Women in niqabs glide down a street on skateboards and scooters; they play basketball, dance energetically, bowl and play in bumper cars – activities women are forbidden by law to do without male supervision in Saudi Arabia. Over a bubbly pop beat, they sing “Hwages” – translated roughly as “Concerns” – a song and viral video challenging the oppression women face in the ultra-conservative country.
The week-old video – clocking in at over two million views – has been produced by 8ies Studios’ Majed Al Esa, receiving as much praise for its bravery as it has for illustrating supposedly “disgusting” activity. While it slyly mocks president elect Donald Trump in his ‘house of men’, the video also draws attention to the country’s ban on women driving while they ride fairground pumper cars and knock over bowling pins with men’s faces.
“Hwages” sees the group of women sing in the Al-Qassim region dialect as well as Saudi Bedouin dialect, according to the Observer, while also referencing older Bedouin songs. The video has also reignited the ‘barbs’ dance trend, which gained popularity back in April last year. Saudi political leaders condemned the ‘barbs’ dance as immoral and wrong.
Biting lyrics translated as “If only God would rid us of men”, and “men make us mentally ill”.
The production comes at a divisive time in Saudi Arabia, as conflict over the oppression of women is reaching the global stage. A petition saw thousands of Saudi women demand the end of guardianship laws – these laws, which require a woman to have male permission and supervision while travelling, getting married and other tasks, were extensively reported by the Human Rights Watch. #IAmMyOwnGuardian was the social media hashtag that characterised the rallying cry for equal rights heard across the world.