Layered Histories

Aesthetica Magazine, April 5, 2017

Inspired by Gustave Flaubert and Maxime du Camp’s journey through Egypt in 1849, artist Fouad Elkoury captures an essence of romanticism and nostalgia in his series, Suite EgyptienneFlaubert and du Camp were commissioned by the French Ministry of Agriculture and Commerce and the Académie des Instructions in Paris to report on ‘the Orient’. Central to Flaubert’s writing and a symbol of his romance with the East was his encounter with the famed courtesan from Esna, Kuchuk Hanem. Considered by Elkoury the subject of some of Flaubert’s most beautiful pages, she returns in his Suite Egyptienne on show in its entirety at The Third Line, Dubai, from 13 April.


Suite Egyptienne is an account of Elkoury’s own, photographic travels through Egypt in the late 1980s. Following in the footsteps of Flaubert and Du Camp, the artist journeyed across the Nile valley nearly 150 years later. Whilst in pursuit of their 19th century voyage, Elkoury, accompanied by his then wife Nada, observed and documented an subconscious overlap of narratives. In his photography, Nada becomes the protagonist in Elkoury’s depiction of Egypt, transforming the 150-year-old Orientalist narrative into a personal fiction. The series evokes a sense of nostalgia for the era of Flaubert’s romanticism, whilst also making us reminisce the Egypt of 1989.


Living and working between Paris and Beirut, Elkoury has been at the forefront of photographic practices in Lebanon and the wider Middle East for decades. On Love and War, a series of journal entries spanning the duration of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in August 2006 was shown in Lebanon’s first National Pavilion in the Venice Biennale of 2007. The Third Line now provides audiences with an opportunity to discover rarely exhibited and never before seen images in the Suite Egyptienne –  an intimate series of 80 photos that shows the ephemeral and layered qualities of history.


Fouad Elkoury, Suite Egyptienne, 13 April – 16 May, The Third Line, Dubai.


From the Aesthetica website.