Set Artists Hack 'Homeland' to Expose Show's Racist Narrative
Thanks to creative intervention, Arabic graffiti stating 'Homeland is racist' featured in key scene
The U.S. television series "Homeland"—widely criticized as Islamophobic and racist—was hacked by three street artists who were hired to paint "authentic" Arabic graffiti for a film set depicting a refugee camp on the Syria/Lebanon border.
The artists staged an intervention by tagging the slogan "Homeland is racist" on the set, which is located just outside of Berlin. Because the production company could not or did not read the Arabic graffiti, the subversive message was featured in a key scene of Season V, Episode II that aired Sunday and depicts the character of CIA agent Carrie Mathison, played by actress Claire Danes.
"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," declared the artists—Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone—in a statement released Wednesday.
The artists painted numerous other slogans on the set, including: "This show does not represent the views of the artists" and "Black Lives Matter."
The trio said they were hired after being approached in June by a German artist who had been contacted by "Homeland's" production company that was looking for "Arabian street artists."
In their initial meeting, the artists said they were "given a set of images of pro-Assad graffiti—apparently natural in a Syrian refugee camp. Our instructions were: (1) the graffiti has to be apolitical (2) you cannot copy the images because of copyright infringement (3) writing Mohamed is the greatest, is okay of course.'"
The artists wrote that they ultimately decided to take the job to seize on "our moment to make our point by subverting the message using the show itself."
The Showtime series has been widely criticized for its Islamophobic and racist stereotypes, as well as its glaring misinformation about the Middle East. Writer Laura Durkay argued last year in the Washington Post, "The entire structure of 'Homeland' is built on mashing together every manifestation of political Islam, Arabs, Muslims and the whole Middle East into a Frankenstein-monster global terrorist threat that simply doesn’t exist."
"Granted, the show gets high praise from the American audience for its criticism of American government ethics, but not without dangerously feeding into the racism of the hysterical moment we find ourselves in today."
—Artists Heba Amin, Caram Kapp, and Stone
And Pakistani lawyer and social activist Mohammad Jibran pointed out that Season IV, which sends CIA character Carrie Mathison to Pakistan, is rife with inaccuracies and absurdities, including naming a terrorist villain after the actual former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
The "Arabian street artists" behind this latest sabotage listed numerous other offenses. "The very first season of 'Homeland' explained to the American public that Al Qaida is actually an Iranian venture," they wrote. "According to the story-line, they are not only closely tied to Hezbollah, but Al Qaida even sought revenge against the U.S. on behalf of Iran. This dangerous phantasm has become mainstream 'knowledge' in the US and has been repeated as fact by many mass media outlets."
"Five seasons later, the plot has come a long way, but the thinly veiled propaganda is no less blatant," the artists continue. "Now the target is freedom of information and privacy neatly packaged as the threat posed by Whistleblowers, the Islamic State, and the rest of Shia Islam."
Yet the program continues to receive high accolades and viewership, in what critics say reflects—and perhaps feeds—a culture of racism and ignorance that has real consequences.
"Granted, the show gets high praise from the American audience for its criticism of American government ethics," the artists noted, "but not without dangerously feeding into the racism of the hysterical moment we find ourselves in today."