Thursday October 15, 2015

'Homeland is racist:' Graffiti artists dupe show producers with Arabic tags

Heba Amin (left) was one of the graffiti artists hired by the TV hit series Homeland. They wanted her and other artists to paint Arabic tags to make the set more authentic. Amin used the opportunity to paint "Homeland is Racist" in Arabic (right)

Heba Amin (left) was one of the graffiti artists hired by the TV hit series Homeland. They wanted her and other artists to paint Arabic tags to make the set more authentic. Amin used the opportunity to paint "Homeland is Racist" in Arabic (right) (Heba Amin)

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If the Showtime hit Homeland has taught us anything, it's that you can trust absolutely no one. But this week, the TV show's own producers are learning that lesson the hard way.

This summer, Homeland hired a trio of graffiti artists to paint Arabic tags, as a way of adding authenticity to the scene of a Syrian refugee camp. And, in the end, the producers got just what they asked for -- some generic-looking Arabic graffiti tags.

Except that no one bothered to translate the tags into English to see what the artists actually wrote.

"I think one of the most explicit things we wrote is that 'Homeland is racist'," graffiti artist Heba Amin tells As It Happens host Carol Off. 

homeland is not a series

This Arabic graffiti tag translates to "Homeland is NOT a series." It appeared in an episode of Homeland this week on Showtime. (Heba Amin)

Another tag reads, "Homeland is a joke and it didn't make us laugh." 

Amin says she and two other artists, Don Karl (known by his tag name as Stone) and Caram Kapp, painted the subversive tags as a way to protest the way the Middle East is largely portrayed in TV shows like Homeland.

"It was a way to claim back our own image. We're kind of sick and tired of this one-dimensional, very shallow depiction of the Middle East. This show has a mass following, millions of viewers around the whole world. Even if they're depicting fiction, what they're depicting shapes the very perceptions that people have of the region and that in turn has real life consequences."‚Äč

homeland scene graffiti

A scene in the second episode of Homeland's fifth season, which aired this week. To the left, an Arabic graffiti tag reads "Homeland is racist." (Showtime)

Amin says the show's producers never realized what the artists had written in the tags, until the artists admitted to it this week in a blog post.

Amin is still waiting to hear from the show's producers. But she is getting feedback from the general public.

"Interestingly, this has resonated with a lot of people. We had never anticipated that it would spread so quickly on such a massive scale."