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Ancient Egyptian Wisdom ... Daily Practice

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Will "Expedition Africa" be Full of Racist Stereotypes?

This evening the History Channel premiered its new historical reality series, Expedition Africa: Stanley and Livingston. The brain-child of Mark Burnett, the British television producer behind Survivor; Expedition places four white adventure seekers in a modern-day recreation of Welsh journalist Henry Morton Stanley's 970-mile search for Scottish explorer David Livingstone. Livingstone was a missionary in South Africa before deciding to search for the source of the Nile (Hapi) in central Africa. His disappearance led Stanley on an arduous 9-month trek to find him.

While Livingstone was a prominent advocate of the anti-slavery movement, his "exploration" of South and Central Africa directly reinforced the "Scramble for Africa". European countries carved the continent into pieces as they fueled their enormous wealth and power by raping it of its human and natural wealth. Livingstone's life became a symbol for the European imperialism on the "Dark Continent". Emblematic of his unyielding arrogance was his decision to re-name the Lake Nalubaale in honor of the British Queen, Victoria.

Expedition certainly reintroduces these disturbing concepts into the current dialogue. Let's start with the title, Expedition Africa. Just where in Africa are they trekking? The message is that circumstances of individual countries are irrelevant here. Africa is just one brooding mass. Imagine if a program on a major cable network produced a show which pretended that the various countries of Europe were interchangeable. Perhaps we would see an Italian family speaking with a French accent. This would be ridiculous to most people. Africa is the only continent that routinely receives this sort of treatment. No wonder Sarah Palin thinks Africa is a country.

We can be sure that Expedition will also depict the continent as a wild, savage land. We won't get to see people living in villages, cities, or simply attending to human needs in the 21st century for that matter. This more accurate depiction would render their trek as ridiculous as it truly is. In fact, it has been reported that the team will intentionally traverse mountains that Stanley circumnavigated in order to create a more rugged trip. They will also steer clear of inhabited areas. I think the producers could have saved quite a bit of money by having the group circle the most naturalistic sections of New York City's Central Park.

Finally, I am told that the most reprehensible feature of the show will be the "native" guides who will simply blend into the background much like the animals, fauna, or landscape. According to Dan Zak of the Washington Post, the four explorers will have two Masai warriors along for protection and a cohort of Tanzanian porters to carry their luggage. Clearly this will be worse than the ubiquitous Tarzan movie of the 1950's. At least we knew that Tarzan was [racist] fiction hewn for Saturday matinees. The History Channel will be asking us to believe that this is reality television!

I, for one, will be carefully watching the reception of Expedition Africa. The pedantic historical reality show will be a perfect litmus test for our so-called post-racial, age of Obama. Expedition will give us an opportunity to discuss issues which cause discomfort for individuals of all backgrounds. I recall one of my white college professors genuinely asked me when we would no longer have to harp on the enslavement and marginalization of Africans. He seemed surprised when I immediately responded that I’d gladly focus on other issues when Africans are made whole economically, socially, and politically. Programs like Expedition Africa highlight areas where we've made very little progress. Funny ... today I think I understand how Heru felt floating injured among the reeds of the River Hapi after losing his first battle with Set. Clearly we have long way to go to re-member and vindicate our ancestors. Shem em Hetep (Go forth in Peace)!
Articles on Expedition Africa: Stanley and Livingston:

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Tribute to Dr. Ivan Van Sertima (1.26.1935 - 5.25.2009)

He was born in a small village;
He arrived to these shores from Guyana;
He practiced Ma'at for his people;
He satisfied Ausar with his many works;
He went to great lengths to investigate our story and brought the knowledge to the people;
He seized the right moment, and had great stature among us;
He judged between individuals in a suitable manner;
He vindicated the name of the downtrodden.
He gave knowledge of self to those whose names were stolen from them;
He respected his ancestral father and honored his ancestral mother;
He raised their children.
We say this of our beloved teacher, scholar, and brother.
His name is Dr. Ivan Van Sertima

Adapted from the Inscription of Nefer-Seshem-Ra

I must admit that although I know Dr. Ivan Van Setima led a wonderful and shinning life, I was still greatly saddened by his passing. I recently rediscovered his brilliance over the last month. I've been watching videos of his speeches from 1983 to 1994. While I've studied African history for over 20 years, I still found much of the information he shared new and exciting. I was also amazed that these early lectures contained so many well placed references from dozens of divergent fields including linguistics, anthropology, art history, ancient history, and comparative literature. I will definitely begin re-reading his books and journals.

