Najila Said


There was no answer, 2021
Edition of 5

Image courtesy Mashrabia Gallery, Egypt
“Being a woman in Cairo is to be in constant revolt. The moment I step outside of my house, I gather gazes and comments about my appearance. It’s been over a year since I cut my hair, and I didn’t even think I would need to clarify that, but in this context I do. Random people have stopped their cars just to open their window and ask me if I was a man or woman, some people get angry and start shouting at me for “looking like a guy”, and I even struggled to get my national ID renewed because they had no proof that I was the same person, and that I’m still that same woman. After all these strange situations, it hit me that hair (including body hair) has become this character, it has taken on this vital role exceeding its biological purpose, and it’s becoming an essential component of so-called ‘femininity’ in our culture. A woman who doesn’t shave or wax is unclean, one who is veiled is a pure woman, one who has long hair is ‘girly’ and in my case, short hair means I’m a guy. Hair is being fetishised, and it’s belittling to even think that it contributes to the essence of womanhood. My anger became the seed for “There was no answer” in my series ‘Sister, Oh Sister’,” writes Najila Said on