Ahmed Elghoneimy and Shehab Ismail: A Virtual Tour of Cairo’s History

This collaborative project aims to create a website containing three interrelated elements: 1) a series of media essays that provides a revisionist history of the city by investigating the linked histories of public health, urban growth, and urban infrastructures, 2) an interactive map of British-colonial Cairo that functions as a geo-coded archive of the city’s maps between 1874 and 1920 and as a cartographic complement to the essays, and 3) a series of videos that alternate between documentary and fiction and that navigate through contemporary Cairo while imaginatively echoing some of the historical themes of the essays. The impulse behind this project is twofold. First, to create a pubic online archive of Cairo’s historical maps. And, second, to introduce visual media not merely as illustrations, but as forms of visual thinking and as building blocks for critical historical narratives.

Ahmed Elghoneimy’s work as a filmmaker revolves around interpersonal tensions between the different protagonists presented in his films, such as sons and fathers (Tripoli Tide, 2018), victims and perpetrators (Bahari, 2011), bullies and friends (The Cave, 2013), as well as around ideologies and those who act on them. Alternating between fiction and documentary, his films take no heed of a narrative arc culminating in a dramatic climax, but rather follow associations and use moments of collision as an opportunity to investigate notions like victimhood, power and masculinity. Elghoneimy’s work has been screened in several exhibitions and festival contexts, including Homeworks 6, Ashkal Alwan, Beirut (2013), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2013), Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2018), International Film Festival Rotterdam (2011, 2013), Photo Cairo 5 (2012), FIDMarseille (2012), and Doclisboa, Lisbon (2018). Elghoneimy was also a Fellow at the Ashkal Alwan Home Workspace Program, Beirut (2016)

Shehab Ismail is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin. He received his PhD from Columbia University’s History Department in 2017. Ismail’s research is at the intersection of the history of science and technology, urban and colonial history, and modern Middle East history. His current book project, which is based on his doctoral dissertation, explores engineering in relation to infrastructures and public health from the vantage point of a single colonial city, namely Cairo. He is also working on a public history project, tentatively titled ‘A Virtual Tour of Cairo’s History’ in collaboration with artist and filmmaker Ahmed Elghoneimy. Finally, he is developing a new research project on sexology in the early decades of the 20th century.


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