Sanduq El-Dunia: An interactive project to preserve the memory of Cairo and Cairenes

Salma Shukrallah , Wednesday 27 Jul 2016

After years of work, the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute launched on Tuesday the Sanduq El-Dunia

Sanduq El-Dunia
Sanduq El-Dunia (Photo: courtesy of the Danish Egyptian Dialogue Institute)

Part of a network of "walls" documenting in images the memory of the city, the Danish-Egyptian Dialogue Institute's (DEDI) Sanduq El-Dunia hosts a collection of personal and public images showing Cairo's daily life and landscape, its memory and heritage.

It is the third installation of its kind -- originally pioneered by the Museum of Copenhagen -- developed and designed by Gibson International and Spild af Tid/Waste of Time.

The original The Wall in Copenhagen, a 12 metre long, two metre high installation, first introduced Sanduq El-Dunia in 2013 when it replaced the thousands of images representing Copenhagen with images from Cairo instead.

Cairo's Sanduq El-Dunia is now a 75 inch touchscreen installation of its own through which viewers are able to navigate a large archive of images or upload their own photos.

"It’s a project for Cairenes more than anyone else" said Omniya Abdel Barr at the opening event in Emir Taz Palace in Old Cairo.

"It is for those who know the city's details…it is for those wishing to maintain the city's memories," she said. "Share with us what Cairo is for you and what memory you would like to have saved."

Sanduq El-Dunia

The collection of images already displayed by Sanduq El-Dunia took around a year and a half to compile, according to Barr, with images dating back to the 1930s up until the present day.

In addition to individual contributions, DEDI cooperated with other associations including Women and Memory and CULTNAT (the Centre for Documentation of Cultural and Natural Heritage) to bring the collection of images together.

Sanduq El-Dunia will be touring Cairo, as the interactive installation is set to be be displayed in several cultural venues as well as heritage sites. 

"At first the idea was for Sanduq El-Dunia to be as big as the one in Copenhagen and similarly installed in a public place accessible to all people" said DEDI's programme officer Lamma Attia. However, she explains that that proved difficult when applied in Cairo.

The important thing now, said Attia, is that in Cairo it tours areas accessible to the audience. "It is not meant to be an elite's project," she remarked, emphasizing that the project will not be limited to private displays and its accsess has to be free of charge.

The idea of creating Sanduq El-Dunia arose in 2011 with Egypt's 25 January revolution, influenced by the images and stories emerging from Tahrir Square and the idea that "culture is for all".

Its mission, according to DEDI, is to "democratize the production of a collective memory, history and knowledge".

Sanduq El-Dunia should then, as a second step, tour other cities in Egypt.

In addition to the installation, Sanduq El-Dunia has also set up a website through which individuals can post their own memories of Cairo. 

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