Three street artists who were hired to lend “graffiti authenticity” to last Sunday’s episode of Homeland, say they turned the tables on the production, subversively using the opportunity to voice their own opinions about the show. One of their tags, written in Arabic script on the wall of the Berlin set of a fictional Syrian refugee camp, reads “Homeland is racist.” The wall and the graffiti were seen in the episode that aired on Sunday as Claire Danes’ Carrie Mathison walked by.
How did that happen? When hired, the trio of Heba Amin, Caram Kapp and Stone — who go by the moniker “Arabian Street Artists” — say they were instructed, among other things, to be apolitical. In a statement, however, they explain their thinking was to “arm ourselves with slogans, with proverbs allowing for critical interpretation, and, if the chance presented itself, blatant criticism directed at the show,” which has stirred controversy in the past. Homeland set designers, they say, were “too frantic to pay any attention to us.” The content of what was written on the walls, “was of no concern.”
Homeland showrunner Alex Gansa tells Deadline of the incident, “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.”
The Showtime series has previously run into trouble over its depictions of the Muslim world and the Middle East. Last year, Season 4 drew criticism from Pakistani officials for the way their country and government had been portrayed. On the show, South Africa was a stand-in for Pakistan, with the storyline implying that Pakistani officials were aiding the Taliban. Earlier, the Season 2 opener was supposedly set in Beirut’s Hamra district, replete with machine-gun wielding militiamen and ominous looking veiled characters. That led to an outcry amongst Lebanese politicians and much mocking from Arab auds in general. In reality, Beirut’s Hamra is a bustling, cosmopolitan thoroughfare of bars, shops and restaurants. Politically it is entirely neutral and not the Hezbollah stronghold depicted in the show. The discrepancy between life and art even led Lebanon’s Tourism Minister Faddy Abboud to threaten to sue the show’s makers.
In their statement, the Arabian Street Artists explained that when they were first contacted about the graffiti job this summer, “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.” Other tags they say they used on set included “Homeland is NOT a series”, “The situation is not to be trusted” and “This show does not represent the views of the artists.”
There is no word yet whether the graffiti will be digitally altered or erased for future telecasts of the episode. It will next air in the UK on Sunday.
Deadline’s Ali Jaafar contributed to this story