After Anahit revolves around two major events that took place in the Turkish province of Gümüşhane, in the Northeast of Turkey: The first is the annihilation of a glacier lake called Dipsiz Lake, and the second is the acquisition of a 1st-century BC bronze bust of the Armenian goddess Anahit by the British Museum. The destruction of the lake and the appropriation of the bronze bust serve as symbols of erasure, and the project follows their traces and remnants to emphasise their resilience.
In 2019, two treasure hunters from Turkey got an official permission to dig the lake in order to retrieve the gold rumoured to belong 15th Apollinaris Legion. Earlier in the same year, archeologists unearthed the military base of the legion not far from the lake’s location. Dipsiz Lake already had a mysterious reputation, the discovery of this base supported the rumours of gold hidden in the bottom of the lake. Perpetuators obtained official permission for this excavation, and governmental officials were present during the event.
Near the base, the infamous bronze bust of Aphrodite was found in the 19th century. Alessandro Castellani, an Italian collector, smuggled the bust to Italy and sold it to the British Museum in 1873. Since then, the British Museum has exhibited the bust under the title of the Roman goddess Aphrodite, presumably because of the bust's Hellenistic characteristics. Armenians and some scholars believe that the bust represents the Armenian goddess Anahit, given the historical presence of Anahit in that specific region.
Through photography, archival resources, installation art, narrative deconstruction, and reconstruction, After Anahit delves into the voids and gaps created by the appropriation of cultural artifacts, the erasure of cultural and ecological histories, and the impact on identity by both institutions and treasure hunters.
This project and exhibition is funded by the Mondriaan Fonds, The Van Bijleveltstichting, the Leeuwnsteinstichting and Kleurgamma Fine-Art Photolab and commissioned by Foam Photography Museum in Amsterdam.