Only five weeks now until Arab Nights opens at the Soho in London - and so this week I'm delighted to share Lebanese Live Artist Tania El Khoury's thoughts and musings on her contribution to the production. And for those of you especially interested in 1001 Nights her piece - both powerful and very funny - also has echoes of a great tale within the ancient Nights canon called 'Abu Kassim's Slipper'. It seems the precedent of shoes as powerful objects of provocation is even older than we realised...
The multi-functional shoes
I stared at the newspaper's photo of the shoes that Asma El Assad purchased from Louboutin. This must a joke. Even for a play, I wouldn't write that the character of a brutal dictator’s wife buys a designer pair of shoes with nails coming out of them. Does she use them to poke the eyes of political prisoners? Surely she doesn't wear them to a dinner party thrown by queen Rania or any other freakishly smiling royal.
Being a dictator’s wife who is busy buying shoes while the people are dying is beyond a cliché. Shouldn't a modern and educated westernised first lady find herself a more unique passe-temps? Imelda Marcos, the wife of the former Philippino president did it before her. She left behind over 1000 pair of shoes when she fled the country.
Shoes in the Arab world played a part in politics long before the Assads' shopping basket was leaked to the media. They serve a specific task, to be thrown at the faces of dictators, war criminals, state media representatives and any other enemy of the people. If the world was a better place, these revolutionary shoes will be worth more than the entire collection of Louboutin.
Dictators in the Arab world also use shoes as a political tool. Last year, Nazeeha a friend from Bahrain was arrested for reporting on-line that she had witnessed the killing of a civilian by the police. She was tortured by having one of her shoes shoved down her throat. This story didn't make it to Vogue but Asma El Assad did.
Tania El Khoury | Wednesday October 17th 2012