Manshiyat Nasser, or as it is more popularly known, “Garbage City,“ is a slum settlement with a population of around 70,000 in Cairo, Egypt. The inhabitants, mostly Coptic Christians, have filled this area for the past 70 years. These informal garbage collectors, called the Zabbaleen or “Garbage people,“ collect the garbage of Cairo’s residents in a door-to-door service and then transport it via donkey carts or pick-up trucks to their homes in Manshiyat Nasser. Once home, they sort the garbage and recycle it. They’ve engineered one of the most efficient and profitable recycling systems in the world. The collecting of the trash is traditionally the men’s work, while women and children sort the garbage usually infranot of thier houses. Every space of the village is covered in garbage, including the streets, rooftops, stairs, houses. Conditions here are very poor and the living situation in the neighbourhood is unsurprisingly unhealthy.
Various degree of poverty can bee seen around the streets of Cairo nowdays. When you mention one place in particular: Manshiyat Naser, or commonly known as Garbage City, even many locals seem to turn their faces.
In 2016, eL Seed painted an incredible anamorphic mural “Perception” across 50 buildings in Manshiyat Nasser area of Cairo. In his own words: “To bring light on this community, with my team and the help of the local community, I created an anamorphic piece that covers almost 50 buildings only visible from a certain point of the Moqattam Mountain. The piece of art uses the words of Saint Athanasius of Alexandria, a Coptic Bishop from the 3rd century, that said: ‘Anyone who wants to see the sunlight clearly needs to wipe his eye first.’
Perception is a story srarted on 50 facedes in Manshiyat Naser and ended in 500 unique books.
“What intrigued me about Perception was less the end result of the painting—although it is very impressive—but the way in which eL Seed immersed himself in the community of Manshiyat Naser, and worked to unpack the assumptions and prejudices he—and we—have of the ‘garbage collectors’ of Cairo,” writes Glenn D. Lowry, director of MoMA, in the book’s foreword. “As he worked with local leaders, met the inhabitants of the buildings he painted, and played with the children of the neighborhood, the project evolved from being a literal act of ‘perception’ seeing the anamorphic painting spread across an array of buildings, to a metaphor for seeing what had been previously invisible; the dignity and richness of the lives of the Coptic community of Zaraeeb.”
I am very proud that I was invived by ElSeeD to be part of this project and through my photography to contribute to the completion of the “Perception” book.
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