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8th November 2018

My body is not my home

Following the Women’s Theatre Society performance of ‘Uncovered: Monologues by Muslim Women’, Ellie Martin chats to Safiyya El Diwany
My body is not my home
Photo: Women’s Theatre Society

The Women’s Theatre Society‘s event, ‘Uncovered: Monologues by Muslim Women’ took place in the theatre space of the SU recently. 

It was a truly inspiring event; to every hilarious performance there was one just as heartbreaking. For me, a highlight of the evening was a performance by the talented Safiyya El Diwany, who performed ‘My Body Is Not My Home’.  Her performance was deeply honest, poignant, and incredibly powerful. I was privileged to see Diwany perform this piece last year, when it was included in the Women’s Theatre Society production of ‘The Vagina Monologues’. It had struck me so deeply that I thought about it for months afterwards, and requested a copy of the script so that I could read it over.  I was very fortunate to interview Diwany about the piece in light of the #MisogynyIsHate movement happening on campus this week.

When I asked where Diwany draws her inspiration for her writing, she responded “most of my pieces are written in direct response to something someone has said to me, or a long-running expectation that I’m subjected to. I started ‘My Body Is Not My Home’ after a family event in which many extended family members sort of patronised me and told me I’d change my mind when I told them I didn’t want kids. Telling me things like I wouldn’t be fulfilled without them and that once you have them, you can’t imagine life without them, etc. So that’s how that particular piece started, and then it snowballed into an outlet for a lot of things to do with that subject.”

“I just take my frustrations and anger and channel it into an art form that allows me to direct my emotions outward rather than inward. Every time I perform, I’m expressing the negative emotions that have been building.”  

What I have been very struck by is the response of the audiences to the performances of last night.  If you manage to take your eyes away from the captivating performers on stage, you will see those in the audience nodding in agreement. I asked Diwany how she felt about theatre in particular as an outlet for women to deal with the treatment they face.

“I think theatre, and art as a whole, is an essential form of expressing your opinions and emotions. It allows you to take something negative – an experience, etc – and channel it into something powerful and meaningful. I think it helps people when they have a form of self expression. The whole process of creating art takes away the power of that bad thing to have a negative internal effect. You’re harnessing your emotions and utilising them, instead of letting them eat you up inside.”

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