Figurines in rows

Malak Helmy: Ghost Writer

Year: 2018
Location: The British Museum, London

this piece takes you on a circular walk through the British Museum, London. You may wish to copy the route on a map of the museum prior to starting the podcast, then follow it as you listen. Ghost Writer sets an ambiance not connected with any particular object, so feel free to walk at any pace you desire.

Duration: 18 min

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This commission developed out of a dialogue with Mohamed Elshahed, former Curator of Modern Egypt at the British Museum, London, who helped build the XX century Egyptian material culture collection to sit alongside those of Ancient Egypt. Artist Malak Helmy’s sound work for these spaces evokes the first Cairene suburb Heliopolis from the early XX century – Egypt’s first suburban development and laboratory of Egyptian High-Modernism. Within the dystopia typical of suburbs, a rather significant Egyptian Death Metal scene emerged in the 1990s. Connected to the ancient world, the genre was deeply entwined with modernist urban landscapes: vacant desert lots, wide boulevards, empty cemeteries, and the Hindu-temple-inspired Baron Empain Palace, completed in 1911 as the residence of the Belgian founder of Heliopolis.

For Ghost Writer, Helmy takes a passage from China Miéville’s novel Kraken (2010), in which a character called Wati – a shabti like the funerary figures in the British Museum’s Egyptian collection – rebels in the afterlife and marches forward into the present, into London’s ‘underworld’, to start an insurrection amongst sculptures and magicked slaves. Helmy closely collaborated with Egyptian Death Metal audio/visual artist Nader Sadek to interpret Miéville’s passage as a Death Metal/doom-inspired track, accompanying a journey through the museum’s rooms.


Words: China Miéville, from “Chapter 25”, Kraken (2010)
Vocals: Nader Sadek, Malak Helmy
Musical compositions, guitar: Nader Sadek
Guitar: Nader Sadek

Arrangement, production, recording: Malak Helmy
Mixing and additional editing: Jim Ross
Studio Recording: Hashem El Saifi (Epic 101)
Thanks to Mohamed Elshahed

Malak Helmy works across a variety of media. She has made several projects that are studies of a character, sometimes using her own voice, often that of friends, who can become the muses or protagonists of these pieces.

Route: start at the bottom of the main steps of the British Museum’s Great Russell Street entrance, just past security. After walking up the steps, turn left immediately after entering the building, walking past the cloakroom and the small shop, then turn right: you should find yourself at the beginning of the Ancient Egypt gallery facing two seated statues [Room 4 on the Museum’s map]. Walk to the end of this room, feel free to wander round the exhibits; you will meet the West stairs on your left at the end of the room. Climb the stairs to the upper floor. At the top of the stairs take a left to enter the second Ancient Egypt gallery [Room 61] and explore the rooms of Egyptian life, death and afterlife [Rooms 62-63]. Continue to the end of the gallery until you have to turn right. From here we recommend proceeding straight past the stairs to the end of each gallery, from Ancient Middle East [Room 52], then right into Medieval Europe [Room 40], until you reach the South Stairs, which will lead you back down to the main entrance.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that Cold Protein is not responsible for and does not guarantee your entrance to the locations. Access is at the discretion of each individual site, and subject to their opening hours, T&C and ticketing (if applicable).


route on a British Museum map

route on a British Museum map