BLACK LAND – Performing Memory


BLACK LAND is a series of performances and installations that represent an attempt to remember testimonies of Ancient Egypt and to make the knowledge they hold fruitful for the present. Papyri from Elephantine become witnesses and actors alike, together with text fragments and objects of different origins. What stories do the ancient texts tell us? Who is speaking to whom? Who remembers? Can we remember together something for which there is no language?

A Performing Memory is an effort to draw lines of tradition back into a past that is still untapped. Is there a common ground on which we stand when we look at the past from multiple perspectives and remember? What do we understand of Egypt today, in a Europe on the brink? Dismember Remember.

"Black Land" used to be the name of ancient Egypt. Translated from hieroglyphs, the feminine word Km.t, pronounced Kemet, refers to the black mud, enriched with minerals and nutrients, brought into the valley by the Nile’s flooding each year. The irrigated soil, fertilized by the mud, provided sustenance for the people who lived there. The Nile water and the valuable, life-giving soil were sacred. The land’s barren desert regions were called Descheret (Dšr.t), "Red Land", which was dedicated to the sun and the deceased, who were buried in the necropolises there. Mythologically, the two »lands« were closely related. Elephantine, the island below the first cataract in the Aswan region in the south of the country is of particular importance here.

Geographically, according to ancient Egyptian belief, the Nile flood »originated« there. In mythology, Elephantine was a place of rejuvenation, spurred by the Nile’s annual flooding in the month of July. The deities Chnum, Satis and their daughter Anukis, worshipped here, represent fertility, new beginnings and growth.

In mythology, the Nile water is an element that connects life and death; and access to the water sustained lives. Even today, several thousand years later, an existential struggle for water as a resource is taking place; the ecological balance has been destroyed, while societies worldwide are struggling with inflation, famine and the destruction of their fundaments. Death seems omnipresent. Life and death, world order and world’s end, in all their interrelatedness, are negotiated in the ancient Egyptian texts. The texts generate two forms of time: neheh, the cyclical time of the Nile flood, the course of the sun and vegetation, and djet, the eternal time of the necropolises

The situation of the Elephantine island at the southern border of Egypt is unique as there is no other place in which cultural history can be »read« through texts spanning so long a time. Thousands of papyri in ten different languages and scripts have been found here, covering a period of 4000 years. As part of the ERC project ELEPHANTINE, these papyri are being examined by Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper and her team. Now, for the first time, they have found their way into a series of artistic works, marking the conclusion of the ELEPHANTINE project.

The project BLACK LAND is an interdisciplinary performance series and installation created in cooperation with the ERC project ELEPHANTINE of the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the National Museums in Berlin (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation) under the direction of Prof. Dr. Verena Lepper and the CTM Festival. Before BLACK LAND will be presented at Silent Green Performances are scheduled at the James Simon Gallery and Neues Museum in July (21.+23.7., Tickets).

With: Attila Csihar, Charles Hedger, Anabelle Iratni; Lea Draeger, Kenda Hmeidan, Vera Maria Kremers and others

As well as contributions by Yara Mekawei and Zorka Wollny, curated by Oliver Baurhenn / CTM Festival Concept and artistic direction: Elena Sinanina, Scenography: Inga Aleknavicuite, Costumes: Karin Merten (Bühnenservice Berlin) based on designs by Elena Sinanina, Composition BLACK LAND: Charles Hedger, Attila Csihar, Composition »Isolde’s Transfiguration« after Richard Wagner: Roman Lemberg, Dramaturgy: Rabelle Ramez Erian, Dramaturgy Outside View: Maria Buzhor, Curatorial Advisor: Verena Lepper, Consultation partners Egypt: Walaa El Shazly, Kerylos Aziz, Sound Design: Christopher von Nathusius, Project Management: Anne Diestelkamp, Organisation in Egypt: Ahmed Adel, Graphic Design: Ada Favaron

BLACK LAND is a project by Elena Sinanina, Attila Csihar and ensemble, funded by the Capital Cultural Fund Berlin, in cooperation with Verena Lepper / Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, National Museums in Berlin (Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation), CTM Festival and silent green. With the kind support of Collegium Hungaricum Berlin, Zelfo Technology GmbH and LEIPA Group.

Photos: Lutz Knospe.

Friday, 28 + Saturday 29 October
Tickets available from September 1, 2022


Note on attending the event

Since 1 April, corona restrictions no longer apply. However, for your protection and ours, we currently recommend that you continue to wear a mask during your visit and that you test yourself in advance. If you feel ill, please stay at home.