Weaam el Masry’s work explores issues of her native society especially the position of women, relationships and religion, yet is timeless and universal.
Women in the Middle East are expected to be good housewives and mothers. Any other ambition becomes secondary, if not frowned upon. This is the dilemma Weaam el Masry seeks to challenge in her new body of work – where women who seek to do more are expected to make compromises in order to fulfil part of their dreams.
Women’s priorities as dictated by the society, the traditional culture, the surrounding relatives, neighbours and friends are set and clear – home and children. Within that context, the (ambitious) artist, scholar, business executive or politician is faced with many physical but most of all intellectual, social and psychological challenges, imposing on her to make sacrifices. These sacrifices hurt, slow down, and have their toll on the women’s dreams and happiness.
El Masry seeks to unravel that psychological pain, that longing for total freedom to fulfil the dreams and the ambitions, away from the shackles of a demanding and unforgiving society. While a sense of unease prevails, El Masry reminds us that success is possible and achievable, epitomized by brave Arab female icons she chose to pay tribute to, as they carry respect and awe.
Influenced by the painting and drawing techniques of Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud and Francis Bacon, El-Masry realizes that bravery and persistence are required for a woman to achieve her dreams. In this new series, The Golden Fly, Weaam el Masry is fearless in tackling the road towards self-fulfilment and liberation in the life of a woman. Faced with the choice to either compromise or to defy the stigma imposed by the society to realize her dreams, the woman in Weaam El Masry’s world is reminiscent of the Golden Fly – an insect that symbolized persistence and bravery in Ancient Egypt. Golden Flies were given as medals of honour to soldiers who fought courageously in battles. Queen Ah-Hotep of the XVIIIth Dynasty is known as the only woman to have ever received a Golden Fly medal as she took up arms to save Egypt from the enemies when her husband and son got killed.
In Weaam El Masry’s world, there are many contemporary Ah-Hotep’s – women who take control of their life with boldness, courage and determination, rejecting submission, in order to fulfil their ambitions, despite the patriarchal domination and the moral enslavement witnessed within our societies. They, too, deserve The Golden Fly Medal of Honour.
Universal gender-based issues are all the essence of el Masry’s visual language and the product of her experience as an Egyptian wife, mother, artist – but most of all, a woman.
Weaam el Masry was born in 1987. She works and lives in Cairo, Egypt. She holds a PhD in Media Arts from the Faculty of Applied Arts, Helwan University. She has received over 17 awards and has participated in over 40 exhibitions locally and internationally.