Cleopatra has long been a canvas for Western fantasies—from ancient Roman poets to Renaissance ideals, nineteenth-century Egyptomania, and contemporary Hollywood productions. Limited original sources contribute to our skewed image of her, shaped by biased lenses such as Plutarch, Shakespeare, and Elizabeth Taylor. 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. Each era begets its distinct image of Cleopatra that fits into new narratives reflecting cultural, social, and political aspirations of the time.
“Si le nez de Cléopatre...” delves into the ongoing process of rewriting and "correction" in history, exploring the underlying forces at play. It looks at how her historical image has been defaced and "refaced" in Western collective imagination; 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.
Rather than examining the extensive repertoire of images produced about her, the project focuses on the continuous refiguring and recycling of Cleopatra's image—an embodiment of the 'Other' in Western eyes. TUsing Cleopatra as a lens, the project questions power dynamics between East and West, exploring Western appropriation and fictionalization of Eastern heritage and culture. In the post-Internet era of alternative truths, the project challenges the evolving role of global mass culture in this process, once reserved for a select few politicians and intellectuals.
"Si le nez de Cléopâtre..." was created with the support of the French Institute of Egypt.