Dr. Van Sertima was extremely important to my intellectual development and burgeoning self-awareness. Attending a predominantly white high school in the late 1980's, I was looked at as an oddity by most of faculty members and subjected to racist epithets by many of the students. I was routinely called nigger, jungle bunny, spear-chucker, and a number of other insults. At first I tried to blend in, and then I fought back. I need to understand why they feared or hated me. I began my quest for knowledge with books like The Autobiography of Malcolm X, Before the Mayflower, and of course Van Sertima's They Came Before Columbus: The African Presence in Early America. His scholarly but accessible work prodded me to continue my study of the legacy of African people. It reaffirmed me, strengthened me, educated me, and made proud. I only met Dr. Van Sertima once, but he was my intellectual father. I will miss him, although I am sure he has gone to Amenta to reunite with the souls of our ancestors. We are made stronger by his passing. Shem em Hetep (Go forward in Peace)!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

8,000 Year Old Nabta Playa Vandalized?

Obviously our media is not interested in proof of the extraordinary scientific prowess of African communities 8,000 years ago. Even with the research that I did for my initial post on the stone circle calendar in the Egyptian dessert, I did not find news of the vandalism of the site which occurred over a year ago. The issue came up on my Google Alert today. Astrophysicist Thomas G. Brophy reported that the vandalism was clear when reviewing his photos from 2007 to those taken in 2008. Dr. Brophy and Robert Bauval are collaborating on the upcoming book, Black Genesis (see initial post).
Upon hearing this disturbing news, I couldn't help but think whether similar vandalism at the famed European megalith site, Stonehenge, would have received a virtual media blackout. I'm sure some of our readers are familiar with Stonehenge but only became aware of Nabta Playa due to our post. Nabta Playa is at least 3,000 years older. I will attempt to get in contact with Dr. Brophy to ascertain the severity of the damage. Let's hope that this key reference point in the history and development of African science is not simply erased from its sandy base. Shem em Hetep (Go forward in Peace)!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ancient Egyptian Necropolis Discovered

Egyptian archaeologists announced the discovery of dozens of ancient tombs carved into the face of a stone hill near a mud-brick pyramid. Located near the farming village of Lahun, the necropolis is nested in the Fayoum oasis approximately 50 miles southwest of Cairo.

The necropolis features 53 tombs which date from the Middle Kingdom—nearly 4,000 years old—until nearly the end of native rule. The burials include colorful sarcophagi (Neb Ankh to the Ancient Khamites), pottery, statues, and amulets. Although Egyptologists believe that the sites may have been established by Senusret II, the fourth king of the 12th dynasty; Dr. Abdel-Rahman el-Ayedi stated that some of the data on the site might prove the site is much older.

There is so much more we can learn about our Ancient Kemetic ancestors. I recall that archeologists argue that perhaps only 30 percent of all of Egypt's ancient sites have been explored. Imagine that only 5 percent of all of the archeological sites on the entire continent of Africa have been studied! We have so much more to learn about ourselves and the contributions that Africans have made to the course of human history. I don't know about you ... but these are certainly exciting times. Shem em Hetep (Go forth in Peace)!

Articles on the Discovery of the Ancient Necropolis
Associated Press

finding Dulcinea

The photos used in this post are from the National Geographic website (http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/04/photogalleries/dozens-mummies-found-lahun/)

British Ancient Egyptians? The Absurdities Continue in Night at the Museum 2

It seems that nearly every week material is revealed which further proves the African origins of Ancient Egypt. Arguments which posit an external origin have been thoroughly unraveled—in scholarly forums. Unfortunately the masses don't usually participate in these sorts of discussions. Depictions in popular media are much more powerful. They continue to infect the average person with stronger and stronger bits of misinformation. Let's just hope the people haven't become overly resistant to the truth.

Ben Stiller is back with the sequel to the extremely successful, Night at the Museum. Stiller returns as Larry Daley a Museum of Natural History night watchman who was amazed to see the museum exhibits come to life. In the sequel Stiller must help free his museum friends as they are shipped to the Smithsonian in order to be placed in storage. As he infiltrates the Smithsonian, he finds that Kahmunrah, the jealous brother of the Egyptian Pharaoh in the first film, plans to use an ancient tablet to make it possible to continue to be animated in the real world.

In another absurd twist, Kahmunrah is played by Hank Azaria (best known as the voice of Homer Simpson), a white actor. Azaria uses a British accent in his portrayal. "We knew he would have an English accent because he's the brother of Ahkmenrah from the first movie," states Azaria in The Plymouth Herald. "Kind of bold and aristocratic is how we started, sort of laid back and bored ... at the last minute I went 'what about Karloff, he was a mummy', and did it as a joke really." To hear Azaria’s accent for yourself, watch the movie trailer included beneath this post.

