Si le nez de Cléopâtre...
DARB1718 | Cairo, Egypt
“Si le nez de Cléopatre...” investigates the process of constant rewriting and “cor- rection” of history and the forces at play that take place in the process.
The project centers on taking the figure of Cleopatra as a metaphor for this practice and looks at how, as a historical figure, her image has been defaced and “re- faced” in Western collective imaginary; defaced, like Hatshepsut when her real face was gradually erased from history, and then refaced, when this historical figure was transformed into a fictional character adopting specific physical features dictated by the Western world to introduce to the mass the fictional image that they’d expected at a given time.
For centuries, Cleopatra has served as a projection screen of the fantasies of the West: from the writings of ancient Roman poets and the classically inspired ideals of the Renaissance, to the orientalist mind creations of nineteenth century’s Egyptomania and the contemporary monumental Hollywood film productions. Few of the written sources and images produced in her lifetime were passed down to us and essentially, our image of her mainly comes from the all-too-biased lenses of Plutarch, Shakespeare, and Elizabeth Taylor. To each historical era, there is a distinctive image of Cleopatra, an image “corrected” by the viral modes of contemporarity to be integrated into new narratives that reflect the cultural, social, and political aspirations of the time.
Rather than examining the extensive repertoire of images produced during her lifetime, the project aims to look at the process of refiguring and recycling the image of this woman who symbolizes, in the eyes of the West, the ultimate embodiment of the ‘Other’. Through the particular example of Cleopatra, the project comes to question the power dynamics between the East and the West through exploring Western cultural appropriation and fictionalization of Eastern national heritage and culture. In the post-Internet age of alternative truths, the project also comes to challenge the new role of the global mass culture in this process, a part that was long reserved for a small group of politicians and other intellectuals.
"Si le nez de Cléopâtre..." was created with the support of the French Institute of Egypt