Sculpture honouring fallen soldiers scandalises Egyptians

Some critics of the Sohag statue said that the sculpture portrayed sexual harassment while others interpreted it as the country’s military seducing Egypt as represented by the peasant woman.
A sculpture, titled 'Mother of the Martyr', depicts a slender peasant woman, a traditional artistic representation of Egypt, with her arms outstretched while a helmeted soldier stands behind her with his arms wrapped around her waist, at a public square in Sohag, Egypt. Social media is abuzz, saying it appears to depict an unwanted advance on a woman. Mahmoud Ahmed/AP Photo
A sculpture, titled 'Mother of the Martyr', depicts a slender peasant woman, a traditional artistic representation of Egypt, with her arms outstretched while a helmeted soldier stands behind her with his arms wrapped around her waist, at a public square in Sohag, Egypt. Social media is abuzz, saying it appears to depict an unwanted advance on a woman. Mahmoud Ahmed/AP Photo

CAIRO // A provincial governor in Egypt has ordered changes to a sculpture honouring fallen soldiers after many on social media said it appeared to depict an unwanted advance on a woman symbolising the country.

The concrete sculpture, titled “Mother of the Martyr”, depicts a slender peasant woman – a traditional artistic representation of Egypt – with her arms outstretched. A soldier in a helmet is standing behind her, looking over her shoulder with his arms wrapped around her.

Residents of Sohag, where the sculpture stands at a public square in a provincial town but has not been formally unveiled, complained that it was inappropriate.

Sohag and other southern provinces are more conservative than the rest of the Muslim-majority country.

Some critics of the Sohag statue, which stands at 8.5 metres high, said in their social media comments that the sculpture portrayed sexual harassment while others interpreted it as the country’s military seducing Egypt as represented by the peasant woman. That the sculpture stood close to a girls’ school fueled opposition.

Sohag’s governor, Ayman Abdel Monaim, has ordered an investigation into the commissioning of the sculpture by the local council of the town of El Belina. He said his provincial government should have been consulted before the 250,000 Egyptian pound (Dh103,400) sculpture was commissioned

“Sometimes, an artist’s vision clashes with the culture of society,” he said. “If our objective is to treat citizens with respect, then we must not do anything to offend their feelings. We all respect our army and country.”

The sculptor, Wagih Yani, 60, has begun modifying the sculpture, removing the soldier and placing an olive branch in the hands of the woman. White doves symbolising peace will form a crescent over the woman’s head, he said.

Yani defended his work, rejecting any suggestions of impropriety and saying the soldier represented the “spirit of the martyr” protecting Egypt.

“I remain convinced of the sculpture’s original idea and the modifications will not steer far from that,” he said. “But I personally feel that it’s important to me that everyone is happy with the sculpture.”

* Associated Press

Published: September 5, 2016 04:00 AM

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