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Precious Moment : Bebek

Nil and I meet – or at least we try to – once a week. At her request, I arrive at 2:30 PM. We chat a bit, catching up with each other's news before diving into our work. It’s become somewhat of a tradition for Nil to kick off our sessions with a quick coffee, energizing us as we tackle the tasks at hand. Now that Nil has purchased her new 8 TB Samsung SSD, we’ve officially embarked on the mission of backing up her archives. Folder by folder, we meticulously transfer her data to the new device. Interestingly, each folder often triggers new anecdotes and stories, unlocking memories in Nil’s mind. These sweet moments of Nil looking back on her life are extremely precious. I try to capture them as much as possible, thus forming an archive of the project’s process.

One of these “precious moments“; struck me this week. As we sifted through a folder containing biographical photos for her 2013 retrospective book, we stumbled upon a photo that captivated Nil’s attention. She quietly leaned back in her chair, taking a moment to reflect. Filling the screen was a charming image of a chubby, smiling baby – none other than Nil herself, at just a year old, if not younger “me, little baby me“ she remarked with a nostalgic smile. The moment was deeply touching, despite the decades (85 years to be exact) that separated us from that innocent gaze. Quietly, I rose to capture the scene, noting the photo’s origin in 1938, with the signature of the Cairo-based photo studio – the city of Nil’s birth – visible in the corner. As we explore images of Nil in her youth – traveling, lecturing, performing, and posing alongside her works – I’m struck by the privilege of accessing these personal archives.

Without getting too romantic about it, having access to these archives, being able to flip through the significant moments of Nil’s life with a click of the mouse, reminds me of the richness of the opportunity I have to be at the heart of this project and, somewhat, moves me. Nil’s youthful face and her fiery gaze that pierce through each photograph remind me of how much she has seen, met, loved, created, dreamed, known, and lived. There is no need to emphasize my gratitude for knowing her personally and having been able to develop this beautiful synergy with her.

We’ll meet again on Sunday to continue the work. Who knows, perhaps there will be more precious moments to share along the way.

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