Group Exhibition: 'The Serapeum Way'

May 31, 2021 - August 29, 2021

ESCAP3 Gallery presents our next Group Exhibition titled 'The Serapeum Way', Monday 31 May – Sunday 29 August 2021.

Participating Artists Include: Mohammed Arrhioui (Morocco), Bernard Brand (South Africa), Andy Kassier (Germany/South Africa), Octavia Roodt (South Africa), Madiha Sebbani (Morocco/United Kingdom) and Saad Nazih (Morocco)

With significant new research of ancient sites being made across the globe during the past two turbulent years, particularly recent discoveries made in the Amazon and in Australia, we are further encouraged to rethink and reflect on our ancient human and animal bond, evident spiritual connection and our relationship with the environment, in order to better understand our present.

In Saqqara (near modern day Memphis) in Egypt, archaeological evidence to be found in the northern plateau reveal the ancient ruins of an important cemetery site used since approximately the First Dynastic period. The ancient city’s patron deity was known as Ptah, who was worshipped through the conduit of an 'Apis Bull', the latter buried in a lavish set of tombs, today called the 'Serapeum'. The 'Serapeum' is connected to the Northern Enclosure of the Temple of Bastet by a road of 'Human-Headed Sphinxes' also known as the 'Serapeum Way', and provided thoroughfare to the underlying populace of the city. This road was discovered in 1851 by August Mariette and this processional route also connected several other important temples and a vast complex of markets and vendors that traded in sacrificial offerings to provide pilgrims with offerings to their various deities according to the desired outcome.

There are several catacombs in this area which were devoted to the burial of various species which represented various deities, such as cats, dogs, baboons, ibis birds and hawks amongst others. The most significant and revered animal tomb however was built for the remnants of the 'Apis Bull'. Chosen by their markings as interpreted by the Priesthood of Ptah, both the bull and mother of the bull would be considered as holy vestiges to the divine. They bull would be transported to the Temple of Ptah to be worshipped until death as the physical representation of the deities Ptah (in life), and Osiris in death, whilst the cow would become associated with the goddess Isis. The symbolic significance and sacrificial value of a male bull or ram were used throughout ancient history, both as a substitute for human blood, and was revered across cultures and religions as a symbol of virility, fertility and life. The incarnation of a deity as an animal, served as a physical manifestation and conduit for a physical representative or connection to the divine.

'The Serapeum Way' can thus be perceived as a road to success, and archeological evidence remains that the route was later altered to include 'The Hemicycle of Philosophers', promoting Hellenistic Greek Culture by integrating their ruling narrative into mainstream civil society.

As we continue to introspect, whilst faced with severe existential challenges, we can perhaps understand that a deep and symbiotic relationship with our natural environment has indeed been compromised to our own detriment. Over-domestication of animals and the vast destruction of our natural habitat feed an unsustainable global demand. WHO (World Health Organization) investigators think that they have found the origin of Covid-19, and suggest that the virus likely originated from a species of bat. The transmission of the virus from bat to human likely came from the consumption of infected wildlife, sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan. Has cognitive disassociation to our interconnectivity diminished the value of life?

Further reading:

1.    Artnet – Art World: Archaeologists Have Discovered an Extraordinary New Style of Aboriginal Rock Art That Honors the Human-Animal Bond By Sarah Cascone,       October 2020

    2. Artnet – Art World: More Photos Have Emerged from the Massive Rock Art Discovery in the Amazon, and They’re Amazing—See Them Here By Brian Boucher, 3         December 2020

    3. NPR: WHO Points To Wildlife Farms In Southern China As Likely Source Of Pandemic By Michaeleen Doucleff, 15 March 2021