The Sleepwalkers

Artist. Rana Hamedeh

Organisations. IMA, The Showroom

Year: 2016

Rana Hamedeh – b. Beirut, Lebanon. Lives and works in the Netherlands.

This filmic installation work explores ideas around gender, colonialism and the outsider through a reimagining and re-dramatisation of the story of Raya and Sakina, a well-known tale in Egypt and the Middle East.

Raya and Sakina are two infamous Egyptian sisters who, along with their husbands and two other male accomplices, murdered seventeen women in the early 1900s. In 1921 they became the first women to be executed by a legal court in the modern history of Egypt.

This story of Raya and Sakina has been told and retold in numerous different ways through plays, soap operas and books in Egypt. Mostly these interpretations have cast the sisters as modern prototypes of female monstrosity – emergent from poverty, they were rural immigrants to metropolitan Egypt and were perceived to be examples of inherent female depravity and moral apathy. They became comparable in Egypt to a female version of Dracula.

Raya and Sakina’s case, despite its seemingly non-political nature, was placed at the centre of the nationalist struggle for Egyptian independence after the 1919 revolution against British colonial occupation. Hamadeh is interested in this story and its status as a mechanism to critique the state without simply saying so directly. Some have suggested that the sisters were not serial killers at all but were Egyptian independence fighters and were wrongfully imprisoned.

The Sleepwalkers is the latest project in Hamadeh’s Alien Encounters Series (2011- present), a project which examines the idea of ‘aliens’ in politics and pop culture. Throughout the Alien Encounters Series, the ‘alien’ becomes a recurrent figure and a discursive tool that allows for queer modalities of understanding state-sponsored forms of violence and their enabling legal apparatuses

The Sleepwalkers is a co-commission between IMA, Brisbane; Nottingham Contemporary and The Showroom, London with support from the Keir Foundation as Commissioning Partner.

The Sleepwalkers was shown at The Showroom, London in January 2016 and at IMA, Brisbane in February 2016.