prism #25.12: 'Seeds From the Zoo' by Bryony Dunne

Seeds From the Zoo
by Bryony Dunne

“Documentation — or even a contemplative pursuit — is met with a degree of antagonism where public space is almost inaccessible in Cairo. The clamor of the streets have become perpetual and monumental, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to be present as a recorder of things.”  (Sara El Adl, Curator of Townhouse Gallery, Cairo.)

Seeds From the Zoo is an imaginative visual response to my own freedom of movement within Cairo’s Giza Zoo, the captivity of its animals, and the history of its foundation. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 facilitated the importation of a vast arboreal wealth to Egypt and across the colonial network. Established under British occupation in 1891, the Giza Zoo houses a range of trees native to India, Brazil, Burma, Australia, Madagascar, and the Malay Peninsula. Like the fauna of the Giza Zoo, the seeds and flora that I documented are a “living archive” of the colonial project.  

During the two-year-long project visiting the Giza Zoo, I started collecting seeds that were scattered across the site. I later reinterpreted these seeds by hand-painting hyperreal animal skins on their pods. In doing so, I aimed to highlight the zoo’s — all zoos — imitative nature and sinister superficiality.

Untitled, from Seeds From the Zoo © Bryony Dunne 2017  

Chorisia Crispiflora, Vegetable Silk Tree, Brazil  / Delonix Regia, Flamboyant Flame Tree, Madagascar  © Bryony Dunne 2017  

Untitled set, from Seeds From the Zoo © Bryony Dunne 2017 

Enterolobium Cyclocarpum, Seeds From the Zoo, Brazil © Bryony Dunne 2017  

Untitled, from Seeds From the Zoo © Bryony Dunne 2017  

Bryony Dunne is an Irish-artist based in Cairo. Through the mediums of film, photography and installation art, she explores the intersections between humanity and the natural world, often merging documentary and fiction. Botanical, zoological constructs and colonial backdrops deeply inspire her work. 

Dunne’s work has been exhibited at such places as London’s Mosaic Rooms, Leighton House Museum, Goldsmiths University, and the Irish Film Institute. Her first short film The Orchard Keepers (2014) received first prize award at Ethno Film in Rovinj, Croatia. In 2016, Dunne was a recipient of Mophradat Artists Award, and a solo multi-media exhibition of her work on Egypt’s Giza Zoo was presented at Cairo’s Townhouse Gallery. The project will travel to Istanbul this May for the Sharjah Art Biennial 13 Tamawuj. Her short film Things Stay for a While (2017) won best director at Egypt’s Zawya Short Film Festival in January. She is currently working on a film and photography project titled Pembe, which follows the journey of the world’s last male Northern White Rhinoceros. She holds an MA in Heritage Conservation Studies with a focus on visual anthropology from UNESCO and University College Dublin.


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