About the Family
The Mazin tribe, is a sprawling network of families throughout Egypt and Sudan, belonging to the Nawar tribe. Based on their oral history, the tribe is believed to have migrated to Egypt at some point from or through Kurdistan/Southwest Asia.
The family patriarch Mazin had at least 2 wives, Yasmina and Yamna with 4 sons and 5 daughters. The sons Yousef, Saad, Mohammed and Mortada each had extensive families, while of his daughters Labiba "Kabira", Fahima, Labiba "Sogheira", Hanifa and Shaam, only the first and last are recorded as mothers. Fahima and Labiba "Sogheira" along with their distant cousins (Hanifa, Wahida and Hamida) worked as dancer-singers and became the basis for what would become Upper Egypt's most iconic traditional dance troupe a generation later. Labiba "Kabira" had a daughter named Wedad, who was also a singer-dancer.
Members forming the "Banat Mazin" (daughters of Mazin) shifted over time as women married and retired, passing the mantle on to younger generations within the family. Generally speaking the 5 daughters of Mazin's oldest son Yousef (Suad, Fatheya, Feriyal, Raja and Khyria) are acknowledged as the core of this group with additional help coming periodically in later years from Yousef's granddaughters, nieces or great-nieces. Although there has been temporary participation by some of the younger girls in the family, as of 2022 this is no one actively learning or planning to continue this kind of work, leaving Khyria Mazin (now in her 60's) as the last working artist in the family.
From at least the 1960's, researchers began to study and record the Banat Mazin; articles, videos and music albums were created by American dancers like Edwina Nearing, Pepper Alexandria, A'isha Ali, Morocco and Habiba while American and European researchers documented them in doctoral theses and folklore collections. Various members of the family have appeared in foreign or domestic documentaries, silver screen films, LP and cassettes, hotel shows, concerts, weddings, mawlid (saints day festivals), sebouah (baby showers), circumcisions, dance festivals and many other events.
It wasn't only the women of the family who had a trade in the arts, several of Mazin's grandsons played traditional instruments, supporting their sisters in the musical realm while Mazin's sons with working daughters took the role of the manager or impresario. Marriages to other Nawar artists from the extended family or Bahlawan girls from north of Luxor are seen repeatedly in the family history but those unions have not lead to a modern generation of artists in the family. Due to expanding opportunities for higher education and overall cultural shifts the arts performed by the descendants of Mazin will end with Khyria, but the impact of this family on Egypt and artists around the world is permanent, spun into the fabric of a thousand creations they will never see.
Labiba & Fahima
Labiba Mazin is the first generation of dancer-singers known in the family with at least one known film credit in Giovanni Canova's documentary "Folk Life in Upper Egypt (1978-1982)", where she tells the story "The Kite's Daughter" (or بنت الحداية Bint el Hidaya). Although her parents may have initially objected, she became a significant artist in her community and later taught the daughters of her brother Yousef to dance and sing. She was especially talented at recitations of the epic tales and monologues and her dance has been described as bearing similarity to that of Nazla el Adel, the famous almah from Cairo.
According to family stories she seems to have drawn a lot of inspiration from the dancers she interacted with at moulids, some of which were Sumbati ghawazee; and was undoubtedly influenced by other upper Egyptian dancers like the elder Wahida el Rikabi from Edfu with whom she worked with on occasion. Other dance partners at various times included her sister Fahima, distant cousins Hanifa, Wahida and Hamida, and her oldest niece Suad.
Fahima Mazin taught the nieces how to skillfully create unique and impressive costumes and delicious meals. Yousef's youngest daughter credits the delight of the meals she serves guests to the skills she learned from Fahima and praises Fahima's skills in beading and sewing the original costumes worn by the Banat Mazin.
Fahima Rafai Toufik
Yousef, son of Mazin was the head of his enormous family during the height of his daughters' careers and their diligent manager. He taught many researchers who came to study the family, their history as Nawar, the lineage he identified their tribe as being descendent from. He is pictured above with sister Labiba and grandchild Bari'a.
Not to be confused with her sister-in-law of the same name, the mother of the famous Banat Mazin was married young and birthed around 14 children, 8 of whom survived into adulthood. She named several of her daughters after her favorite or well known dancers. She died (in childbirth?) approximately two years after Khyria was born. Her sister Zakeya also married into the family as the wife of Mortada Mazin.
The Sons of Yousef
Hashim the eldest was married to a women named Khyria (born Hayat Abd el Hamid, aka Khyria "Kabira" to distinguish her from her younger sister-in-law), who frequently danced and sang with his aunts and sisters. Their daughter Shadia performed both shaabi and sharqi, even working at hotels in dubai. (Khyria Kabira and Shadia pictured here.)
Khalaf played ney and mizmar, he married a bahlawan woman from Qena named Awatif who loved to dance and help her sisters-in-law prepare for shows, but never worked professionally. Their daughter Sabah trained briefly with her aunt Khyria (named after Hashim's wife) and is likely the last member of the family to learn the dance before retiring for marriage.
Mazin, named after his grandfather, works as a mechanic. He married his uncle Saad's daughter Sana, who performed with her sisters and was featured singing popular tunes with her step-mother Farida on at least one cassette.
The eldest daughter, Suad was a talented and creative dancer, singer and costume designer. She learned primarily from her father's sisters Fahima and Labiba and strongly influenced the look and technique of the ensemble as a whole. Her short stature and large heavy sagat help identify her in videos and old photos.
She married twice, with one daughter (Bari'a) from her latter marriage to the famous Zakariyya Al-Hijawi who worked along side her mother's sisters Raja and Khyria until marriage. Suad was the primary caretaker to her younger siblings after their mother passed away. Her youngest sister Khyria credits many of the songs they sang to the collaborative efforts of Suad and Zakariyya, who at one point traveled with Feriyal and Fatheya to work in Kuwait. The three worked in Cairo as part of Hijawi's company for a short time as well. Suad died around 2008 at approximately 67 years old.