Endurance Artists Maiada Aboud: From Divorce to Directing

Sassy Souls Ep 4: Bethany Burgoyne & Dr Maiada Aboud

Endurance artist and theatre director, Dr Maiada Aboud has been using their voice and body to depict honest and provocative conversations about gender and societal shame. Through art, Maiada is addressing topics that are often considered taboo. Having been commissioned by institutions and galleries around Europe and the SWANA regions, Maiada's latest project 'Ascension' brought light to the experiences of menstruating people.

In this episode of Sassy Souls, we hear Bethany Burgoyne interview Maiada Aboud about the mentality behind their art. Discussing the unifying and healing results performance can lead to. As well as tapping into the triad of anger, rebellion, and endurance art as a form of self-expression.


Having grown up in Haifa, Occupied Palestine, Maiada Aboud's journey into performance has been a cycle of reclaiming their voice and rebelling against repressive expectations. Nudity, apples, and repetitive acts such as cutting and sewing often form the basis of Maiada's work, depicting scenes from the bible.

You can lock a woman in a room,

You can place a citizen under arrest,

You can trap a body behind bars

But sound is unstoppable,

Freely carried by the air

No matter how hard life was or might become,

This was the definition I would only accept

A voice

by Maiada Aboud

It was 18 years ago while Maiada was studying painting, that the performance art teacher noticed a different potential in them."When he met me he instantly clicked,'You have some energy that doesn't belong to painting. Why not come to my seminars and see how you feel'". During this time, Maiada was going through a divorce, and explains how, "I had loads of anger and negative energy - loads of power to scream and shout. So I went there and it led me to perform my first ever piece, 'The Bell'". Holding the bell as a phallus, the performance shows Maiada shouting and symbolically masturbating; actively and theatrically rebelling against cultural and religious norms.

I like to see myself as a voice, and it's very important to state that it's a voice I wasn't born to have. So it was a status I had to claim for myself

After moving to England, Maiada did their MA in art followed by a Doctorate in Performance Art. Continually tapping into new ways to use ones voice, Maiada sees their performances and endurance art as an act against the norms of what women are told they are not allowed to do. "Endurance art allows you to dive deep into your core and depict all those symptoms and things you've not been allowed to do. You take them out on stage and work around those taboos, gender issues, cultural codes, restrictions, and taboos. It's therapeutic in a way". Maiada often depicts Christian symbols from the bible, creating scenes that combine laborious tasks with the physical body. In one of their performances, Maiada constructs an apple installation, peeling and serving the fruit to represent the six days of creation before gluing the apple peel onto their body to hide their breasts and vagina. They then ring a bell, symbolising the seventh day of creation. Maiada describes the performance as "a statement about...not wanting to be put in a box. I don't want the way I sound and look to be formed by culture and expectations".

This desire to push out of a box leads Maiada to discuss their most recent project 'Ascension - Intimate bodies, forbidden stories'. Focusing on the prohibition of discussing menstruation and the painful memories related to it. Maiada began by interviewing 12 menstruating people, sharing their stories that often linked to violence, abuse, and harm. Maiada reflects on how "It made me realise the common ground where most women come from - that we can have different backgrounds but at the end of the day the pain is really mutual and we share similar aspects." The unifying experience of societal shame and repression across all religions and social circles is something that stood out to Maiada. Explaining how "We share similar taboos and limitations. Upbringing follows certain patterns of what you should and shouldn't do". This led to them asking questions such as "Why is something we have to deal with, on a daily basis, so forbidden to talk about? You're always giving "too much information". No one wants to hear about those topics and I really find this annoying at times.". In a statement to this silence, Maiada directed four performers depictions of this struggle through endurance art. From livers being sewn together, eggs being dropped, and nails being repetitively painted, Maiada describes how "The whole journey of Ascension, from beginning to end, was really special and an eye-opening experience".