Freedom is coming
Shown in Egypt for the first time on the occasion of Townhouse’s 15 year celebrations, El Horeya Gayya Labod (Freedom is Coming, 2013) is a larger-than-life sized leather and iron sculpture modeled on a French 17th-century chastity belt.
As a cultural tradition and device of sexual control, the chastity belt first appeared in ancient Egypt. The Pharaonic version was simply a string tied around a slave’s waist, signaling her sexual unavailability while also reinforcing her social status as inferior. Today, the chastity belt is commonly associated with European medieval culture.
Expressions such as, “we are returning to the dark ages,” became part of everyday conversations in Cairo and on social networks soon after the revolution began in 2011. These fleeting statements reflect a deeper fear that we are returning to a time in which social hierarchies and systems of power are policed through sexual repression, harassment, and control. In such an oppressive atmosphere, the need to erect a shield is obvious. The chastity belt becomes both an agent of and protection against such abuse.
Installed in the semi-private, semi-public space of the Rawabet Annex, the work simultaneously questions the idea of freedom and of boundaries. The title of the work is a direct reference to a piece of graffiti painted on one of the walls erected against the demonstrators by the Armed Forces in November 2011, following the battle of Mohamed Mahmoud. Large enough to engulf a human being, the sculpture functions almost like a cage—a prison made of iron, a substance that is obdurate and resistant to change, ultimately signifying the looming danger of the loss of freedom at large.
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