Ala Younis, Nefertiti, 2008.

Dates: 15 – 27 January 2010
Times: 10:00 – 18:00, Mon – Fri
Artist Talk”  19 January 2010, 19:00 – 20:00

“Whatever we’ve invested in industry, we have found returns for the industry […]. Products that allow us to not import from abroad. If it were not for everything we have invested in industry, I do not know what we would be doing right now.” –  Gamal Abdel Nasser, 1967

Produced and sold in Egypt after the 1952 revolution, the Nefertiti sewing machine was part of the Egyptian government’s attempt to nationalise the country’s industrial production, from domestic appliances to military warfare, and to create productive symbols of Egyptian sovereignty. The curvaceous machine was introduced to Egyptian homes with the intention of empowering women while keeping them at home, during times of war. It suffered significant design flaws, which contributed to the decline of its popularity among Egyptian households. As it failed to compete with imported models, the production of Nefertiti machines was eventually discontinued, shortly after the death of Gamal Abdel Nasser.

Ala’ Younis’s video installation features two of the original machines, displayed on white pedestals, in a museum-like style, which recalls the scenery of archaeological displays. The accompanying 12-minute video narrates the history of the sewing machine, the personal accounts of those who used it, and reflects on the hopes and aspirations of Egypt and the Arab world, in the heyday of the independence.

In this video archaeology, the Nefertiti sewing machine resonates as a nostalgic symbol of hope, national pride and loyalty. It also functions as a reminder of aborted promises of progress and modernity, and of a disheartening ideological disappointment with older generations. Nefertiti questions our relationship to consumer products and the myths that surround them. Looking back at a time when industrial processes held critical economic, social and political significance, it explores the links between consumerism, national identities and the formation of political ideologies.


Ala Younis (b. 1974) has exhibited internationally, including Darat Al Funun, The Jerusalem Show and the Townhouse Gallery. She lives and works in Amman, Jordan and was a resident artist at Delfina Foundation, with the support of the British Council – Creative Collaboration. Nefertiti was commissioned by PhotoCairo 4: The Long Shortcut, in the context of the Digital Residencies.