Friday, May 23, 2008

"Native Cheikh"

A turn-of-the-century Egyptian postcard


Anonymous said...

A rather interesting postcard for various reasons. First, the lack of specificity--this is the man with no name, Pure type. Second, the Orientalizing tendencies--you can imagine the proper Victorian being attracted and repelled by a figure embodying so much difference. Third, the application of racial theory. An Arab sheikh who looks like a Jew at a time when the Jews had just spent 100 or more years being theoretically Orientalized themselves (pardon the synax). Why did you choose to post this image?

John and John said...

In part for the same reasons you mention. But also because it is such a strange, unusual and powerful image. One that gives us a rare glimpse into the past. Beyond all the baggage of what the image was designed to represent, it is aesthetically an amazing photograph.

There is an antiquarian bookstore in downtown Cairo that stocks these old postcards, which is where i also acquired this image. You won't be surprised to learn that the name of the store is..."L'Orientaliste". It's on Kasr el-Nil street between Midan al-Tahrir and Midan Talaat Harb.