There is an apocryphal story that the British took stones from Cypriot archaeological sites and other monuments of cultural heritage. They supposedly used them to line the banks of the Suez Canal. Versions of this story appear in casual conversation, on websites, local guided tours, and also in academic footnotes. While the sources for these claims are not immediately apparent, two things are clear: that an unimaginable amount of stone disappeared from Cypriot sites of cultural heritage, and that the Suez Canal was a voracious project at a particular time in world history. In a way that embraces uncertainty, this project explores the issue of stones missing from Cyprus and contributes to an archive of their absence.

High-resolution photographs taken from the superstructure of the COSCO Vancouver as it traversed the canal (2007) show that the embankments of the Suez Canal are made of stone. Whether it is Cypriot or not is still open to question. Beginning with these photos, the Stones of the Suez Canal project moves into archival research in Cyprus and Europe, and also looks at stone reuse in Cyprus, Port Saïd and its breakwater. A progress report on the project was part of the 2010 PRIO Conference on Cultural Heritage in Nicosia; this, along with a general historical-political background of Cypriot stone reuse, was published in June 2012 by the Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies (JBNES).

A new publication in the Cahier du Centre d'Études Chypriotes is forthcoming in 2017. It presents research that continues in Egypt, Cyprus, France and extends to other regions. Original research was funded in part by the University of Nicosia, Cyprus.

 

Elizabeth Hoak-Doering “Stones of the Suez Canal: A Discourse in Absence and Power in Cyprus and Egypt" the Journal of Balkan and Near Eastern Studies (JBNES) Volume 14, Issue. 2, pp. 199-228 available here.

 

the Middle Way

Landscape drawings are central to the Middle Way, drawn in Cypriot historical and archaeological sites where stones were taken for export to Egypt in the 19th century. Quarrying and poaching left peculiar silhouettes, and this became a study of presence and absence that is the focus of this work.

This is an initial artistic response to several years of research. On this take, the work theoretically follows the path of the Suez Canal, looking East in terms of aesthetics, and drawing from Eastern philosophy in traditional Chinese painting, centering on two room-sized drawings on Xuan paper. The drawings are collaged, reproduced (frottage) Cypriot landscape-silhouettes.

There is also a projected animation, Sometimes a Line is Actually a Space (Allegory of the Visible–Invisible), which shows the double nature of the missing stones - named after a traditional brushstroke.

The work overlays the Cypriot silhouettes with Taoism, suggesting the possibility of an empty space between two opposite entities. This Taoist space can be characterized by internationality, flow, and dissemination: qualities shared by the Suez Canal. “Of dispersion and fluidity” are take-away photographs of shipping containers and the stones lining the canal, made from aboard a containership in 2007.