Ganzeer. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Interview conducted by 
MacKenzie Rutherford (Scripps '21) 
Matison Miller (Scripps '21)


Ganzeer, which translates to “bicycle chain” in Arabic, is an artist from Egypt who uses comic books, street-art, and graphic design to make statements against Egypt’s anarchist government, and now has extended his reach to American social issues. Born in Giza, Egypt, he found his interest in art at a young age and knew he would be an artist. His art interest began with comic books, then to graphic design, and eventually to protest street art. He moved to the United States in May of 2014 due to accusations and scrutiny over his participation in the revolution. Despite this backlash against his art, he continues his protest art and is supported widely across the globe. His art is oftentimes described as “New Realism” and he is a maker of ‘Concept Pop’. His most recent project is a sci-fi graphic novel titled THE SOLAR GRID. You can view Ganzeer's artwork at

Why do you choose to continue to work behind a pseudonym? Does working under a pseudonym influence your ability to speak up about various issues and publish riskier/more controversial content? If so, how?

The pseudonym thing was kind of an accident. It was back in 2005 when I'd set up a design studio with a number of friends and I called Ganzeer. But then it wasn't long before my colleagues got "real jobs" and it was just me at the studio. Over time, clients started referring to my person as Ganzeer, as a kind of shorthand, and I guess you could say I went along with it. I ended up bringing the name along for the ride into exhibitions and the more "fine art" stuff. The more I used it, the more I'd grown comfortable with it. A real identity I'd crafted for myself rather than something imposed on me by say, parents or whoever. 

So y'see, it actually has a lot less to do with concealing a "true identity" to be able to speak about stuff. It is my true identity. And I'd never been one to shy away from risky content even prior to adopting it. 
How does your process vary from working on street art compared to books? Do you choose different subjects/issues accordingly?

With Street-Art, my audience is primarily those who do not go to seek art and spend a lot of time with it. It's meant to take the viewer by surprise, like a punch in the face, and that is what I find to be my favorite approach with street-art. One singular image, as few elements as possible, all in the service of a powerful message that'll likely catch people off guard and make them a little uncomfortable. Still aesthetic though, still irresistible to look at. Ideally anyway.

With books, the entire book is the art piece, so ideally I want the "idea" being communicated to be communicated over the entirety of the book. Looking at any one part of the book would be a singular component of the whole. So unlike street-art, we're not talking about a singular image or a punch in the face, but something slower, more thought out, with more nuances, that requires digestion over a longer period of time. 

I'd say it's entirely doable to talk about the same subject matter through both mediums, but it'd be tackled differently, given the differences of each medium. The strengths of each medium ought to be utilized, with its weaknesses avoided as best an artist can. 

In the New York Times Article, “Hieroglyphics that won’t be silenced”, you expressed that you refuse being labeled as a street artist, what do you label yourself as?
What stigmas have you felt (if any) that surround your categorization as a “street artist”? How do you combat the various stereotypes that come along with being a street artist? How is your street art viewed or valued in comparison to your other works?

Well, I suppose the only stigma might've been that it was expected that I only do "street art", and even if I did anything else then it must be done in that "street art aesthetic". But I've dabbled in different things over the course of my practice, and I've noticed that it's just a common tendency to be pigeonholed as one thing if you do that thing for long enough. And the best way to combat that is to move on to the next thing that hasn't been done before. Having said that, my motivations are rarely fueled by battling stereotypes, as much as they're fueled by a desire to explore something I know absolutely nothing about. That is, after all, my motivation behind exploring art-making in the first place. 

Not entirely sure if I know how my street-art is viewed in comparison to other stuff, nor have I really had the head-space to think about that sort of thing. You just finish one thing and move onto the next, let others think about and view things as they please. 
How did you become involved in graphic design? Was your shift in interest towards graphic design related to your interest in comics or street art? How do these art forms intersect?

Well my first love was comics. But if you want to go even further back, my first true love was probably the covers of science fiction and fantasy novels, which my older brother collected. This was the early 80's, and there was still a good trickle of that stuff carrying on from the 70's. Graphic Design, and my interest in understanding it, didn't happen until the internet came into popular existence sometime in the mid 90's. In particular, when Message Boards and Discussion Forums were popular, which might've been around the late 90's, because amateur artists were sharing their "portfolio websites" that were created on free webhosting sites like Geocities and Angelfire. And I figured maybe I ought to build myself one of those things, which required me to learn webdesign. And that lead me down the rabbit hole of wanting to learn everything from typography to layout, to use of color and pretty much the entire history of design in general.

Street-art, however, came much much later. I only went out and did it when I felt it had to be done. Certain things needed saying, and they needed saying fast, out in the real world in public space. Which is what street-art is all about. Or at least, ought to be about.

The intersection between all these mediums is visual expression, which I think has been my obsession since a very early age. That ability to make someone feel something just by looking at an image is totally fascinating. And how other images, most images actually, make you feel absolutely nothing at all is a clear testament to the awesome power of those other really strong images, those special ones that do penetrate a viewer's psyche. When you stop to think about it, you realize that it is no less than a magical ability to be able to do that. How can a flat surface with lines and colors on it make a person feel a certain way so deeply? 

It's truly mind-blowing, and it's something good graphic design, comics, and street-art all have in common.