Viewers who watched Sunday’s episode of the Showtime drama series “Homeland” got something extra in the background: Graffiti that appeared on the show, written in Arabic, carried a subversive message accusing the series of racism.
The U.K. publication The Guardian reports that the message was the work of three graffiti artists who were hired to help decorate the backgrounds in scenes depicting a Syrian refugee camp. The artists apparently seized on the opportunity to provide a critique of alleged racism in the show’s depiction of the Muslim world.
The artists, who identify themselves as “The Arabian Street Artists” Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone, posted a statement online translating their work as it appears on the show and detailing their allegations. The statement, published here, appears under the headline: “‘Arabian Street Artists’ Bomb Homeland: Why We Hacked an Award-Winning Series.”
In Sunday’s episode, “Lead character Carrie Mathison, played by Claire Danes, can be seen striding past a wall daubed with Arabic script reading: ‘Homeland is racist,'” The Guardian reports, citing the artists’ statement. “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.'”
Amin told the publication: “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.”
The artists wrote that when they were first approached with the offer to help lend authenticity to the refugee camp — which was set up near Berlin — they were reluctant.
In their statement they wrote: “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.”
They noted that their graffiti messages in the show include: “Homeland is NOT a series,” “The situation is not to be trusted,” and, “This show does not represent the views of the artists.”
They said the show’s producers did not check the messages. In their statement the artists wrote: “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 dehumanizing an entire region to human-less figures in black burkas and moreover, this season, to refugees.”
Entertainment Weekly reports that “Homeland” co-creator and showrunner Alex Gansa provided a statement after news of the graffiti bomb surfaced. Gansa is quoted saying: “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.”