‘Homeland is racist’: artists sneak subversive graffiti on to TV show

Street artists say they were asked to add authenticity to scenes of Syrian refugee camp, but took chance to air criticisms of show’s depiction of Muslim world.  Caram Kapp, one of the street artists hired by the US television show Homeland, explains why he and his colleagues daubed subversive graffiti on one of the show’s sets in Berlin. Kapp, who is based in Berlin, and the other artists were hired to add authenticity to a scene set in a refugee camp, but instead they wrote ‘Homeland is racist’ in Arabic. Kapp says they disagreed with what they see as a reductionist portrayal of Arabs and other minorities in the show

Three graffiti artists hired to add authenticity to refugee camp scenes in this week’s episode of Homeland have said they instead used their artwork to accuse the TV programme of racism.

The graffiti here says: ‘Homeland is racist.’

The graffiti here says: ‘Homeland is racist.’ Photograph: Courtesy of the artists

In the second episode of the fifth season, which aired in the US and Australia earlier this week, and will be shown in the UK on Sunday, lead character Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes, can be seen striding past a wall daubed with Arabic script reading: “Homeland is racist.”

Other slogans painted on the walls of the fictional Syrian refugee camp included “Homeland is a joke, and it didn’t make us laugh” and “#blacklivesmatter”, the artists – Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone – said in a statement published online.

The graffiti on the left says: ‘Freedom … now in 3D’. The one on the right says: ‘Homeland is watermelon’ (which is slang for not to be taken seriously).

The graffiti on the left says: ‘Freedom … now in 3D’. The one on the right says: ‘Homeland is watermelon’ (which is slang for not to be taken seriously). Photograph: Courtesy of the artists

The artists said they had been contacted in June by a fellow street artist who had been approached by a production company looking for people to add authenticity to the set – intended to portray a refugee camp on the Syrian-Lebanese border, but filmed on the outskirts of Berlin.

“Given the series’ reputation,” they wrote, “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.”

In an early meeting with the production team, they were, the statement claims, handed images of “pro-Assad graffiti – apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp”.

The trio decided instead to use the opportunity to air their criticisms of the show, adding graffiti stating: “Homeland is NOT a series”, “The situation is not to be trusted” and “This show does not represent the views of the artists.”

The Arabic script was not checked by producers, they claimed. “The content of what was written on the walls … 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 dehumanising an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees.”

Homeland Arabic graffiti

The message on the left says: ‘Homeland is not a series’. The one on the right says: ‘The situation is not to be trusted’ and ‘This show does not represent the views of the artists’. Photograph: Courtesy of the artists

Amin told the Guardian: “We think the show perpetuates dangerous stereotypes by diminishing an entire region into a farce through the gross misrepresentations that feed into a narrative of political propaganda.

“It is clear they don’t know the region they are attempting to represent. And yet, we suffer the consequences of such shallow and misguided representation.”

Homeland has frequently run into controversy during its five seasons, particularly over its depiction of the Muslim world and its portrayal of an apparently cosy relationship between Al-Qaida and Hezbollah.

After season four depicted Islamabad as a “hellhole”, a Pakistan embassy spokesperson, Nadeem Hotiana, said: “Maligning a country that has been a close partner and ally of the US … is a disservice not only to the security interests of the US but also to the people of the US.”

Showtime, which makes Homeland, has not yet responded to the artists’ claims. But Alex Gansa, the show’s creator and executive producer, told Deadline after the story came to light: “We wish we’d caught these images before they made it to air.

“However, as Homeland always strives to be subversive in its own right and a stimulus for conversation, we can’t help but admire this act of artistic sabotage.”

Showtime’s network president, David Nevins, said earlier this year, ahead of the filming of season five, that Homeland would not necessarily continue with Islamist protagonists: “We’re not necessarily going to stay now and forever [focusing on] US relations in the Muslim world … We’re exploring a few different possibilities and may change it up a little bit.”

Nevins added of the show’s writers: “They never shied away from anything difficult. I want them to go right into the teeth of it again.”

  • This story was amended on 16 October to correct a translation in one caption, which had been inadvertently transposed.

 

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