[photo docu, 2014]

Hide and Seek

The death of my grandmother was a very painful experience for my family. It left us in a state of continuous denial, unable to speak about her passing. It defined my personal relationship to the topic of death for years: shutting it out of my life and averting my gaze when encountering it. Later, I would discover that some families in Cairo have a very different relationship with death.

In the project Hide and Seek, I follow two young boys who frequently visit their grandmother at the family house, which stands within a gated evangelic cemetery in Cairo. Currently managed by their uncle, it is being run by their family for almost a century. This family business has made death a natural part of their lives, shaping even the attitudes of the very young in ways that were surprising to me.

When joining them on their visits, the boys would invite me to play hide and seek among the tombs and concrete crosses in the arid burial grounds. Chasing the echo of their laughter through the maze of mausoleums, I shared their experience of this space as a cheerful playground. The distant sounds of crying visitors, the decaying flowers left by the graves, and the emptied coffins stacked to be burned slowly failed to arrest my gaze, until they no longer halted our games. Only once they would hold their breaths in hiding, the creeping silence would rush in once again, reminding me of what lies beneath the ground. This project is an invitation to retrace the game of hide and seek in this unique playground, and — like me — to stumble upon different faces of death along the way.