The loss of my grandmother was a painful experience for my family. It left us in a state of denial, unable to speak about her passing. It defined my attitude to the topic of death for years, shutting it out of my life. Later, I met another family with a different view. Their business as caretakers of a cemetery has made talking about death a natural part of their lives. It shaped even the attitude of their youngest boys, who play hide and seek through the maze of mausoleums.
The more I spent time with this family, the more I got accustomed to talking openly about death. When I spoke of my cemetery visits, people were appalled at my interest in such a bleak topic. Their reaction reflects how our culture generally shuns death instead of embracing it as an integral part of life.
With “Playing in Fields of Reeds,” I want to show that there exist other ways of living in harmony with death in Egypt, such as that which I witnessed in this cemetery. This led me to the ancient Egyptians, who dedicated their lives to constructing magnificent tombs, which they envisioned as gateways to a blissful field of reeds —their conception of the afterlife. Just like for the boys, for them, death was not a compartmentalised aspect of their world but an ever-present backdrop to life. To bridge these two attitudes, I paint onto the photographs, which I have taken in this cemetery, visual elements based on the ancient Egyptians’ representation of funerary gardens and the afterlife. In doing so, I portray an Egyptian cemetery, where the real and imagined, the past and present, life and death, come together in harmony.