If I Can Be Heard
In The Place Where You Are 

2017 / 2023


In the Louvre, an ancient Egyptian limestone ostracon dating back to the 20th dynasty is kept in the storage rooms under the inventory number N 698. On its surface is a hand-carved letter written by the ancient Egyptian scribe Butehamun addressing the coffin enclosing his departed wife, Ikhtay. Butehamun reflects on death and loss, hoping his letter reaches his wife in the place where she is.

Titled after a recurring stanza in Butehamun’s letter, this work addresses two issues. First, it criticises how ancient Egyptian necropolises are no longer experienced as places of mourning. By juxtaposing Butehamun’s letter with scenes depicting mourning and funerary practices from contemporary Egyptian films and television series, we are invited to participate in a funeral led by Butehamun’s mournful words of sorrow.

This funeral, however, is not one for Butehamun’s wife, Ikhtay; it is for Butehamun himself. With this work, I am responding, more importantly, to the violent fate that awaited this scribe after his death. Together with his coffin, Butehamun’s mummified body was displaced by the Italian explorer Giovanni Belzoni, whose wife later donated in 1847 to the Art and History Museum in Brussels. After being exhibited for years, Butehamun’s body underwent a violating autopsy that destroyed almost all of his remains in the name of science. By hearing Butehamun’s letter in this work, I invite us to mourn him through his own words of sorrow, reminding us, in turn, of his forgotten and disregarded dignity and humanity.

Book in limited edition of 30

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