Street artists bomb primetime with 'Homeland is racist’ graffiti

Street artists bomb primetime with 'Homeland is racist’ graffiti
Hacking Homeland — Artists Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone cover Homeland’s set with slogans that mock the show’s inaccurate and damaging portrayal of the Middle East and War on Terror.

As former CIA Agent Carrie Mathison leads German oligarch Otto Düring down an alley in a Syrian refugee camp, they pass an unassuming piece of graffiti in Arabic. Like most viewers, the network which aired this episode of the popular series Homeland on primetime TV, missed its significance. But for anyone with a good grasp of Arabic, they could read ‘Homeland is racist’ and see slogans mocking the show’s comically inaccurate portrayal of the Middle East peppered across the show’s set.

Street artists Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone answered a call for “Arabian street artists” to help the show’s producers make their Syrian refugee camp set in Berlin look more authentic. Aware of the show’s reputation for its damaging portrayal of Muslims, initially they were skeptical, “until we considered what a moment of intervention could relay about our own and many others’ political discontent with the series,” they write in a statement on Heba Amin’s website. “It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself.”

Top: we didn’t resist, so he conquered us riding on a donkey; bottom: The situation is not to be trusted; left: This show does not represent the views of the artists (photos courtesy of the artists)

Top: we didn’t resist, so he conquered us riding on a donkey. Bottom: The situation is not to be trusted. Left: This show does not represent the views of the artists (photos courtesy of the artists)

If you haven’t watched the show, its grasp of the War on Terror and representation of Muslims and the Middle East is just a tiny degree less ridiculous than Team America. The plot is fictional, but misrepresentations such as Iran’s support for Al Qaeda in the show have been lapped up by the American public and even repeated on mainstream media. After five seasons, the artists argue, “the plot has come a long way, but the thinly veiled propaganda is no less blatant.”

In an age where so much mainstream entertainment glamourises conflict, sensationalises supposed threats and further embeds negative stereotypes, Huck asked Caram how we can we increase understanding of the Middle East, Arab culture and detoxify the narrative around the War on Terror. “We could question the image of an enemy ‘other’, created by a constant narrative of terror, war, images of extremists and burned flags in mainstream entertainment and news media,” he explains. “Rather than accept these as a fact of life, personal research and interactions can much influence perspectives and help develop a frame of mind in which a global society – which is so frequently proclaimed – is not an imaginary construct, but a way of life and understanding.”

ArabianStreetArtists8

Right: against the red, blue and purple devil (A Muslim Brotherhood reference made by an Egyptian general on Television in 2013)
Left: Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh (photos courtesy of the artists)

The street art trio condemn the show for “maintain[ing] the dichotomy of the photogenic, mainly white, mostly American protector versus the evil and backwards Muslim threat.” In standard Hollywood style, when white characters such as Carrie Mathison shoot to kill, they’re ‘kickin’ ass’ and helping to keep America safe, but when their Arab foes use the same techniques they’re presented as an evil scourge.

They call Homeland out for, “Garner[ing] the reputation of being the most bigoted show on television for its inaccurate, undifferentiated and highly biased depiction of Arabs, Pakistanis, and Afghans, as well as its gross misrepresentations of the cities of Beirut, Islamabad – and the so-called Muslim world in general.”

Huck asked Caram what effect he hoped their intervention would have on Homeland viewers and the team that makes the show. “We hope that Homeland’s viewership will learn that the entertainment they are taking in is just that – entertainment,” he explains. “[That it’s] not a representation of the actual world, in which both the actions of the extremists the show so frequently depicts and their counterparts in the CIA, endanger and devalue the ways of life of a much larger population, both in the US and in the Middle East and SEA region. The crew will probably feature a couple of evil graffiti artists in an episode sometime next season, but we do hope they will interact a bit more with the subject matter they are dealing with and learn from it.”

Time will tell how much impact this artistic intervention has on Homeland, but being embarrassed so publicly on primetime TV might just prompt the show’s producers to do their homework in future.

Enjoyed this article? Like Huck on Facebook or follow us on Twitter.

Note: This article was amended on October 15, 2015 to include quotes from Huck’s interview with Caram Kapp.

Latest on Huck

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor
Activism

Activists claim victory after major UK festivals drop Barclays as a sponsor

Groups and artists have been campaigning for Live Nation to drop the bank as a sponsor for Download, Latitude and Isle of Wight over alleged ties to the arms trade.

Written by: Ben Smoke

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East
Outdoors

Exploring the football fanatic culture of the Middle East

New photo book ‘Football كرة القدم’ draws together pictures from over a dozen photographers to explore the region’s vibrant football culture.

Written by: Isaac Muk

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes
Election 2024

Drag artists unite to get out the vote, babes

East London legend Crystal talks to Huck about her new campaign, Vote, Babes! which brings together over 20 drag artists to encourage young people to use their vote.

Written by: Ben Smoke

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why
Election 2024

I interrupted Keir Starmer’s manifesto launch – here’s why

One of Starmer’s constituents, Alice tried every way to talk to her then MP about the crisis facing her generation, but he did not listen she writes exclusively for Huck.

Written by: Alice, Green New Deal Rising

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”
Culture

Bashy: “My dad kept me alive”

In our latest Daddy Issues column, award winning actor and MC Ashley “Bashy” Thomas talks traditional masculinity, learning survival skills from his Dad and ‘making it’.

Written by: Robert Kazandjian

How communities of colour fought back
Election 2024

How communities of colour fought back

Micha Frazer-Carroll examines the challenges that the UK’s minoritised communities have faced over the last five years, and reports on the ways that they have come together to organise, support and uplift one another.

Written by: Micha Frazer-Carroll

Sign up to our newsletter

Issue 80: The Ziwe issue

Buy it now