In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and emphasizing the importance of being prepared for a professional world, LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC) welcomed Angie Cruz on October 31st in the E-building’s Poolside Café. Ms. Cruz, who previously visited the campus in 2017, is an Associate Professor at the University of Pittsburgh, writer of short stories and […]
In a continent where witchcraft is very much present, a magical spell is casted on young women to live their lives in a limited and radical manner.
In many parts of the world, whether it is because of religion, culture, or tradition, sex is a topic of controversy. In some parts, there is even an obsession with women’s sexuality and virginity. In this film, we get to know three complete strangers who have been victims of this obsession, sharing in common one thing: the Tasfih. The Lock was presented at LaGuardia Community College’s Little Theatre on Thursday, April 26th as part of the 4th edition of the New York Forum of Amazigh Film (NYFAF) by the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center.
The annual showcase brings the public documentaries and short films by the Amazigh people of North-Africa and allows viewers to learn about a lifestyle absolutely different from your own. These films offer a look into the many traditions and cultures of the Amazigh people.
The Lock focuses on three women from Tunisia, North Africa. Houda, Mabrouka and Faouzia, who have never met, share the Tasfih, a ritual performed on a virgin girl before her twelfth birthday. The ritual or spell is meant to make the girl “impenetrable” and protect her from any act of sexual intercourse, whether desired or forced, until marriage. In the Amazigh people’s culture, families have passed down for generations a strong belief in preserving a woman’s purity and virginity. As the ritual is being performed, the girl then proceeds to say “I am a wall, and the son of another is a wire.” This isn’t just being chanted, it is something that remains embedded in their minds and is permanently internalized within them as they grow up.
The mothers that performed this ritual on their daughters believe they are rightly honoring this coming of age tradition, one that benefits their child. The Tasfih is a way to protect a woman from the men around them and from their own desires. Sex is turned into a taboo and therefore forbidden. These women had never had a one-on-one talk with their parents about sex like families do in different parts of the world. They are absolutely unaware of what it is, how it happens, and they can’t educate themselves about it. It is a topic locked up and forgotten.
Out of the three women mentioned in the film, only Houda is able to leave Tunisia in pursuit of a normal life. After her departure she moves to Italy and begins dating. Because of her new life, she is uncomfortable with her sexual desires and needs. In her mind, the Tasfih is still very much present. She is still honest with the men she dates, and accepts the way she is and what she has to offer. Houda spent many years of her life “locked” up until she was thirty. Her lack of knowledge and experience makes her feel like a child when the time comes to break the lock with the person she is seeing at the time. As her life progresses in Italy, she eventually finds her partner and marries him.
Although she goes against the ritual that was performed when she was younger, she still feels guilty when visiting Tunisia. The culture and environment brings back the fear of opening up about her sexuality. Houda can’t escape remembering not only what she went through because of the Tasfih, but how many other young girls and women are subject to the same fate.
The challenges are even more difficult for Mabrouka, Faouzia, and all the women who choose to stay. Their lives revolve around the men of the families. Women spend their time running errands around the house, making sure their husbands have clean clothes, hot food, and the kids are not doing anything reckless. This is what young girls are trained and prepared for.
When it comes to the men of the family, the case is very much different. Dr. Lucy McNair, co-organizer of the film festival added, “It is interesting to note that these mothers believe they are protecting their daughters so that they can go to school, college and establish a career, in contrast to traditional Muslim men who wish to see their daughters to wear the hijab and stay at home.”
Ultimately, being a good housewife is more important in the Amazigh culture than anything else. Being locked away forces them to refrain from any temptation they may face and narrows their focus onto becoming a future housewife. Their future seems to be set in stone. It is as if there is no other future besides a life taking care of a household. The only thing they can look forward to one day is marriage and life with only one man. On their wedding day, the spell is broken and the woman’s perspective changes, “I am a wire and he is the wall,” is chanted as the bride’s life is ready to be handed over to the man she is marrying.
This tradition takes over the lives of many, but in this story Houda teaches us that we can carve our own path in life. Her actions and brave decisions lead her to take off the chains her culture had ready for her, and forge a path away from living life with instructions.