Egypt invites the public to redesign its national currency
Time for change?
Our national identities are forged in complicated ways. Political processes, history and culture all contribute to our national reality. According to some thinkers so do things like currency, stamps and clothing – everyday objects that contribute to a “banal nationalism” according to British social scientist Michael Billig.
If banknotes shape who we are, the people of Egypt have been asking some profound questions lately. In a competition launched this week the nation was asked to design a collection of new banknotes for Egypt, in an initiative that asked professional graphic designers and artists, as well as ordinary people, to come up with clever ideas for visualising the national spirit.
The results, submitted on Facebook and Twitter with the hashtag #Egyptian_Currency_Design_Challenge, are revealing.
Many of the entries focused on pharaonic history as a foundation of Egypt.
A pertinent trend, given the history of colonial pillage.
Others took more modern landmarks and icons as their inspiration.
Naturally, however, it wasn’t just the usual elements of Egyptian past and present that were featured. Many took the opportunity to pay their respects to some of the country’s more modern icons.
Or to take a jab at its present political situation.
The fact that the competition was created to honour the historic decision to float the Egyptian pound, amid much economic turmoil and insecurity, wasn’t overlooked in the competition.
Change is change, and it would solve our problems. The Egyptian pound is falling.
While others took a more… irreverent approach to national culture.
The organisers of the competition stressed that it’s not official, so it seems unlikely that any of the banknotes will come into circulation. But if it’s an insight into the nature of Egypt’s banal nationalism, it seems that the country’s national character is as rich and multifaceted as ever.