Let Sleeping (Egyptian) Giants Lie

April 13, 2017

The $795 million Grand Egyptian Museum due to open in 2018 will be the new home for a recently discovered treasure. An eight-meter-tall, 3,000-year-old statue of the Pharaoh Ramses II which has re-surfaced from a Cairo Slum, will be relocated and restored ready for the opening of the new museum in Giza next year.

For a growing number of academics and professionals, the municipal approach to this amazing discovery however, further amplifies the uncomfortable issue of cultural authenticity and the seemingly plastic methods of developing a popularized ethnically entangled national identity, using cultural spolia, to legitimize westernized architectural interventions by internationally renowned architects. Architecture which often has little home-grown merit or engagement. A building type which facilitate familiar patterns of global tourism (sanitized and easily accessed by the bus load, flipflops and frappuccinos, local-lit environments with negligible impact) which support state-owned political posturing rather than enhancing a legitimate sense of place and identity whilst strengthening local and national ties.

Perhaps then, the Statue should be left where it fell, If restored, then perhaps restored with William Morris and John Ruskin in mind, rather than Viollet-le Duc. A phoenix from the ashes, this culturally significant structure with its " amazing art historical value" should help support a network of local communities, it would help improve a community’s sense of worth and develop how the locals are seen by others. The statue could play a role in establishing an approach that celebrates a more holistic national consciousness, whilst lifting the community from years of slum conditions, opening access to education, economy and social inclusion.

 

 

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