Through a series of un/planned walks in the city, the artists explore the urban subconscious of Cairo and its psychogeography.
Places are fragmentary and inward-turning histories, pasts that others are not allowed to read…
This is a sort of knowledge that remains silent. Only hints of what is known but unrevealed are passed on "just between you and me.”1
Walking in the city is a speech act
a “spatial acting out of the place.”2
Each stride an enunciation,
enacted in the dis/placement of the body
in the intricate paths taken,
in the pace of movement,
in reflective pauses along the way.
Tracing invisible paths
across the streets of the city,
through sites of trauma and protest,
past commemorative monuments,
around concrete barricades,
she marks through movement
informal and poetic moments of
reverie, remembrance, and resistance.
[ 1 ]
She who steps across the threshold
She who takes the first step
toward the solution
She who walks with you
She who moves us
She who drives us forward
هي من تخطو عبر عتبة الباب
هي من تخطو الخطوة الأولى في اتجاه الحل
هي من تخطو معك
هي من تخطو بنا
هي من تخطو بنا إلى الأمام
[ 2 ]
She walks through spaces of resistance,
in personal acts of remembrance,
tracing multiple paths of protest
converging onto the square.
A public, individual performance
where collective action once abound.
[ 3 ]
Unlike Flaubert in Egypt,
through the unfamiliar city,
orientalist fantasies consuming him,
she, with a mission and sensibility,
dreams of treading new pathways
through the streets of downtown Cairo.
[ 4 ]
They drive by Simón Bolívar Square.
She laughs sarcastically as she tells him:3
“I read once that one of the street signs in Arabic translated Simón Bolívar to Simone de Beauvoir, though I haven’t seen it myself.”
She thinks that he doesn't know who Simone de Beauvoir is.
He seems puzzled.
Apparently he doesn't know who Simón Bolívar is either.
[ 5 ]
She notices that El Libertador’s sword is missing from his statue in Simón Bolívar Square.
She later learns that it had been stolen during the clashes in 2012, and that the Venezuelan ambassador has commissioned the Egyptian artist, Sayed Abdou Sleem, to restore it.
Quoting the Ecuadorian poet Olmedo, the ambassador proclaims:
“el brillo de su espada es el vivo reflejo de su gloria.”
(the brightness of his sword is the living reflection of his glory.)
[ 6 ]
She walks home through Simón Bolívar Square
whenever she wants to avoid the intense crowds,
and deranged motorists (who speed up when they see you crossing the street).
She avoids the square and walks through Qasr Al-Aini Street
whenever she wants to avoid the U.S. and British embassies,
the overbearing concrete barricades,
and disruptive checkpoints
that surround them.
[ 7 ]
Illuminations into the upside down world:
El Libertador guards the entranceway
to both past and current
Stifling built environments
suffocating social spaces
anxious in hyper-visible invisibility,
she traces the poetics of the unseen.
[ 8 ]
An image captures Cafe Riche,
the street, shops, and nearby alley.
Years ago, a small protest
took over Huda Shaarawi Street,
making its way to Talaat Harb Square.
There was gunfire,
she was shot
on this sidewalk,
and he held her.
by her comrades,
she was taken
across the street to the alley.
A man stands on the sidewalk
looking toward the exact spot where it took place.
Is he witnessing?
Does he remember?
[ 9 ]
Standing near Huda Shaarawy Street
she looks through images on her phone
from a revolution archive,
images recorded there several years ago.
Covering the screen from the sun with her hand,
drowning out the sounds of the city with headphones,
she observes in silence
as protesting figures
move past her
down the street.
She imagines a future archive
performing images of revolutions,
simultaneously superimposing past and future protests.
Which protest does she want to remember?
Which revolution does she want to live?
About the Project
This Stays Between Us involves the creation of a quasi-fictive archive by two subjects in dialogue, each presenting and responding to images, video, text, and other materials relating personal and historical narratives of the city of Cairo. In Part I, the artists explored historical and personal memories as they relate to the formation of images of the prominent Egyptian feminist Huda Shaarawi and contemporary women participating in the Egyptian Revolution of 2011.
More on the project here.
[ 2 ]
Hala Qandil. “It’s Still the January Revolution: Sana Seif Walks Alone in Protest from Mustafa Mahmoud to Tahrir Square.” Shorouk News, Jan. 26, 2016.
[ 5 ]
Simón Bolívar is a Venezuelan leader who led the wars of independence in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Panama and Bolivia. Proclaimed as El Libertador (the liberator from the Spanish army), he is revered as a hero throughout Latin America and much of the third world as an anti-imperialist nationalist. A bronze statue of Simón Bolívar stands in the square which is located a few meters from Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the Egyptian revolution of 2011, and in close proximity to both the American and British embassies.
Ayman Baraez. “In pictures: restoration of the statue of Simon Bolivar, and his sword remains stolen.” Al-Ahram, Jan 18, 2014.
“La embajada de venezuela en egipto restauro la estatua del libertador en el cairo.” Noticias24, May 16, 2014.
[ 6 ]
“In pictures: Cairo roadblocks in Egypt protests.” BBC News, December 3, 2012.
Eric Schewe, “A Walking Tour of Revolutionary Cairo (Photo Essay).” March 8, 2011.
Mitchell Sipus, “Cairo Egypt - A Contentious Veneer of Political Nothingness.” Humanitarian Space, Feb. 27, 2014.
[ 7 ]
Eduardo Galeano and Mark Fried (translator). UpsideDown: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World. New York: Picador, 2001.
Marie-Louise Richards, “Hyper-visible Invisibility: Tracing the Politics, Poetics and Affects of the Unseen,” Field: A Free Journal for Architecture, Vol.7(1) pp. 49-51.
[ 8 ]
Marck Ernest Thornton, Café Riche, Google Street View, March 2017.
[ 9 ]
Video clip from بنات مصر قالوا كلمتهم Egyptian Women Send a Message to SCAF, Dec. 20, 2011.