So let's get this straight. Not only are the Ancient Egyptians white, but they are British—even though England doesn't even come into existence for another 1,000 years. While this is clearly impossible, there is a subtle symbol at play here. In popular media in the United States, intelligent characters are often depicted with British accents (see Professor Xavier in the X-men, Mister Belvedere, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, C-3PO from Star Wars, Dr. Frasier Crane, Stewie from Family Guy, etc.). In many ways the British dialect in popular depiction is a respectful acknowledgement by European Americans of their origins.

At this point some of you might be thinking, "So what if the European creators of this movie are paying homage to their homeland? What's the big deal?" I also believe another nefarious subliminal message is operating in the Night at the Museum films: Ancient Egyptian civilization is so advanced it could not possibly be African—even though the country is clearly located on the continent of Africa (also see accents used in the film The Lion King). After a lifetime of these sorts of seemingly innocuous messages, is it hard to understand why African children believe in their inherent inferiority? It is not surprising that many young African American students rebuke their peers who are striving for academic excellence for "acting white". So many of the seemingly subtle messages around us actually seek to destroy us.

In the final analysis, Night at the Museum 2 isn't just entertainment ... it is propaganda. It is critically important for us to unveil and defeat these messages. After all, the minds of our children are at stake. Shem em Hetep (Go forth in Peace)!

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Ancient Egyptian Source of the Bible's Book of Genesis

There are many people who might think this post is blasphemy. In fact, that select group of people would probably include most of my family. I'm sure they'll continue to pray for my eternal soul. However, I'm sure that they all agree that there are quite a few uncanny similarities between the book of Genesis and an earlier treatise from a "pagan" religion.

In order to describe these similarities, I'll reprint the opening section of the Book of Knowing the Creations of Ra as Ptah. It is said that it was written (or more possibly written down) for a priest named Nes-Amsu around 312 B.C. It has been in the British Museum since around 1865. Thanks to Dr. Maulana Karenga for the vibrancy of the translation:

I. Ra's Description of His Creations
Thus said Ra, the Lord of All, Lord of the Utmost Limits (Neb-er-tcher), after He had come into being: I am the one who came into being as Khepera. He who comes into being and brings into being. When I came into being, being itself came into being. All beings came into being after I came into being. Many were the beings that came forth from the commands of my mouth. Heaven had not yet come into being. Nor had earth come into being. Nor had the ground been created or the things which creep and crawl upon it. I raised up being in the primordial waters as inert things. I found no place on which to stand. I formed it from the desire in my heart; I laid the foundation through Maat. I created forms of every kind. Many were the forms which issued forth from the commands of my mouth. Not yet had I established Shu, the power and principle of light and air. Nor sent forth Tefnut, the power and principle of moisture. There existed no one who acted together with me. I conceived it in my own heart. And there came into being a vast number of forms of divine beings as forms of offspring and forms of their offspring from them ...

I came forth from among the plants which I created and I created all things which creep and crawl and all that exists among them. Then by the power and principles of light and air and the power and principle of moisture, heaven and earth were brought into being, and by earth and heaven [Ausar, Heru, Set, Ast and Nbet-Het] were brought into being from the womb, one after another, and they gave birth to the multitudes in this land (brackets mine).

Now let's review the description of creation in the book of Genesis. The most striking similarities will be placed in bold:

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, let there be light and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.

And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so.
And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.

And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. And the earth brought forth grass, and herb yielding seed after his kind, and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself, after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the third day. And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years: and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth: and it was so. And God made two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night: he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good. And the evening and the morning were the fourth day.

And God said, let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creatures that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth. And the evening and the morning were the fifth day.

And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

Clearly the Book of Knowing the Creations of Ra as Ptah is an earlier version of the story of creation in the Book of Genesis. In and of itself, there is absolutely nothing wrong with this. After all, the first five books of the bible are also known as the Jewish Torah, right? It is accepted that Judaism is the forerunner of Christianity. However, acknowledging that both are children of an African, “pagan” spiritual form would be a problem! The Udjat will continue to describe passages which have undeniable Kemetic origin. If this Kemetic origin becomes understood by the masses; only two results can occur. Either it will shake the very foundations of the three “major” religions creating conflict and strife; or all of humanity will reconcile its Ancient Afri-Kemetic origin. Maybe we’ll all be better for it. “Honor thy mother and thy father that your days may be long upon the face of the earth.” Sounds a little different under this context, huh? Shem em Hetep (Go forth in Peace)!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Somali Piracy .. In Context

Nearly all media outlets in New York City announced the Manhattan indictment of a Somali youth on ten counts including piracy and kidnapping. 16-year-old Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse is described as the leader of a group who forcibly boarded the Maersk Alabama last month. As you've probably heard, the attempted hijacking was foiled and the captain of the ship has been hailed as a hero. Muse is the only "pirate" in the attack who remains alive. Unfortunately, we haven't even heard half the story. Historical analysis so seldom accompanies news reports on Africa (and its diasporans for that matter).

