الهرم الرابع ُبني لها

The Fourth Pyramid Belongs To Her

Sara Sallam

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For years we couldn’t talk about my grandmother. My parents didn’t want me to attend her funeral, and later I couldn’t get myself to visit her grave. Meanwhile, I waited impatiently to enter an ancient tomb and stare in fascination at a mummy.

The Fourth Pyramid Belongs To Her is an ongoing photographic body of work constructed on analogies between the experience of losing my grandmother and the many conflicting yet coexisting perceptions of death that surrounded me as I grew up in Egypt – a country shaped by its history as the necropolis of an ancient civilization buried under years of sand. Mourners, undertakers, tourists, archaeologists, smugglers, and sometimes boys playing hide and seek all intersect in this nationwide cemetery, yet each relates to it in their unique ways. Through juxtapositions, the project acts as a visual commentary on contemporary ways of seeing the dead in Egypt. It particularly addresses the apathy towards ancient remains by portraying my grandmother as a pharaoh and thereby instilling my ancestors’ humanity.

Egypt

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I could not get myself to visit her grave, however I felt her proximity in this cemetery near her house. Cemetery in Ard El Golf, Cairo.

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The ‘Sound and Light’ show performed at different historical sights in Egypt illuminates necropolises and funerary temples in multiple colors. Necropolis in Giza.

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The daughter of the sun God Atun is depicted as a human being with supernatural magical powers. Found Archival Image, from ‘Bride of the Nile’, directed by Fatin Abdel Wahab, 1963.

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Written reflections on the death of my grandmother.

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Many of the mummified corpses of ancient Egyptians are placed on display in museums, while the mere idea of treating any of the deceased from later historical periods in a similar manner is frowned upon. Museum in Leiden, The Netherlands.

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I only have a few photographs of her in which I can still recognize her face. In an old family photo album, most of her pictures are taken when she was nearly my age. Found Archival Image, date unknown.

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Away from the bustle and the noise of tourists wandering around this postcard scenery, the sacredness of these large tombs may come to mind. Necropolis in Giza.

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I laid there daily next to her after lunch as she rested her back, staring at the light reflecting through the curtains onto the ceiling. Grandmother’s House.

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Small statues and figurines were placed inside of pharaohs’ tombs as part of their preparation for the afterlife. Now they are found in souvenir shops. Bazar in Old Cairo.

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Written letters were found in ancient cemeteries reflecting a form of communication with the dead. Nowadays, many people reside in Cairo’s ‘City of the Dead’ due to difficulties with finding affordable housing. Cemetery in Cairo.

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The publications titled ’Description de l’Égypte’ first appeared in 1809 by the French government. During the French occupation of Egypt, the field of Egyptology was born with the discovery of the Rosetta stone. Found Archival Image, from the World Digital Library, ‘Description of Egypt, Second Edition. Antiquities, Volume One (Plates), 1820.

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Portrait of my sister at the temple of Abydos, which is believed to have been built in the sacred location where Osiris was buried before becoming the God of the Dead. Temple in Abydos, Sohag.

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The ancient Egyptians perceived a relationship between dreaming and meeting the dead. Sleep may have been considered a form of death itself, where the body is attached to the space of the living and the spirit is floating in the unseen realm of the dead. Cemetery in Ard El Golf, Cairo.

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Many coffins and sarcophagi were found open and their contents damaged or stolen when discovered by archaeological expeditions. Museum in Cairo.

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Displayed under gallery lights, these frozen exhibits appear vivid due to their choreographed poses, despite being in a state of slow decay. Museum in Giza.

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We found a plastic bag with a lot of photographs that were taken during her trip to the United states, from what I assume to be the early nineties. She was a tourist back then, and I look at her now as a tourist myself. Found Archival Image, date unknown.

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During the building of Egypt’s High Dam, some temples were rescued from the flooding of the Nile and were moved to higher ground. Many are now slowly decaying underwater. Funerary Temples in AbuSimbel.

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Wild plants and cacti trees grow inside of graveyards. They sometimes cover a land where many are buried without headstones. Cemetery in Cairo.

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The tombs of the Saqqara necropolis are maze-like corridors with false doors and undiscovered treasures. In the Book of the Dead, souls pass through this desert, which is described as a barren and dry land with narrow tunnels in the underworld. Necropolis in Saqqara.

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Some tombs are empty, others are visited for the drawings on their walls, while some are reburied after their analysis and documentation. Museums, on the other hand, are packed with artifacts and in constant need of additional storage space. Museum in Cairo.

Sara Sallam

Egypt

Sara Sallam is a documentary photographer and media designer, working with still and moving images, text, sound, and found archival material. She pursued a BA in media design from the German University in Cairo in 2013, and was awarded the UAL Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship in 2015 leading to her MA in photojournalism and documentary photography from the London College of Communication. Sara’s photobook, ‘The Invisible: Faith as a Phenomenon’ was shortlisted in Kassel Photobook award, Photo Independent Art Fair, and was exhibited in Offprint 2016.

www.sarasallam.com