have Arlette Haddad Boutros and Nadine Chahine. 

Again, there are so many! It’s fascinating and thrilling to know them and follow their work. It’s a community and I’m proud to be part of it. I’m honoured and humbled that we are documenting and sharing these creatives with the world. 


Images courtesy of the artist © Bahia Shehab

A Thousand Times No (Cairo, Egypt) — the project is inspired by the Egyptian uprising of 2011 and it’s ongoing in different cities around the world, used in political campaigns globally.

A Thousand Times No — art installation and research project. This seminal artwork was the seed of inspiration for all the street work that followed in 2011. Group exhibition: ‘The Future of Tradition / Tradition of the Future’ at the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany in 2010

Some People — in May and June of 2012 the mass morale was very low, there were a lot of anti-revolution feelings in the air, even by people who were strong supporters of the revolution. This campaign was to remind people of the objectives of the revolution and the sacrifices that people made for us to get to where we are.

Mokhar Awra — directed at the mass sexual harassment incidents against women during protests in Tahrir.

You can crush the flowers, but you can't delay spring (verse by poet Pablo Neruda), 2011 (Cairo)

Pyramids of Garbage — is erected in one of the most densely populated areas in Cairo, home to the largest concentration of garbage collectors.

Cash is King II: Money Talks — features works of art on banknotes, when, executed en masse, becomes a huge collection of defaced money-art composed of bills and currency from all over the world.

Murals: Lincolin — Nicola de la Haye building, University of Lincoln, UK.

At the corner of a dream — video installation at the Aga Khan Center, London.

The Chronicles of Flowers — video installation at Zilberman Gallery, Istanbul Turkey.