The Sea is Closed: Shallow Water

(2016-2017)
   
The Sea is Closed, is a long term project, that analyzes the contemporary relationship between one’s home and that individual’s independence.  The origin of the project and its title came from an earlier inspiration, the story of a child who wanted to swim after sunset, his mother told him “the sea is closed, no one is swimming at the moment”.
The story is a metaphor of the Egyptian youth’s deep desire to seek their independence. However they are faced with continuous struggles either in their home country or during displacement: the Sea is Closed”.

In “Shallow Water” part, Maayouf captures her personal emotional struggles between Cairo – her home, and Paris– her six months art residency in Paris, documenting the major struggles experienced in her home country and during displacement – the journey of not knowing how to swim, until the moment of jumping in the sea.

“In Cairo, within the past few years, anxiety met me at my doorstep: fear of independence, of facing obligations, and of detachment from family, because of social norms, an Egyptian woman cannot leave her family home until she gets married. For this reason the longest period I was away from Egypt was one week; and, still, I continue to live with my family. I have also suffered from extreme loneliness, due to the departure of all my friends who were privileged to find opportunities outside the country. Moreover the drastic economic situation due to the devaluation of the Egyptian pound has resulted in a major shift in lifestyle of the middle class that I belong to. Personal and national circumstances have resulted in anxiety, and a strong motive to flee.
   
“Arriving to Paris, the European utopia. I thought I would get over all what I suffered in Cairo; whilst living in a healthy environment. Unfortunately I have still suffered from anxiety, and nightmares. I was chased by my memories, my unbreakable family bond, and conservative upbringing, making it difficult to merge with the foreign world. It was difficult to keep long lasting relationships, resulting in loneliness and creating my own imaginary world.
“The experience of swimming in shallow water is a metaphor to my experience in Paris. I was neither a temporary tourist nor a permanent resident. I was swimming in a foreign world but still grounded to my home country.”
    
    

NOURHAN MAAYOUF