Shabtis: Suspended Truth
Responding to the current political debate on the subject of migration, Manchester Museum, part of The University of Manchester, has commissioned a gallery installation by Syrian-born artist Zahed Taj-Eddin, which reflects on the Museum’s world-class Egyptology collection.
Zahed Taj-Eddin was inspired particularly by Manchester Museum’s extensive collection of Egyptian shabti figurines, which were placed in large numbers in tombs to act as servants for the afterlife. He has previously created 99 faience ceramic ‘Nu’ Shabtis for popular shows at the V&A, Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology and elsewhere.
Zahed’s new work places a multitude of his ‘Nu’ Shabti figures in new and unexpected contexts, many suspended as if floating in the main Ancient Worlds gallery space. The focus of the installation is to reflect the experience of migrants on a boat travelling across the Mediterranean towards a new existence.
Zahed said: “For this new installation I decided to suspend my 'Nu' Shabtis in the Museum galleries. They are taking a new journey into time and space; suspended between the past and the present, searching for a new truth, different from the one they were made for. The display invites visitors to think about ancient and modern human issues such as the beliefs and actions that lead us to venture into the unknown and explore a better life beyond.”
Dr Campbell Price, Curator of Egypt and Sudan, said: “Our aim in working with Zahed has been to address contentious social questions through the lens of archaeological collections; to use seemingly familiar objects and provoke discussion of big contemporary topics. Zahed’s sculptures are both serious political commentary and enthralling objects in their own right.”
Zahed’s installation is accompanied by a display of more than 250 ancient examples from one of the world’s most important private collections of shabtis, many never seen on public display before.
‘Shabtis: Suspended Truth’ will be on view at in Manchester Museum’s Ancient Worlds galleries from the 1st of April until the 30th of June 2017.