T Alrimawi, " The Arab Animation Spring: How Have Arab Animation Artists Used the Power of YouTube and Social Media " , "Confia",Vol.,No., , Porto, Portugal, 11/29/2013
This article explores how YouTube and social media became the main platform for Arab animation artists to distribute their political works during the ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2011. During the Arab Spring, Arab people started to use the internet and social media strongly and many political animated clips went viral. Also, the Middle East and North Africa become one of the most active regions in the world for internet use. Therefore, the Arab Spring motivated Arab animation artists and studios to distribute their anti-regime clips on YouTube, including their own logos and names without fear of being arrested by the regime and their works being forbidden by censorship.
The implication for this is an explosion in the exposure of Arab animation artists and their work in comparison to the very limited opportunities and freedoms of the past determined by regimes exercising control and censorship over traditional media such as television. Using interview data gathered from discussion with artists and animation studios, the article demonstrates how viral animation benefited from social movement in the Arab world in, what appears to be, an ‘Arab animation spring’.
Arab filmmakers attempt to export their animated films to an international market, and try to speak to other global cultures.
They seek to build a bridge between the Arab world and the West through animated films which have been adapted from
Arab and Islamic sources, but speak to the universal human condition. The relationship between Islam and the West, though,
remains very complicated; the West looks at these projects and already has a perspective about them as religious and ideological
propaganda, especially after 9/11, 2001. Thus, the majority of these Arabic animated films are rejected by the West because of
concerns that these films represent the unwelcome principles of foreign cultures. Inherently, there is an Islamophobia about Islamic
cultural products as soon as they come to the West; there is suspicion of them and extensive interrogation of them. Ironically, when
Western artefacts are exported to Arab countries, though almost inherently at odds with Muslim ideology and Muslim politics,
they sometimes find distribution and audiences. The consequences of this relationship between Arab countries and the West is not
only ideological, however, and is also concerned with the fact that Arab filmmakers and producers face economic challenges, and
a number of Arab animation studios went out of business or stopped making more feature animated films due to the difficulties of
reaching international marketplaces. Thus, the focus of contemporary Arab animation is mostly low budget projects distributed
through YouTube and social media, which became the main platform for Arab animation artists to distribute their political works
during the ‘Arab Spring’ in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East since 2011.
This practice-based research addresses the challenges that face the animation practitioner
in the Arab region. In engaging with this topic it highlights the contrast with international
animation producers, and also seeks to analyse how Arab animation cinema is represented
and understood in the West. It introduces Arab animation history, and the animation
industry as it currently exists in the Middle East. I suggest the reasons why there have been
so few animated shorts and feature-length films successfully produced in the Arab world, in
spite of their being a rich literary and cultural heritage. This study reveals a number of
cultural, religious, political and economic issues related to Arab animation cinema, both in
relation to its history and in regard to its place domestically and internationally. This
research explores how YouTube and other social media became the main platform for Arab
animation artists to distribute their political works during and since the 'Arab Spring' in the
Middle East. The immediate consequence of this is an explosion in the exposure of Arab
animation artists and their work to the world, in comparison to the very limited opportunities
and freedoms of the past. Moreover, this study seeks to open up a conversation about the
possibility of showing animated films that include Arabic content to Western audiences. This
is complex in the sense that the place and presence of Arab animated stories are affected
by how the representation is perceived within its production context and conditions of
exhibition. My research will result in original knowledge, to be made available to Arab
filmmakers, the Arab film industry and international academics addressing and championing
animation, by engaging with conceptual questions, creating a critical practice methodology,
and applying research-led practice methods.