صنع في البيت

Homemade

Heba Khalifa

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Beautiful plastic doll, how I envy you. Your skin so clear and always so smooth. Your body knows no flab and dark rings never find your eyes. You’re more beautiful than me, than my mother, than my sister, than all the women on my street. I want to trade places with you. Take my flabby body and give me the beauty of your soft plastic.

– Ghada Khalifa

“Be careful, you are a girl” these demeaning words summarize my life and my relationship with my body. Ever since I was young girl I was constantly reminded by mother that being a girl is a liability and burden. I need to be extra careful of my actions. I cannot stay out late - what people would say about me? Even when I got divorced I was reminded by my family: “Be careful, you are a girl.” We live all our life guarding our body. You have to get married before you become too old to bear children. You have to preserve your figure to stay desirable. You have to you have to... Entrapped in this body I resented it. I wished to lose it, to live without it.

It started as a private group on Facebook. Together, a group of women share our feelings and personal stories. Then we meet in person. We discuss what it means to be living with all these pressures, simply because we own this body. We talk about how each of us discovered what it means to be a woman. Faces turn red, tears start rolling and at that moment of openness a magical bond between us is born. From their words I take some time and start visualizing how the image of their story might look. After I photographed the women, I noticed a change. Two women decide to show their faces in the images, something they previously resisted. They do not care about the consequences; they feel liberated.

Storytelling is a way to heal, to free ourselves from the weight of experience. The women who found the strength to stand and speak in front of the camera, this is the real gift. It gives me the strength to photograph and I hope it will give other women who are still silent the strength to open the door.

Egypt

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I am a single mother. My daughter and I are one. She is always with me.

Any lover I might have must love my daughter more than me. So I cannot easily find a lover.

My life is overloaded. I work six days a week and am all over the place doing acrobatics to be able to provide a shelter to my daughter.

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I have spent my whole life trying to love myself.

My body is heavy. I am detached from my soul. I am in the desert in my own home, empty of intimacy and feeling.

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I wait for my period. Although it is something I dislike very much, having my period means that I am not pregnant and I won’t have to go through another abortion here in Egypt. I don’t even want to imagine this situation in this country. It scares me to death.

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I cannot see well, and my friends used to call me "the girl with four eyes.” As a result I grew up feeling I can neither see nor be seen by the world.

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I have had horrible headaches since I was seven. At my new school, mates rejected the dark-skinned intruder who thought about things differently.

I hated being different -- inside and out.

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In my house, I cannot go out as I want, cannot call whomever I want, am not allowed to learn music.

I feel I am just something on the shelf at home.

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They called me "mother of the unborn" in my hometown because I am sterile. I tried a lot and waited for many years. In my lifetime, the only birth I witnessed was my own.

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“If we are going to marry, you need to get plastic surgery.”

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My grandmother made curtains by hand. They were suitable for her. But not for me.

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He used to cry every time he hit me and say, “I didn't mean to call you a whore.” Every time I felt the same fear, and every time he spoke the same words, “I am your father, I am trying to protect you.”

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My mother wants me to do everything exactly like her, according to her way. It makes me feel that she sees me only as an extension for her body.

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15 of 20

As I am about to get married, I fear being bound by the institution of marriage, repeating my mum's history, losing my independence, losing the spark and living a life that revolves around housekeeping.

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I choose my path.

I want to make different choices than my mother made, but her voice still resonates in my ears, "See, I told you, you will not be able to do it."

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My father was away, always travelling. The last time I met my ex-boyfriend, I realized how much he resembled my dad.

I also realized that when I loved him, I was trying to forgive my father.

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Nobody thinks about how technology frees people to express themselves, to love and be loved; how a girl who has made peace with her body can give confidence to a girl on another continent, even if just a little bit.

Heba Khalifa

Egypt

Heba Khalifa is a multimedia artist, photojournalist and painter. After graduating from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Cairo in 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in set design she studied at the High Institute of Art Critics. She started using photography as an essential part of her artistic projects and interest in documenting and representing women and gender issues. Heba Khalifa is also a founding member of “Shouf” collective.

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