Let Yourself Be Disconcerted

Tahrir Square – Yesterday was my first trip to downtown Cairo. There’s such a beautiful mix of modern business and antique architecture. On the streets are men and women waiting for buses, or men sitting having tea while parents rush there smartly dressed youngsters off to school. Above everything are these old French windows and balconies, their crests and curls clashing with modern concrete and satellite dishes.

Photos like this make me feel like I’m staring at some sort of abstract art, something not quite fitting together but surprisingly cohesive when you stand back far enough. If you were to take any part of it and zoom in so that the rest fades on the periphery, it would tell you a story. Zoom out again and you have what history really looks like. A jumble of stories often smashed together, or too far apart, one seeming to overlap another word shouldn’t and none of them in the nice clear clean lines of our textbooks.

People are this way too. We like to try to zoom in on a certain part of them that are more comfortable and convenient to ourselves, but you can’t do that with people anymore than you can with history. You can look at a piece of it for a moment, yes. But it won’t make sense until you stand back and let yourself be disconcerted by reality.

Written by Rachel Lee Davis, artistic director of FrameMaker Arts. Rachel is currently on an ethnographic exploration in Cairo, Egypt with her family and will be contributing her experiences on our blog.