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The Valley of Walls

The Valley of Walls is a site-specific group exhibition surrounding the diverse personal archive and abandoned 1960s apartment of Ahmed Ali Kamal, late Minister of Irrigation in Egypt and grandfather to Nada Baraka. Initiated by Baraka herself, and prepared over the course of 2 years with participating artists: Hany Rashid, Malak Yacout and Mohamed El Maghraby, the exhibition was then curated by Farida Youssef and in 2023 got selected to be an Apex Art exhibition. 

From a vast sea of photography, letters, reports and technical drawings, Baraka chose to focus on the more subtle details in Kamal’s archive such as side notes, postcards, signs of memories and other private elements in the house. She presents three painting installations, in which the apartment’s preserved furniture and spacious rooms become integral aspects.

 The Dining Room: A Carnival to My Ears

Placed in the emptied dining room, once the beating heart of the home, the paintings in this installation were inspired by a collection of postcards and Kamal’s own photography from the 1950s and 1970s. The distinct colors of vintage prints, stylized objects behind a glass vitrine, and natural landscapes from another time are all elements Baraka explores as she uncovers some connections and decontextualizes others.  A wooden structure on wheels carries the unfinished paintings, invoking the process of moving and sorting familiar to the artists who engaged with the archive’s immense material. Mirror, light and shadow become parts of the work as much as they featured the house itself.

 The Kitchen: An Epoch of Grace

 In this kitchen installation, material from Kamal’s notebooks and journals come to life, particularly small side notes, quick drafts, doodles that weren’t as neat as the archives majority. Baraka’s interventions include the usage of plain paper from the archive on which she traces, writes or paints. In this room the juxtaposition of old and new is heightened, as is the blend between untouched in situ objects and those carefully positioned by the artist. The kitchen becomes a staged painting of its own with the layering of colored light, placement of surprise objects, and conversations with the cabinets that hide and reveal little stories.

 The Master Bedroom: Weary Seeds

 In the bedroom, the artist’s carefully designed intervention stands defiantly across other objects stored on the floor and against the walls. While proposing a bridge between past and present, the work seeks to challenge expectations of handling an archive, what it means to preserve, and what lines can be crossed. The modern structure of shelves, with paper and photos placed under a sheet of glass suggest an unexpected link between formal museum displays and informal Egyptian home decors. Here, Baraka places herself within the archive, a nod to her special connection with the material and a provocation to the idea of preserving with no interference. Meanwhile, a list of items in a secret room, and evidence of frames removed from the wall haunt the space with nostalgia.



The Dining Room: A Carnival to My Ears painting Installation, 2023.

The Master Bedroom: Weary Seeds Installation, 2023.

The Kitchen: An Epoch of Grace Installation, 2023.