It is so easy to repudiate this youth. Simply google the words "Somali pirate" and "punk" and you'll be bombarded with commentaries and reports depicting this teenager, who faces life in prison, as a one-dimensional villain. Has anyone asked why piracy on the Indian ocean waters is even occurring? We've seen reports of the virtual collapse of the Somalian government due to the civil war which began around 1991. What we aren't hearing is how large foreign ships destroyed the delicate ecosystem off the coast of Somali.

The communities on the coast of Somali have probably been fishing-based since time immemorial. As they lived in Ma'at with their environment, the ocean used to adequately provide for all of their needs. In fact, some of the world's finest lobster used to inhabit the millennia-old coral reefs. Unfortunately since the civil war, foreign ships have decimated these reefs with toxic dumping and even by dragging heavy chains along them to collect lobster. These ships usually operate in waters just out of the reach of the local people and the weakened government of Somalia has not been able to address these activities.

Due to the destruction of their marine ecosystem, Somalia's costal communities have been ravaged by droughts, flooding, and tsunamis. Without the ability to fish, they have been thrust into abject poverty. Some of the individuals living in these communities have turned to piracy as they want to take "revenge" on these foreign ships. Interviewing with the U.S. newspaper conglomerate McClatchy from a prison in Mandhera, Somalia, 38-year-old Farah Ismail Eid explains how the foreign presence created the conflict:

"Now the international community is shouting about piracy. But long before this, we were shouting to the world about our problems. No one listened. They fished everything — sharks, lobsters, eggs. They collided with our boats. They came with giant nets and swept everything out of the sea." He recalls that the first hijackings occurred around 1997, with the seizure of a China vessel and a Kenyan ship which was ransomed for $500,000. "When I heard about this, I was happy."

We must remember that living outside of the laws of Ma'at comes at a price. In fact, if we live long enough, these prices are usually paid by everyone. As the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, "While the moral arc of the universe is long, it bends towards justice." Hopefully reporting on the Somalian hijacking issue will begin to include a more balanced perspective. How can we assume that costal communities will continue to struggle in silence without looking for others to share their burden? The global community of Africans must also weigh in on this travesty. If not, the moral arc may come to exact its toll upon our heads as well. Shem em Hetep!

More balanced reporting on the Somalian "Piracy" Issue:
McClatchy Online (used in this post):

Allafrica article on Somalian "Revenge"

Encyclopedia Item on Somalian Coral Reefs:

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Happy Birthday Malcolm X!

Some of you might believe that a post on Malcolm X might be out of place on The Udjat. After all, this blog seeks to restore the moral compass in contemporary society by the study and application of the Ancient Egyptian ideal, Ma'at. What does Malcolm X have to do with this, right? Actually, Brother Malcolm is the prototype of all of spiritual seekers, particularly those of African descent.

Malcolm X was born on May 19, 1925 as Malcolm Little. His father was a fiery Baptist Minister and an acolyte of the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey. White racists would eventually murder his father, probably feeling his preaching might rile his Black parishioners. Unfortunately this act would send Malcolm's family into a tailspin, eventually leading to frequent foster care placements for all of the children and psychiatric institutionalization for his mother.

Malcolm X’s life prior to joining the Nation of Islam has been well-chronicled: inadequate education, menial jobs, and incarceration. His potential was stolen by the same factors which still plague the African community in the United States—and all over the world. Malcolm's life as one of this nation's most insightful Black Nationalist Leaders has also been oft-recounted. Malcolm's biting analysis, bravery in the face of powerful forces, and rhetorical prowess has made his speeches long sought after more than 40 years after his killing. I think his life very closely mirrors the trials of Heru (see May 17th post for more).

Much less explored was Malcolm’s ability to critique the world around him which led to a unique ability to be publically introspective. He was always willing to alter his beliefs and actions based on the rigorous analysis of new information. I'd like to believe that if he had the benefit of all of archeological and historical data on the ethnicity of the Ancient Egyptians and also the origins of the three major religions; he might have eventually considered himself an adherent to Kemetic spirituality. He might have even called it the "true religion of Black mankind". Happy Birthday, Malcolm X; you are still our Black Shining Prince.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Egypt to Open "Bent" Pyramid for First Time

This summer the Egyptian government will open the so-called "Bent" Pyramid to the public for the first time. The Bent Pyramid was one of at least three built by the Pharaoh Sneferu. Sneferu was the founder of the fourth dynasty and father of the builder of the Great Pyramid, the Pharoah Khufu.

The opening is part of a new sustainable development program which is intended to attract more tourism to the country and seeks to mitigate the excessive urban development in the area around the pyramids. A tour of the Bent Pyramid will be unique to tours of the pyramids on the Giza Plateau due to the unusual subterranean maze and large vaulted rooms which make up the interior of the structure. Some archeologist even believe that Sneferu's tomb still lies undiscovered within the labyrinth.

