Artist and historian Bahia Shehab on the Arab Spring, memory, art, and why beauty is 'a Western luxury'

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Bahia Shehab

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In February of this year, Bahia was in Vancouver for the week-long TEDTalk conference, and even though we we're emailing each other quite frequently, we never had the chance to meet. In the end, it all worked out, and I spoke with Bahia over Skype where she discussed protest street art, documentation, memory, the banality of her own art, and why beauty in art is a Western luxury.

*Due to poor internet connections parts of the interview may be distorted.


Bahia Shehab is a Lebanese-Egyptian artist, designer and art historian. She is an associate professor of professional practice, director of the visual cultures program and founder of the graphic design program at The American University in Cairo where she has developed a full design curriculum mainly focused on visual culture of the Arab world. She has taught over 12 courses on the topic. Her artwork has been on display in exhibitions and galleries in China, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, U.A.E. and the U.S. The documentary Nefertiti's Daughters featuring her street artwork during the Egyptian uprising was released in 2015. Her book A Thousand Times NO: The Visual History of Lam-Alif was published in 2010 and the artwork by the same title is on the shortlist for the V&A's Jameel Prize for 2016. She is a 2012 TED Fellow and a 2016 TED Senior Fellow. Bahia was selected as one of BBC's 100 Women for two consecutive years, in 2013 and 2014. The American University in Beirut honored her as distinguished alumna in 2015. She is one of UNESCO's 70 most accomplished women speakers.


Bahia Shehab, Ann J. Lewis, Eyoalha Baker, and Mark Nikolas.

MsRepresent: Behind the Face, a Fierce Woman can also be found at

Music Credits

Intro/outro music:  “Rainbow” by Emilie Simon. Remix from the original.

Additional music:  

“A tua choradeira é meio salário em lenços” by Stealing Orchestra & Rafael Dionísio. Remix from the original.  

“General Mixup March” by the Arthur Pryors Marching Band. Remix from the Original.  

“Little Lily Swing” by Tri-Tachyon  

“Taqasim” by DJ Rupture  

“Kolderen Polka” by Tres Tristes Tangos  

“I Guess So” by Steve Combs  

“Retro Soul” by Ben Sound Music

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