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A Play About Untangling Braids, Pushing for A Society Easier on Women in Egypt

7 December, 2016
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On the 10th day of the #16DaysOfActivism, a group of 25 young aspiring actors and actresses began their show, “Untangled”. The performance is a lighthearted theatrical experience, mirroring true stories of everyday struggles Egyptian men and women go through.

After nine months of rehearsing, the performance started on Sunday, 4 December, at the vintage Hosapeer Theatre, located near Cairo’s railway station. Monday was the last performance at Hosapeer, but they’re still performing on Wednesday and Thursday at the Higher Institute for Theatrical Arts, located in Giza.

The play begins with a clique of girls gathering in one house, sharing their miseries in a light manner, meeting them with sarcasm, when one of the girls shares with them the news of finding a book called "Untangling the Braids". They find the title very strange, and look into it. The book inspires them to dive into their dreams–which are reflected in nine short theatrical sketches that follow.  

“I’m a feminist, and I thought [the project] would actually speak volumes,” Dalia Shawky, one of the actresses in the play, told BECAUSE right after the performance.

Shawky is currently finishing her last year in college, double-majoring in theatre and marketing at the American University in Cairo. For her, taking part in “Untangled” equaled taking part in voicing the feminist message, “in a way that won’t repel the audience and make them look away to give us the deaf ear. During the play, I really hoped for the message to be delivered without it being heavy on the audience’s hearts,” she said.

In the play, she portrays a girl who dreams of dressing as she pleases. “The monologue that I perform on traveling [without supervision] and dressing as I wish is actually a true story. I took a semester abroad and I felt and meant every word that I uttered because it was a real experience that I’ve personally gone through,” she pointed out.

She also related to a scene where she was getting ready for a wedding ceremony, keeping her three older brothers waiting. They didn't approve of the dress she liked, and looked on as she twirled and danced in it.



“The scene of the brothers is something that I can relate to – I don’t have brothers, I only have two sisters, but I go through the same experience of not being able to wear skirts, for example, without having to wear something to cover up. I can’t walk in the streets dressed like that. So the eyes of these brothers in the scene were a metaphor for the eyes of society,” she explained.

The play sheds light on matters like the gender discrimination women face in sports activities, freedom of choice to whom and when to wed, freedom to dress however and sexual harassment, “which is something we will always talk about until we get rid of it once and for all,” the director, Mohamed Abdeen, told BECAUSE.

“The purpose of this play was to highlight some of the situations where women both face and cause injustice in our eastern society,” said Abdeen – who also contributed to the scenario along with GIZ Egypt’s Gender Advisor, Sally Zohney.

Turning to the sponsors of the show, we talked to Dina Hussein, a lawyer and a board member at the National Council for Women that is supporting “Untangled” together with UNDP.

Hussein, who is also the head of the council’s youth committee, told us that Egyptian youth occupy 70% of the community, “which is a very big percentage, and at the same time always neglected. We at the National Council for Women believe very much that societal and cultural change will only come from within this part of the community.”

Taking part in the #16DaysOfActivism, Hussein said that they have thought outside the box this year. “Since there is a global trend on the topic of safe education for all, and since gender-based violence is very relevant to that, we thought of spreading awareness on that topic to be implemented through innovative methods instead of the traditional ones we have always used like keeping the youth seated at a seminar and making them listen to lengthy lectures,” she clarified.

Using the same strategy used with the song “Nour”, which they also sponsored as part of the campaign, “we produced “Untangled” to discuss all areas of physical and emotional violence with a comical approach, reaching out to wider scopes of our target audience of the youth,” she said.

Tags gender women's rights theater