The 330 foot Bent Pyramid is critically important to our understanding of Ancient Kemet because it proves that these remarkable structures are the product of African science and engineering—not foreign or alien installations. When we look at the field of pyramids in the vicinity of Cairo which rise like ancient skyscrapers, we are actually seeing the scientific method in process. The first stage of these monuments was possibly the flat "mastaba" (bench in Arabic) tomb, then the magnificent Step Pyramid designed by the multi-genius Imhotep. Sneferu later completes his Pyramid at Meidum (thought to be commenced by the Pharoah Huni) which is believed to have collapsed in ancient times. Sneferu's next monument is called "bent" because its base is built at an angle of 55 degrees and then shifts to a 43 degree angle further up the structure. Many argue that the change in inclination was necessary as the engineers realized that initial angle was too steep to create a stable building. Sneferu's next major pyramid, known as the "Red" Pyramid, is constructed entirely at an angle of 43 degrees. It is probably the first true pyramid.

I am absolutely excited about the possibility of visiting the Bent Pyramid this summer. In my 5 trips to Egypt, I have entered the pyramids of Pharoahs Menkaura and Khafra—the second and third pyramids on the Giza Plateau. NfrKa Ma'at and I are staff members of African Genesis Program; we are blessed to travel to Egypt with dozens of youth of African descent every year! Sound intriguing? If you are an adult of African descent or a child between the ages of 7 and 14, you can also join the 2 1/2 year rite-of-passage program and travel to the motherland for free. Contact me or visit http://www.dzertclub.com for more information. Shem em Hetep (Go forth in peace)!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Who was Hypatia? Probably not Rachel Weisz ...

You've probably never heard of Hypatia. Nearly 1600 years after her murder, Rachel Weisz will play this amazing woman in the historical-drama, Agora. Perhaps we should be just a little skeptical that the female lead in the Mummy franchize will be playing a woman living in Egypt after its conquer by the Romans. It should be clear where this is going.
Hypatia was actually a remarkable woman. Born in Alexandria in the 3rd century to noted mathematician, Theon, Hypatia was a scientist, mathematician, astromomer, and philosopher in her own right. She was also not prisoner to many of the existing mores for women in Alexandria during her time; she walked the streets without male companionship and wore the clothes of a male scholar.

You would figure you might have heard about her right? After all, Hypatia was one of the first recorded female scientists and also a bit of what we would call a radical feminist/womanist. It has been reported that she rebuffed a suitor by showing him her menstruation rags and warning him about carnal desire. However, Hypatia was a "pagan" who stood in conflict with the bigotry of an early Christian sect. Uncomfortable with her ideas, this group brutally murdered her by sheering the skin from her bones with oyster shells and finally burning her alive. This history is not one that would be easily reconciled in today's Christian world.
There is still at least one other reason Hypatia is not widely popular. I am quite sure Hypatia's racial/ethnic background will not be explored in the new Rachel Weisz film. It is certainly possible that she was ethnically Greek. She lived in Egypt after the Greek invasion and during the subsequent Roman period. It is also possible that she was a Black woman--an argument that historians Ivan Van Sertima and George Sarton both posit. It is likely that Hypatia's father, Theon, was an African. I will eagerly await his depiction in the film.
With all of the reasons Hypatia should be a household name, it is still clear that an honest recounting of her ideas and linage are still uncomfortable topics. I think the words of the Chief Priestess of Shrine of Ptah are appropriate here: "They say our way is dead. They say ou way is no more. That the Nile Valley Legacy all ended thousand of years ago. But we are here ... and we remember." Shem em Hetep (Go forward in peace)!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Ode to the Great Mother, Ast

Great Mother Ast, I am the child who you protected. I awaited your call as you bound up my slain father and brought me forth. I suckled at your breast as you fled with me. I suckled at your breast as you mourned my father. I suckled at your breast as you defended me. You nurtured me. You taught me my father's name. You taught me how to vindicate my father. I am victorious, but you are the throne. Twa-u Wr Mut Ast (Thank you great mother Ast)!

As I spent Mother's Day with my mother, I couldn’t help but think about my relationship with her through all the stages of my development. From sitting me at her feet as she earned money sewing, to cooking food for me to take to college, and even making the garments for my wedding; my mother has always been a consistent factor in my success.

As we celebrate Mother's Day, we need to meditate on the archetype of motherhood, Ast. Let's take a look at the great myth of Ast, Ausar, and Heru (misnamed by the Greeks at Isis, Osiris, and Horus).

