paris: notes from the margins // a cloud passing over cairo

After the events of this summer, I think that Paris and Cairo will forever be curiously enmeshed in my subconscious: cities of displacement, revolutions, new beginnings, dreams, nightmares, healing.

One of the most powerful experiences to cement this relationship was a visit to an exhibit at Paris’ Institute du Monde Arabe called Le Théorème De Néfertiti, which was stunning in all kinds of ways. My favorite pieces were an exceptional short film titled Nefertiti by Ala Younis, inspired by the iconic Egyptian Nefertiti sewing machine (which I hope I’ll find time to write about soon), and a work called The Prestige of Terror, by Alan Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin. The latter invokes the writings and work of the Egyptian surrealists of the 1930s and 40s but it felt more relevant to today than anything else I’ve read about Egypt. The ability of such decontextualized short phrases – inspired by the writings of manifestos nearly a century old, no less – to speak more clearly than the thousands of op-eds and articles written this summer simply stopped me in my tracks.

The link to the piece above will give you a better sense of what it looked like: short, clipped, and incredibly powerful phrases printed in English and Arabic, framed, and hung in a neat grid. Given the events in Egypt this summer, and my own journey too, they struck a major nerve. I’ll include them below, interspersed with photos I took around the city as I pondered their meaning and felt them reverberate within my mind.

The Prestige of Terror.
هيبة الرعب

A Cloud Passing Over Cairo.
سحابة عابرة فوق القاهرة

Everything, but despair.
كل شيئ، ما عدا اليأس

Art and Freedom.
الفن و الحرية

Bread and Freedom.
الخبز و الحرية

A pleasure cruise away from modern suffering.
رحلة للمتعة بقيدا عن المعانة الحديثة

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