They Usually Lie Around a Grotto

Documentation — or even a contemplative pursuit — is met with a degree of antagonism where public space is almost inaccessible in Cairo. The clamor of the streets have become perpetual and monumental, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to be present as a recorder of things.” (Sara El Adl, Curator of Townhouse Gallery, Cairo.)

This two-year-long project is an imaginative visual response to my own freedom of movement within Cairo’s Giza Zoo, the captivity of its animals, and the history of its foundation. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 facilitated the importation of a vast arboreal wealth to Egypt and across the colonial network. Established under British occupation in 1891, the Giza Zoo encompasses a range of trees native to India, Brazil, Burma, Australia, Madagascar, and the Malay Peninsula. Like the fauna of the Giza Zoo, the seeds and flora that I documented are a “living archive” of the colonial project.

During my visits to the Giza Zoo, I started collecting seeds that were scattered across the site. I later reinterpreted these seeds by hand-painting hyperreal animals skins on their shells. In doing so, I aimed to highlight the zoo’s – all zoos – imitative nature and sinister superficiality.