Egypt bans Dutch archaeologists for organizing exhibition allegedly supporting ‘Afrocentric theory’

Francis Akhalbey June 08, 2023
The Black artists featured in the exhibition include Beyoncé, Nas and Rihanna -- Left photo credit: Raph_PH | Middle photo credit: Coup d'Oreille | Right photo credit: Kasio69

Authorities in Egypt have banned Dutch archaeologists from conducting excavations at an important site in the North African nation after they organized an exhibition looking into how Black musicians – including Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Nas – were influenced by ancient Egypt.

According to BBC, the National Museum of Antiquities in the Dutch city of Leiden said its archaeologists were banned after Egyptian authorities alleged the museum was “falsifying” the exhibition that casts a spotlight on Black artists. 

Titled Kemet. Egypt in Hip Hop, jazz, soul & funk, the focus of the exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) is to show how Ancient Egypt and Nubia have been “an undeniable source of inspiration for musicians of African descent for over 70 years, with artists not only embracing and claiming these ancient African cultures, but also employing the associated motifs as symbols of resistance, empowerment, and spiritual healing,” the museum explains.

The exhibition highlights photos and music videos displaying how Queen Nefertiti was portrayed by Beyoncé and Rihanna, BBC reported. Other highlights also include “Nas’ gold mask of King Tutankhamun and several of Sun Ra’s Egyptian-inspired costumes,” as well as songs from musicians including Nina Simone, Fela Kuti, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.

The exhibition also reviews information scientific research has gathered about ancient Egypt and Nubia and talks about how they have been studied from the angles of Afrocentrism and Afrofuturism. The RMO had been conducting an excavation at Saqqara necropolis near Cairo for almost 50 years before a senior Egyptian antiquities official notified the museum about the ban. 

The ban came after local media in the North African nation reported that a local antiquities expert had been left furious by the exhibition. The expert claimed the event backed “Afrocentric theory.” An Egyptian MP who became aware of the event also demanded answers from the government with regard to its efforts in confronting “the distortion of Egyptian civilization.”

In a statement on Wednesday, the RMO said it was disappointed by the ban, adding that the allegations were “unfounded.” “The Egyptian authorities have every right to terminate a permit for an excavation; after all, it is their land and their heritage. However, the museum considers the underlying argument for this decision incorrect,” the museum said.

“The Egyptian authorities conclude that our current exhibition… is about ‘falsifying’ the ancient Egyptian history. This political argument is used to express the dissatisfaction with the exhibition and to ban our excavation.”

The RMO said it was surprised the allegations were coming from “people who have not actually seen the exhibition”.

The museum also said some social media users sent them comments that were “racist or offensive in nature” following the commencement of the exhibition. This incident comes not too long after Egyptians took issue with Netflix after Cleopatra was portrayed as Black in a four-part drama documentary.

In a statement responding to the Netflix project, Egyptian experts were adamant Cleopatra had “white skin and Hellenistic characteristics,” per The Guardian. “Bas-reliefs and statues of Queen Cleopatra are the best proof,” the ministry said with illustrations depicting Cleopatra as a woman with European features.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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