Already the Queen of Kemet and a leader in her own right, Ast experiences the profound sorrow of the lost of her husband due to his murder at the hands of his jealous brother Set (the origin of the name Satan). Set covets the throne of Kemet, so he invites his brother Ausar to a feast. He tricks Ausar into coffin and drowns him in the river Hapi (Nile). Hearing of her husband’s murder, Ast flees for her life. Fearing Ast may find Ausar’s body and use her mystical powers (hekau) to resurrect him, Set reclaims Ausar's body and tears it into 14 pieces to be spread all over the land. Undaunted, Ast collects all of the members of Ausar, except his penis—most significant because Ast was not able to consummate her union with Ausar. Gripped with sorrow, Ast re-members Ausar and flies over his bound body as a swallow. She uses her mystical powers to recreate Ausar's penis and she is impregnated (perhaps the first divine insemination). After giving birth to Heru, Ast travels the land teaching her son his legacy as the ruler of Kemet.

Heru grows into a powerful reflection of his father, but like most youth, he has not entirely internalized the teachings of his mother. He fights valiantly, but loses his first battle with his uncle, Set, due to the fact that he lacks spiritual insight. Set believes that he has killed Heru during his battle; he tore out his eye. As Heru lays blinded and near death, he is visited by his “step-father” Tehuti, who secrets him aware in a boat hidden amongst the marsh reeds. He gives Heru the udjat—the eye of great wisdom and intuition (Matrix Revolutions anyone?).

In his next battle with his uncle, Heru is victorious. In divine wisdom, he decides not to kill his uncle. His final victory is judged by the Neteru ("gods") in the Great Hall of Truth. He has vindicated his father. Ausar is resurrected and reigns as the King of Heaven as his son is ruler on earth.

There are so many important teachable points in this great myth that it is hard to know where to begin! Think about the sacrifice of Ast. She loses everything, and still spends her life seeking to set things straight. Her story reminds me of the strength and temerity of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and even my own mother … this is a BAD sister. The son that she carefully nurtures and protects is the “son (sun) of god”. He is the archetype for humanity on earth. The wise teaching embedded in his struggle is that the throne can only be attained through the mother. In fact, Ast’s name conceals this fact. Ast is the throne. This is one of the key lessons from our Kemetic ancestors. For a deeper understanding of this truth, meditate on the image of the statute of Nsw Bit (Pharoah) Pepi II and his mother Ankhesenmeryre II (picture to the left). I’ll post more on the sacred symbolism encoded in the statue later.

I’ve reread and meditated on this great myth for such a long time. There are still sections that I am not spiritually mature enough to understand. However, one has become clear to me recently. What do the trails of Heru, our earthly paradigm, mean to us? What might they mean for people of African descent in today’s world? My interpretation: we must re-member our ancestors, not matter how distant, in order to regain the throne! I think Ast has spoken to me. On this wonderful day celebrating the women who brought us into being, we must never forget the teachings of our Great Mother. This is the only way we can truly succeed. Ankh (Life), Udja (Strength). Seneb (Health)!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Famed Bust of Nefertiti a Fake?

Prior to this week you probably hadn't heard that questions around the authenticity of the famed bust of Nefertiti have persisted for the 76 years since its first display. Usually all discussions concerning the work have simply described it as a beautiful work with "aquiline" features. The bust has even remained a favorite of individuals attempting to squelch the mounting evidence of the African heritage of the Ancient Khamites.

The questionable origin of the bust has been thrust center stage once more with the release of a new book by Swiss art historian, Henry Stierlin. The book claims that the bust was commissioned by German archaeologist Ludwig Borchardt and crafted by an artist named Gerardt Marks at an excavation site to test ancient pigments and to depict her with a necklace which had been previously discovered. Apparently the bust was admired as an original by a visiting German prince and Borchardt did not want to insult him. This version of the events surrounding the bust’s origin would explain why neither Borchardt nor the accompanying French archeologists mentioned the find or even provided notes on the dig—highly unusual for an intact find of this quality. Instead of immediately announcing it as would have been expected, Borchardt proceeded to leave the bust in the sitting room of his sponsor for 10 years. No scientific report appears on the work until 11 years after the supposed find.

Stierlin also describes other supporting data. The statue seems to have been created without proper prevision for a left eye—which would have been a great insult to the spiritual sensibilities of the Ancient Khamites. Additionally, the bust's shoulders were cut vertically instead of horizontally as would have been normal for the period. The vertical cut seems reminiscent of the 19th century Art Nouveau style.

Stierlin even responds to the recent radio carbon dating which found that the pigment was over 3,000 years old. He argues the pigment is actually ancient; however the plaster and limestone cannot be dated using this method. If the bust is a forgery, it would help explain why all indisputable ancient depictions of Nefertiti, the wife of Akhenaten seem to portray her with "African" features. While I truly believe that facial reconstruction is an art rather than a science, this new book also brings the recent virtual imagine composed by forensic scientists from Nefertiti’s mummy into focus (see video below post).

