“It often feels like I have been literally wiped out of my own culture”
BY NIC CROSARA, IMAGE BY DIEGO MAESO
Shrouk El-Attar aka Dancing Queer is an artist, engineer and LGBTQI refugee from Egypt. They work primarily as a belly dancer and drag performer and utilises their art to raise awareness of LGBTQI issues in Egypt and to cast a light on imperialism, gender, lost stories and lost futures. I first saw them perform during a virtual Queer House Party, which certainly served up some much-needed celebration during lockdown.
Their Instagram feed is packed full of queer joy, whether they are sharing videos of them dancing or reels about engineering. They have many accolades under their belt, named one of the BBC’s 100 most influential women in the world in 2018, United Nations refugee agency Young Woman of the year 2018, IET Top 6 young women engineers in the UK in both 2019 and 2020.
And now the as part of their Winter Residencies programme with Watershed in Bristol, Shrouk El-Attar is engineering a non-binary belly dancing robot and preparing to showcase their creation later this month.
Ahead of the showcase, Shrouk El-Attar said: “As an Egyptian, I grew up with bellydance being simply called ‘dance’. The term ‘bellydance’ is a Western-coined name that isn’t even descriptive of the authentic practice, we don’t use our bellies to dance – and the original Egyptian costume even covered the stomach! On Google, nearly everybody who turns up in image search is white, western, and looks nothing like me. It often feels like I have been literally wiped out of my own culture. I am developing and engineering a gender non-specific bellydancing robot that autonomously dances to Egyptian music, for it to be something that brings joy but also starts important conversations. By making my robot gender non-conforming, it pays homage to the Egyptian Ghawazee of the 1800s and reminds people that Egyptian dance wasn’t originally something that women performed for men’s entertainment, but for everyone, of all genders to take part in and, most importantly, for their own, personal joy.”
Alistair Gentry, a LGBTQI visually impaired augmented reality innovator, is also part of the residency and both artists will be showcasing their work on Friday 25 March. Stay tuned for more details coming soon! Both artists are certainly ones to watch and we can’t wait to see what they both produce.
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