Boundaries of History, Memory and Invention: Laila Soliman’s ZigZig in Light of Absence of Egyptians’ Right to Freedom under Information Law

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In light of the limited access to information that she was given, Soliman only found some meager news and a couple of books describing the incidents, the rape of victims and the actions taken by the Egyptian authorities.[4] Also, she found evidence that Saad Zaghloul, the Egyptian nationalist leader, when he went to the Versailles Conference to defend Egypt’s right to gain its independence, brought with him a file reporting what had happened in the Al-Giza villages. As a reaction to these scandals, the British invaders decided to hold their own investigations, two months after the incidents, to defend their position. These investigations refuted completely all the reports of raped victims and the villagers’ accusations. What might happen if these fake investigations, which are already released and available to whoever asks for them, brought to light the concealment or absence of the Egyptian investigations which would provide real evidence of what the villagers and the raped victims were subjected to—atrocities done by the British occupiers.

In order to expose this dilemma, Laila Soliman decided to take it as the subject of her latest piece, entitled ZigZig.[5]  In this piece, fundamentally, Soliman wanted to represent what was mentioned in the investigations that she found in the British Archive, using a narrative technique from time to time to convey what really happened in the incidents that took place in Nazlat El-Shobak, a small Egyptian village near Giza, and in some other surrounding villages. Using the form of tribunal play, Soliman revealed the dimensions of this issue in a one-hour-and-ten-minutes span.

In a dark and bare room, except five chairs and small five desk tables with desk lamps, both the audience who serves as the jurors of the trial and the performers, four actresses and a female violinist, confronted each other. Each one of the four actresses played three roles: one of the raped victims, one of the British prosecutors, and herself as a narrator and commentator on the trial and investigations. Also, the three songs used to comment on the context of the investigations were sung by the actresses accompanied by the violinist. The unchanging scenery of the hearing room, which made up the acting space, was dull and melancholic most of the time. A pale blue lighting prevailed in the space. Only the office lamps were on during the factual reciting of the contents of the investigation papers. The gloomy atmosphere reflected and symbolized the revealing process of such a painful and shameful reality.

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