Eihab Boraie talks to Deena Mohamed - Egypt's first female comic artist and finds out more about Egypt's first comic heroine, the hijab wearing Qahera!
What is rarer than finding a great Egyptian comic book? The answer is finding a great Egyptian comic book that has a hijab-wearing super-heroine that fights crime, prejudice, and misogyny, created by a young woman. Amazingly that is exactly what Deena Mohamed thought when she created her unique web comic named Qahera.
“I made it to let off some steam about a couple of really misogynistic articles I was reading, and it just went from there to address other things that frustrated me,” explains Deena. The comic spontaneously began last year and quickly took off as Deena found herself among the very few in Egypt actually expressing her frustrations in comic book form. The animation is simple, but effective: “I choose to shade the villains and secondary characters in two-tone black and white, and the protagonists in full colour,” she added. Qahera, the web comic, is still in the preliminary phase, but one thing is already clear, you do not want to mess with this tough super-heroine. Qahera has super strength, can fly, has sharp hearing and apparently other powers that are yet unknown. “I haven't actually revealed all her powers yet! Even her origins and back story (which I am working on) are under wraps,” Mohamed divulges. What started off as just a fun exercise, quickly exploded online, becoming a phenomenon with more than half million visitors to the site, catching the young 19-year-old art student off guard. In no time, local publishers were interested and positive online feedback fuelled Mohamed’s creativity to take the comic further.
What makes this comic successful is the fact that behind all the ass kicking, Qahera's true aim is to highlight the misconceptions of hijabi women both in Egypt and abroad. “I focus on Islamophobia for the Western audience, and in that sense that the biggest misconception of hijabi women is the combination of all the negative Muslim women stereotypes - that they are oppressed, that they are victims, that they need 'liberation',” explains Deena.
Sexual harassment in Egypt is on the rise, in fact a study by the The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the empowerment of women reports that 99.3% of Egyptians. While many women believe they are helpless Qahera proves she can do something about it, wielding a sword and chasing male abusers. Clearly a female super-heroine tearing down stereotypes is long overdue in Egypt, and it is very encouraging and inspiring that such a young talented female artist is the one filling the void. Hopefully this web comic will continue to grow, and with a little luck who knows it may not be long before it is turned into a fully animated film that makes us rethink the old stereotypes that we have become all to accustomed with.
Check out Qahera here: http://qahera.tumblr.com/