The Place and the People: Exploring Egypt's intangible heritage
Amira Noshokaty, , Tuesday 11 Aug 2020
Focusing on community engagement and braiding the tangible with the intangible heritage was the main idea behind the initiative by Egyptologist Fatma Keshk

What is your favourite thing about Egypt? Shamsi bread? Any idea who helped excavate the country’s amazing discoveries? Interested in Egyptology in Arabic?

Such are the main themes and topics explored by Egyptologist Fatma Keshk in her initiative titled ‘The Place and The People.’

Focusing on community engagement and braiding the tangible with the intangible heritage was the main idea behind the initiative. Having worked in the field of heritage and community connection for the past 13 years, Keshk’s main aim is to share the value of heritage with the community in which it is found.

Since 2018, Keshk has created several workshops in various communities such as Assiut and Rashid.

“We aim to share with the local communities the value of their heritage, to learn about it and share such knowledge using the most interesting methodologies,” she told Ahram Online.

Together with her assistant and main facilitator Ashrakat Fakhri, Keshk has managed to create a workshop for 40 children from Rashid in collaboration with the Robert Bush Foundation and the Goethe Institute. The end result was creating brochures that highlighted the cultural heritage of their city.

“For the adults of Rashid, we tailored a workshop to document the heritage of Rashid through short documentary films and several organised walks and tours around the city,” Keshk remembers.

Moreover, Keskh has created a book for children titled: The story of Shutb.

The book was the result of three years of research in the village of Shutb, Assiut, where Keshk served as an Egyptologist researching the link between the people, their intangible heritage, folk myth, and their architecture. Published by the British Museum, the book is the first of its kind to present intangible heritage to teens in the form of a story that revolves around the excavations in Shutb through the eyes of a 12-year-old hero, Nadia.

During the COVID-19 social distancing phase, Keshk’s initiative took a whole new level as their online connection got greater outreach.

The idea of posting the narratives of people behind the excavations was inspired by Mohamed Farouk, who shared his rare photos with Keshk and whose family has been part of all ancient Egyptian excavations in Qeft village, Luxor since 1820.

“And so, our next theme was the narratives and photos of the excavation workers at various archaeological sites and their memorable stories,” she added. Since then, lots of archaeologists from all over the world have been sharing their rare excavation photos and memories of their Egyptian sites.

Recently, the initiative, in collaboration with the British Museum, launched its latest theme: ‘An object and a story’. Here, Keshk showcases ancient Egyptian relics that are exhibited at the British Museum in an altered photograph of their modern-day place of origin. In one of the photographs, a relic shows an ancient Egyptian making their famous Shamsi breadin the village where the relic was found, where nothing much has changed.

The idea is to show how intangible heritage is very much alive and passed on from one generation to the other.