The artist María Primo exhibits at Casa Árabe her approach to the stories surrounding the main artery that gives life to Egypt, today threatened by the deterioration of the climate crisis and mass tourism

The Nile is more than a river

The anthropologist María Primo took advantage of her extensive experience as an aid worker in various projects related to ecology to, after a period of research in Luxor, focus in depth on the Nile. She paid close attention to the many stories it contains: mythological tales, female pharaohs, tomb robbers, ancestral constructions and vernacular architecture. Specialising in photography, Primo captures in images these stories around the main artery that gives life to an Egypt that today has more than 105 million inhabitants. If one compares the pressure on the great river today with that of just eighty years ago, when Egypt had only 15 million people, it is easy to see the danger facing the Nile.

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In addition to the ancient stories, Primo has also identified the threats to the river, especially the impact of the climate crisis and mass tourism. President Al-Sisi has prioritised this as the main source of the country's income in the gigantic infrastructure investments he is carrying out, something that, as in many other places, is beginning to be seriously questioned as one of the major factors contributing to the accelerated deterioration of the planet.  

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In any case, and as the curator of the exhibition, Blanca de la Torre, points out, "the artist navigates with agility between different temporalities that take us from remote centuries to the present, she recovers fragments of the memory of the Egyptian past making use of a sophisticated fusion between myth and reality, legends and historical episodes".  

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Structuring the exhibition in conceptual blocks, the artist draws inspiration from Ancient Egypt to shift the anthropocentric approach and reveal how, even then, their worldview included empathy towards the non-human: trees were sacred and animals were gods. This animist will is reflected in a series of ceramic pieces in which she makes hybrid representations, created by María Primo in Luxor and in Spain, thus connecting our pottery tradition and our Arab cultural substratum. On these plates she has inscribed Arabic inscriptions: 'Nothing is connected to everything, everything is connected to something' and 'We are nature, God is nature, God is love, nature is dead'.  

The Egyptian worldview of the universe was dominated by the image of the central river. The Nile is thus a spiritual symbol represented by the figure of Hapy (Hep), an androgynous being associated with the origin of the waters and with the phenomenon of the annual flood.  

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As an articulating axis, it also refers us to the figure of Hassan Fathy, a pioneer of sustainable architecture, who stated that "a door is not just a door, but a border between the outside and the inside world". Fathy, known as the architect of the poor, developed projects such as Gourna, in Luxor, a utopian proposal for a village that arose in 1940 to rehouse its inhabitants, mostly tomb robbers, now a UNESCO heritage site.  

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Egypt is a passion that is unleashed in every visitor. It dazzles with the vestiges of its history, which show its grandeur. The problem is that visitors have become tourists and are legion. Combining its advantages and its undoubted contribution to the country's development with the sustainability of its nature is its great challenge, as well as, in the end, that of all of us who live on this planet. 

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