The Transnational Origins of Egyptian Modernism
This chapter argues that late nineteenth-century satirical cartoons and portrait photography in Egypt created a public conversant in a shared visual language of art and politics, and thus laid the groundwork for a modern art movement. The increased availability of mechanical image reproduction technology in Egypt, in addition to the country’s strategic position in international politics, fostered a visual system for identifying and critiquing late nineteenth-century Cairene politics among a transnational elite. This public included Ottoman, French, Italian, Syrian Christian, and Jewish individuals in addition to “local” Egyptians. The shared visual language spoke to all these diverse groups. I trace the visual history of caricature embedded in the satirical, illustrated Arabic- and French-language lithographic journal Abou Naddara Zarqaʾ, published by Yaʿqub (James) Sanua (1839–1912), and the significations of the cross-dressing by Princess Nazli Fazil (1853–1913) in photographic portraits. Both interpellate a public by means of images that reference a wide network of histories. Through visual analysis, I plot a constellation of complex visual and textual connections that, I argue, forms the “future public” of Egyptian modernism.
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