A Voyage through Cavafy's Alexandria at Benaki Museum of Islamic Art
14 May - 19 September 2010
|ABOUT THE EXHIBITION|
The Benaki Museum, in collaboration with Kalfayan Galleries presents the work of Anna Boghiguian for the first time in Athens. Boghguian’s watercolours invite the viewer to revisit the poems of Cavafy and to travel to the enchanted landscape of Alexandria. A trip which appears lyrical but is also explosive and dark, a trip that takes the past into the present, washes Alexander in the waters of the Ganges River and conceals the Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes in the urban landscape.
Her words, like her works, are full of passion and nostalgia and evoke in us ideal images of the city that no longer is:
“Alexandria is an intriguing city, due to its nature, a city that is an Egyptian port and at the same time too different from other Egyptian cities in its temperament as well as its history. Submerged in the myths of the past, a mirage, a shadow of past glories and cultures that just the touch of it is felt in the dust and the sounds of the wind. In winter the city ceases to be a summer resort and takes over its habitual form as a port. Once a junction of diverse cultures, once inhabited by diverse nationalities, Greeks, Italians, Spaniards, Jews, Armenians and Arabs intermingled and related without ethnic boundaries, like during the Ptolemies … Durrell wrote the “Alexandria Quartet” and immortalized the city. Forster before him wrote on Cavafy and Alexandria for the English-speaking world. Cavafy, with his poems, introduced the history of the city to the world...
It isn’t difficult to imagine Cavafy moving swiftly with the air of the city, visiting the different cafes and bars of his neighborhood, or going to work at the Water and Irrigation Company, taking the lift up to the 4th floor where his office was, and occupying a seat with a view of the Corniche and the Mediterranean, rehearsing his poems as if in a theater, and he, the actor, creating a theater within the theater …
His flat may have been cluttered with objects and, as I have read, some were precious and beautiful while others were of no aesthetic value except for the dust that covered them. Forgotten in space, it all existed harmoniously as his poetry…
The many vases he had may have been filled with flowers and as he objected to electricity and used gas light, the space must have had a warm glow from the candles and shaded the place with softness and shadows like the shadows of the past he writes about or in the poems where he describes the softness and sensuality of candlelight …
I imagine Cavafy walking down the street from Attarin Street … which can be translated as Spice Street. He passed many antique shops, perfume sellers as well as spice sellers. All the imported goods from different countries were displayed here. He arrived at the port to receive the sailors. He went to the coffeehouses and like a Greek scholar, taught the young poets of the city about history and poetry and of course, about life… He loved his liquor and half cut cigarettes. He was the perfect Hellene, a lover of his language … His metric order was a waltz, a tango or folk music. I would also add classical Greek music although I have no knowledge of it but only an intuition. Like Tagore and Shawki, music was a necessity in the poems, although Cavafy’s poems weren’t sung ...
I took him as the key that opens the city, the history of Alexandria as well as the mythical, illusionary city. He follows the conquest of Alexander the Great and
goes to India and to the making of mandalas and repudiates his sins in the Ganges.”