Digital Arts and New Media: MFA: Collaboration, Innovation, Social Impact

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Laura Boutros: Amduat

The Twelve Hours of Ra

Laura Boutros "Amduat: The Twelve Hours of Ra"

When conceiving my MFA production I knew I wanted to explore my identity; what does it mean to be stripped of all the context of your history and grow up “creating” a relationship with your ancestry across the globe? What results is a fragmented and layered group of choices that must literally be unwrapped throughout one’s life. This trajectory highlighted the areas I have witnessed Egyptians depicted in Western media and performance, or rather the neglect of such appearances and the inclination towards appropriation and white-washing. My work attempts to restitute Egyptian aesthetics in the West, and recraft these narratives through an informed lens. 

Amduat: The Twelve Hours of Ra is an immersive multi-media theater experience that centers on the Egyptian-American diaspora. Drawing on themes of circularity and liminality, the work situates Egyptian aesthetics in the Western museum space and draws on the Ancient Egyptian myth of Ra’s twelve-hour journey in the Duat. The audience is taken on a “docent” tour by major figures in Egypt’s Pharaonic age, encountering mythological counterparts, and experiencing the duality of order and chaos. 

The word “amduat” translates to “Text of the Hidden Chamber Which is the Underworld” which describes the land of the dead, its’ spirits, guardians, and threats. Amduat draws on interpretations of this text, along with historical events, to create a narrative that captures Ra’s death and rebirth and the lifetime of conflict in a first-generation American-Egyptian. The piece questions the legacies of colonialism in narratives and history while highlighting the media’s role in perpetuating misinformation surrounding Egypt’s stories. 

Death, in the piece, is examined through the lens of “the mummy,” questioning the treatment this monster has faced on the Western screen, and what it means to have a soul or consciousness, despite being dead. Beyond media, mummies are most often found in museums, the setting of Amduat. Brought before the Rosetta Stone, the Arab Spring, and a number of other Egyptian “encounters” with the West, the audience is called to not only judge characters on the scales of Ma’at, but themselves as they are brought before the results of colonialism by wrapping and unwrapping the past.