Stierlin's account instantly recalls the creation of a fossil forgery reported just 12 days after the "excavation" of the bust of Nefertiti. The Piltdown man was used to argue the rise of a separate, non-African, European homo sapien. The skull was crafted from a medieval human cranium, an orangutan, and a chimpanzee in order to spur European pride. Before being thoroughly revealed as a hoax, the skull was used to argue that the European was not an African descendant but had hewn itself form its own misty origin.

Must we continue to venture down this road? It is time for all of humanity to recognize the African beginnings of both our species and our civilization. Doing so does not disparage individuals of any ethnic or cultural background. It simply posits our shared beginnings. I believe this unifying theme will only reach its zenith as Africans reclaim our legacy as humanity's progenitors and usher in a new era of introspection, intuition, and collaboration. Are we ready for the challenge? Awaken Black man and women and accomplish what you will! Shem em Hetep!
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Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Disney's Racist History, Part 2

Here we go! Nfr-Ka Ma'at read my original post and challenged me to further substantiate my description of Disney's history of negative images. She believed that the video of the Black crows from Dumbo wasn't going to convince you that we shouldn't easily forget this difficult history. She said, "Djed, some people haven't seen and analyzed this like we have. You have to help them see it." After thinking about it for a while, I agreed. She also thought that the picture of Sunflower (see previous post) was pretty egregious and told me I should try to post the original video.

Finding the truly uncut version of the pastoral scene from Fantasia was very difficult. Disney has taken this version out of circulation since 1969. The version that they've sold as "uncut" uses a tighter camera shot in order to remove Sunflower from view. Interestingly, they left the zebras, who are also clearly of African descent, in the newer version (more on this later). I don't think you'll easily find the original elsewhere. It nearly runs 10 minutes.
You could easily watch the original version and simply look at the stereotypically racist image of Sunflower, and say, "Man, I'm offended"; but I'd like you to analyze this a little bit further. Here are a few key points:

1) Notice that when Sunflower first appears (1:00), she is "spit-shining" one of the female centaur's hooves. Disney went to great length to depict Sunflower in a stereotypical role as to clarify her role as a servant. This sets our expectations for every other moment she appears. She becomes completely juxtaposed to the "white" female centaurs. They are royalty or demi-gods—take note of their crowning by the cherubim. To further this disparity, Sunflower seems to be half-woman and half-donkey.

2) When Sunflower is thwarted in her attempt to beautify one of the female centaur's tails, she seems angered and frustrated. This response is a typical response for the stereotypical character called the "Mammy" or "Auntie" (similar to Aunt Jemima). She cares for her white master or mistress more than herself. She fights them to do what is "good" for them--often at the expense of her own children.

3) Notice that the zebras, who are also of African descent, are serving Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and ecstasy (7:34). In opposition to Sunflower, they are lighter-skinned and actually attractive. What is the message here? You might say that zebras are native to Africa, right? I'd agree with you, but consider that the unique black and white striping of the zebra has routinely been a metaphor for being of mixed race (think of George Jefferson's epithet for the mixed race child of his neighbors). I think their role may be a more subtle insult.

First, notice that the white centaurs dance with Dionysus, but rebuff his amorous attempts. The zebras don't keep him at arms length, they enter the scene with him. They are actually Dionysus' harem (also the term for a grouping of zebras). They are his sexual property. This is actually a reference to the stereotypical character, the jezebel. The jezebel was used as a painful justification for the raping of Black women. Promiscuous and beguiling, She actually "tricks" the white man into sexual congregation with her. Often the jezebel is depicted as a "tragic mulatto". This is why they are zebras! With the amount of thought and planning that went into these negative characters, it is clear that they were not coincidental depictions.

Second, we must understand the classic tension between the role of the mammy (Sunflower) and of the jezebel (the zebras). The "pure" African is clumsy, lacking social graces, and unattractive. Only through dilution with the European can anything redeemable be found. Perhaps by leaving the zebras in the latest edit, Disney has insulted us even more.

Clearly Disney would like us to forget this history. If they really want to make amends, I say the Frog and the Princess is not even getting close. We deserve an apology, and some very tangible recompense. Maybe Disney should find way to support African American cartoonists. I'd wager they are underutilized. Thoughts? Leave a comment! Shem em Hetep!

Monday, May 4, 2009

Disney's First Black Princess Doesn't Negate Its History

When the Princess and the Frog opens this November, Disney will make history. In case you hadn't heard, 72 years after the debut of Cinderella, Disney will release its first movie with an African American princess. While the story is a update of an old British fairy tale, today's heroine is a waitress in a New Orleans who shares her father's dream—to open her own restaurant. She ends up kissing a frog ... and turning into one. Sure this frog is actually a prince (aren't they all?) , but to live happily ever after, Tiana must find a mystical voodoo priestess to change her back.

