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Suzanna Cullen

MA work

Title of dissertation: Carving Cairo: Representations, Identity, Woodwork and the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection


A collection of Islamic woodwork from Cairo, Egypt dating from the tenth to fifteenth century AD, held in storage at the Victoria and Albert Museum, provides the foundation for ‘Carving Cairo: Representations, Identity, Woodwork and the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection’. Assembled from turned, carved and inlaid objects, both sacred or secular in function, when first collected this collection formed a representation of the Middle East as a whole. This representation was fashioned by different cultural authorities, whether architect, designer or historian, and is still being refashioned today.


By refocusing on the complex cross-cultural identities that formed the culture of wood within Cairo, later representations and misrepresentations of Cairene woodwork are deconstructed within this dissertation. The earliest representation — a nineteenth-century multi-layered construct, transformed local woodwork traditions from Cairo into symbols of identity for collectors and scholars alike, as well as a symbol of the exotic Middle East. By applying the concept of representation to the woodwork crafts of Cairo, new understandings can be brought to the complex equation of identity, authority and cultural heritage within the Arab world.


Info

  • MA Degree

    School

    School of Humanities

    Programme

    MA History of Design, 2011

  • Title of dissertation: Carving Cairo: Representations, Identity, Woodwork and the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection


    A collection of Islamic woodwork from Cairo, Egypt dating from the tenth to fifteenth century AD, held in storage at the Victoria and Albert Museum, provides the foundation for ‘Carving Cairo: Representations, Identity, Woodwork and the Victoria and Albert Museum Collection’. Assembled from turned, carved and inlaid objects, both sacred or secular in function, when first collected this collection formed a representation of the Middle East as a whole. This representation was fashioned by different cultural authorities, whether architect, designer or historian, and is still being refashioned today.


    By refocusing on the complex cross-cultural identities that formed the culture of wood within Cairo, later representations and misrepresentations of Cairene woodwork are deconstructed within this dissertation. The earliest representation — a nineteenth-century multi-layered construct, transformed local woodwork traditions from Cairo into symbols of identity for collectors and scholars alike, as well as a symbol of the exotic Middle East. By applying the concept of representation to the woodwork crafts of Cairo, new understandings can be brought to the complex equation of identity, authority and cultural heritage within the Arab world.


  • Degrees

  • BA (Hons), History of Art, University of East Anglia, 2008
  • Experience

  • Internship, Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 2010; Press office internship, Tate Modern, London, 2009-10