2016, Mixed Media: Photography, Text, Video, Iron Sculpture
The Earth is an Imperfect Ellipsoid is a multi-part project that looks at the historical paradigms of technology and urban development connected to contemporary migratory paths. By employing cartographic research and landscape surveillance, the work critiques the predatory view of landscape and the exoticization of women’s bodies in relation to geography. The project proposes visual allegories focusing on architectural fragments and sexual hierarchies linked to colonial histories.
Part I. The Earth is an Imperfect Ellipsoid
The Earth is an Imperfect Ellipsoid is a land surveillance project that utilizes Al-Bakri’s “Kitab al-Masalik wal-Mamalik” (The Book of Roads and Kingdoms), an eleventh-century Arabic geography text describing major trade routes in West Africa under the Islamic Empire. Today, the original manuscript only exists in fragments. In 2014, Heba Amin embarked on a five-month journey along the same routes, starting the project in Ghana. With a theodolite, she documented the contemporary geographies missing from the manuscript. Using “Kitab al-Masalik wal-Mamalik” as a guide, the project critiques the authored accounts of merchants, traders and travelers who describe geographies through sexually explicit descriptions of the women they encounter. She secretly recorded her interactions with border-patrol officers to relay the sexual dynamics of bureaucracy connected to territory. >>> see project
Part II. An Astronomical Determination of the Distance Between Two Cities
Among the cities visited is La Agüera, a former Spanish colonial outpost buried in the sand dunes of the Ras Nouadhibou peninsula. An Astronomical Determination of the Distance Between Two Cities examines the structural remnants of this Saharan ghost town through the found memoir of Jesús Flores Thies, the last living inhabitant from 1933. The work explores the town’s colonial era in juxtaposition to the remaining architecture guarded by Mauritanian military forces. It confronts the clash between one man’s nostalgia for his childhood in Spanish Sahara with the lengthy and brutal struggle for a land whose sovereignty is still disputed after Spanish withdrawal in 1975.