Joy of Dancing: Héla Fattoumi - Dancing the Veil

A radio interview caught my attention today and I had to share this with you immediately.

Héla Fattoumi is a dancer from Tunis, which is the capital of the probably most westernized Arabic country. But even there the advancing arabisation and islamisation of North Africa is palpable. The traditional white cloth that women used to wear to cover themselves ("safsari" in Tunisia, "haik" in Algeria and Morocco) is being subsequently substituted by the
"niqab", the black, body-covering veil that leaves only a narrow slits for the eyes, originally from the Gulf region. That is often considered a symbol of wahabism, a conservative islamic movement .

(Moroccan haik)

Fattoumi made an unusual experiment: She started to wear the full veil herself. In the choreography she works on her experiences and plays with emotions from easy to claustrophobic.
The title "manta" refers both to the Praying Mantis and the French "manteau" (coat).

"Manta" will be performed tonight, 20th august, 21st and 22nd in Berlin at the "Tanz im August" festival.

From the festival program:
In »Manta«, Héla Fattoumi and Éric Lamoureux dare to take on a controversial subject: the Islamic veil. They use clear images to grasp the struggle to regain physical autonomy: silent screams under the veil, an arm raised through the cloth. For Fattoumi and Lamoureux, the hijab represents a limitation of freedom that stifles women’s individuality. The body is, after all, a means of expression and communication for everybody – not just for dancers. »Manta« tests the limits that are set for artistic approaches to a religious symbol.

Choreografie: Héla Fattoumi, Éric Lamoureux › Mit: Héla Fattoumi
Produktion: Centre Chorégraphique National de Caen/Basse-Normandie (CCNC/BN) › Koproduktion: Festival Montpellier Danse 2009, LiFE – Lieu international des Formes Emergentes de Saint Nazaire › Gastspiel ermöglicht durch: Französische Botschaft, Bureau du Théâtre et de la Danse, CulturesFrance

Héla Fattoumi - Eric Lamoureux hivernales avignon 3

Picture credits: here and here. Note the very useful dictionary of types of veiling used in the muslim world.

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