Silence of the Lambs/Sheep (2009) - Egyptian Artist AMAL KENAWY
What happens when you present a work of art to the streets? That is what Amal Kenawy experienced when she carried out the “Silence of the Lamb” performance in the streets of Cairo. Dressed as a shepherdess, Amal Kenawy guided a crawling flock of men and children (including her brother Abdul Ghani) through the streets of Cairo, portraying in a very literal and visual manner the problem with conformity the society in general engages in. The performance sought to tackle the influence powerful and privileged institutions have on perpetuating a state of helplessness in the society, both political and cultural. It is important to note that Amal Kenawy wasn’t merely criticizing her Egyptian society. Instead, she was criticizing the whole mental state of submissiveness; and from that, “us”, the viewers can extend its application to situations that are relative to our experiences. Religious, political, cultural, professional, and educational submissiveness. She was criticizing all forms of submission and conformity that halt the development of critical thinking, and instead place the society and its components under the mercy of those who have the power to persuade a society into accepting a position of submissiveness and disengagement from the power to change.
This aspect of the performance soon became overshadowed by what the people on the streets hurled at Amal Kenawy herself. The debate suddenly shifted from that of power and privilege, to one that highlights gender inequalities and patriotism in the Egyptian society. According to Kaelen Wilson-Goldie, men on the street began insulting Amal personally using derogatory sexist names and accused her of demeaning Egypt. She believes that they also felt a sort of vulnerability and humiliation that a woman was the one who led the crawling men. Thus, the debate shifted from one that merely tackles submissiveness as a mental state, but also to one that introduces gender, patriarchy, and patriotism into the midst of this theme, which gave it a more inclusive perspective. I believe this was Amal’s goal from the beginning. To engage the society in a lively and raw multifactorial debate about conformity. Amal Kenawy and all those who engaged in the performance were arrested later that day, and the performance was never carried out again by that gallery.