Did I mention Disney pulled out all the stops on this one? They convened focus groups with African American activists and got none other than Tony Award winning Anika Noni Rose to voice the lead (seems The No 1 Ladies' Detective Agency is finding its way into my posts). Other characters will be voiced by Oprah Winfrey, Keith David, and Terrance Howard. Shouldn't we give Disney their props? After all, Malia and Sasha aren't the only princesses anymore, right? I think not! I say their recent change of heart shouldn't have us forget their painful history.

Remember just a few years ago when Disney was on its international kick? In what was perhaps their first foray into portraying characters of color, they decided to depict "ethnic" characters in full cultural motif in different parts of the world. In fact, all of the main characters were royalty as well. In the so-called "Middle East", they produced Aladdin. In China, they brought forth Mulan. In the New World, it was Pocahontas. When they got to Africa, what did they do? The produced the Lion King ... a film without humans.

Sure the racist bent here is subtle. After all it was a pretty good story, right? And the Broadway play was impeccably produced, right? I think Disney should still be ashamed of themselves. We must ask ourselves what kinds for messages our children are receiving. Africa is devoid of human civilization and culture ... it is a land populated by ANIMALS. Can we actually blame people when they have such a hard time recognizing high culture and civilization in Africa? How could Africans have created cultures that were far more advanced than European civilizations from millennia later?

Am I being harsh on Disney? I think not ... let's not forget the litany of racist characters they spawned. Some characters are so despicable that Disney barely acknowledges their existence—like Fantasia's servant, Sunflower the Centaur.

How about the black singing crows in Dumbo (see video below)? Furthermore, why the hell did they see fit to try to sanitize the racist Tarzan character anyway? They still felt nostalgic enough about these affronts to our image that they needed try to redeem them. Don't get upset when we bring up the past when you keep making them our present. What's next, Aunt Jemima with a perm!? Oh, wait a minute ...

I say this history should not be forgotten. Particularly since once we turn away from the television ... our children are still watching. Sorry, Tiana. I'm gonna need alot more convincing.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Genetic Study Proves Africans are World's Ancestors

The most elaborate study of African DNA to date has reinforced the concept of an African origin of all humanity. The study released in the scholarly journal Science and reported in The Independent (UK) analyzed the DNA of 121 distinct populations of modern-day Africans—many in remote regions. These 121 populations all descended from 14 ancestral populations. Perhaps this was the primary esoteric message in the story of the 14 dismembered pieces of Ausar?

The study which took 10 years and analyzed the DNA of 3,000 Africans found that the southern African San people are perhaps the ancestors of us all. The San, who feature the most genetic diversity, can be found primarily in Botswana and in South Africa. Jill Scott are you listening?! The study also found that the present-day people of East Africa belong to the same ancestral group that migrated out of the motherland and populated Asia and the rest of the world.

One of the main findings was that groups that have settled thousands of miles apart share a genetic heritage and often ... similar languages. For example, the Sandawe and Hadza of Tanzania share common heritage with the Khoisan of southern Africa ... all three share "click" languages.

A few quick observations and I'm certainly interested in hearing your comments (please post):
1) It should now be clear that Africans are not only the mother/fathers of civilization, but also for humanity. It is amazing that these divine progenitors are now amongst the most maligned and impoverished people in the world.
2) With all of the sophisticated DNA studies made possible by modern science ... why was the only truly modern review of our Ancient Khemetic ancestors done by Cheikh Anta Diop? Or is it that these haven't been released for public consumption? I remember hearing that when Diop requested access to royal mummies, he was consistently thwarted. It was stated that taking a millimeter of skin for his melanin dosage test would have been "disrespectful". Ironically, history is replete with stories of mummies being used by Europeans for the most perverted purposes - like pulverizing them for use in early European medicinal remedies. Finally, when Diop got access to some of the mummies he found that nearly all of the skin HAD ALREADY BEEN SCRAPED OFF!
3) Our Ancient Khemetic ancestors were certainly relational people -- the poets of their age. Perhaps many of their myths are not only parables which provide us with an ethical guide, but also tales meant to reconnect us the lost history of humanity. We will take a closer look at the San people, from here on called the Ausar-San in this blog, in future posts.

That's all for now. Let us say hekau (words of power) to the souls of our ancestors. Thank them for staying the course along their difficult journey. For without their perseverance, we would not exist. We must reclaim their legacy. Their story will not be untold. We are here. The world awaits the awakening of our ancestral memory. Shem em Hetep!
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