When Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone, who work together under the name “Arabian Street Artists,” were commissioned to provide “graffiti authenticity” for the Showtime drama Homeland, they were asked to keep their work “apolitical.”
The end result, however, is anything but. According to the Washington Post, Arabian Street Artists decorated Homeland‘s set with messages reading “Homeland is racist,” “Homeland is NOT a series,” and “This show does not represent the views of the artists.” Some writing, such as “#BlackLivesMatter” translated into Arabic, took a strong position unrelated to the show itself.
Arabian Street Artists’ work subsequently appeared in the background of Sunday’s episode “The Tradition of Hospitality,” which partially takes place in a Syrian refugee camp. In the artists’ statement, the full text of which can be found here, they explain:
The series has garnered 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… In our initial meeting, we were given a set of images of pro-Assad graffiti- apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp. Our instructions were: (1) the graffiti has to be apolitical (2) you cannot copy the images because of copyright infringement (3) writing “Mohamed is the greatest, is okay of course”. We would arm ourselves with slogans, with proverbs allowing for critical interpretation, and, if the chance presented itself, blatant criticism directed at the show. And so, it came to be.
They also point out that their message going undetected only proves their point: “The content of what was written on the walls, however, was of no concern. In their eyes, Arabic script is merely a supplementary visual that completes the horror-fantasy of the Middle East, a poster image dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees.”
Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa, meanwhile, provided a diplomatic response to Deadline: “Given the series’ reputation we were not easily convinced, until we considered what a moment of intervention could relay about our own and many others’ political discontent with the series. It was our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself.”