“Manhood is taking responsibility. And that is not easy, this responsibility. The meaning of ‘I am a man’ is that I am strong and robust, that I show right and wise conduct.”
—From Manhood Is Not Easy
accordionist Sayyid Henkish illustrates the challenge of living out masculine norms on Muhammad Ali Street,
’s dancers, musicians and street performers throughout the 20th century. Henkish’s life story uncovers the unwritten code of the
, men who see themselves as “sons of the country.” Henkish embraces a performative view of manhood, only as real as it is visible to the community. Acts like protecting female dancers, paying musicians fairly and providing for family were all exemplified by his own father, a musician and his primary mentor. Even after seeing the world with a national performance troupe, Henkish remains anchored at home by a sense of responsibility and nostalgia. With gigs harder to come by as “the trade” sunsets, he busies himself managing the family’s instrument shop.