The National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) in Leiden is no longer allowed to conduct excavations in Saqqara, the famous burial ground near the Egyptian capital, Cairo. The Egyptian authorities have imposed this ban in response to anger over an exhibition currently on display at the Leiden museum, first reported by NRC.
The exhibition titled "Kemet: Egypt in Hip-Hop, Jazz, Soul & Funk" opened at the end of April. According to the museum, it is an exploration of "the significance of ancient Egypt and Nubia in the work of musicians from the African diaspora."
The exhibition primarily focuses on black artists from the United States, who are portrayed as Egyptian icons from the past. Visitors can see Beyoncé and Rihanna depicted as Queen Nefertiti, rapper Nas as Pharaoh Tutankhamun, and Eddie Murphy as Pharaoh Ramses, among others.
Shortly after its opening, the exhibition received a wave of negative reactions from Egypt. The RMO was accused of participating in the appropriation of Egyptian culture. The museum also published a statement concerning these reactions, https://www.rmo.nl/exhibition-kemet/ The RMO has received an official email from the Egyptian Antiquities Service, stating that the museum is guilty of distorting history due to the "Afrocentric" approach of the exhibition.
As a result, the museum, which has been conducting excavations in the Saqqara necropolis for years in collaboration with international partners, is now required to cease its activities. RMO Director Wim Weijland is angry about the accusations of distorting history. "That is inappropriate," he says to NRC. "This exhibition was created with great care. Such accusations should not be made among colleagues in the scientific community. I want that qualification to be retracted."
The RMO will formally object to the decision and Weijland intends to engage in a conversation with the Egyptian antiquities authorities. According to the museum, the authorities are basing their judgment on images that have been taken out of context, and no Egyptian officials have visited the exhibition in Leiden thus far.
While Weijland would like to return to Saqqara, he will not offer an apology. "And we will not alter the exhibition either. I am willing to add a plaque with Egyptian commentary, but someone needs to come and see it first."
Image : Courtesy RMO
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