Friday, 6 July 2012

Xenia Nikolskaya: Dust, Egypt's Forgotten Palaces

Photo © Xenia Nikolskaya-All Rights Reserved

From afar, it seems Egypt and its people are still waiting to exhale since its popular uprising against the Mubarak regime, and 60 years of dictatorships...and whilst I try my best to counter the lay neo-cons and the agenda-driven commentators who write absurd comments about its current events and future in The New York Times by writing my own points of view (and they all get featured without fail), I fear the internal political situation in Egypt is murky, and will remain unsettled for the near future ...and that's an immense understatement.

So Xenia Nikolskaya's work on the UK's Daily Telegraph suffused me with mixed feelings. Dust is a good title for her photographs of buildings built after the Suez Canal opened in 1869, and before Nasser came to power in 1954, introducing sequestration decrees that would send many of the wealthy elite into exile.

The buildings, mansions, movie theaters, and retails stores that are depicted in Xenia's Dust have mostly fallen into disrepair. Due to long standing governmental rent-control policies, these once ornate and grandiose buildings were left to rot, with no repairs or maintenance done, as landlords weren't making money from them.

I recall the names of some of them....Radio Cinema ( I watched movies there, at a time when I was careful to count my change as the women at the ticket had the habit of "rounding" it in their favor), Sakakini Palace, Sarageldine Palace, while others are unknown to me.

Xenia Nikolskaya graduated from the Academy of Art in St Petersburg and then went on to study at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, Copenhagen. She has worked as a professional photographer since 1995, and became a member of the Russian Art Union in 2001. She first came to Egypt in 2003 as part of a Russian archaeological mission.