Dido’s Problem

  • October 2015


In mathematics, the “isoperimetric problem” of enclosing the maximum area within a fixed boundary is often called the “Dido’s Problem”.

Escaping her brother, king Pygmalion of Tyre, Dido set sail with her followers and arrived on the coast of Tunisia (around 825BC). She asked the Berber king Iarbas for a piece of land – only as much as could be encompassed by an oxhide. Her request was satisfied, and Dido cut the oxhide into fine strips so that she had enough to encircle an entire nearby hill. This land became Carthage and Dido became the Queen.

Impressed by her cunningness, king Iarbas offers Dido the options of either marrying him or face a war against her and her people. To save her people from an inevitable defeat, she set herself on fire and ended her life.

In December 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi, a street vendor in Ben Arous (north-eastern Tunisia), set himself on fire as a protest to the harassment and humiliation inflected on him by the municipality. This act became the the ignition spark of the uprising that swept some Arab countries (the so-called “Arab Spring”) in 2010 and 2011. The photographs, shot in Tunisia between 2014 and 2015, examine beauty and disintegration in a country that is yet to enjoy its own Spring.

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