The Nubians have also served as humble caretakers of ancient African culture. As the Ancient Egyptian empire sat in tatters besieged by foreign rulers, the Nubian King Piye wrested control of Kemet to form the 25th dynasty. The Nubian Pharaohs of Kemet did not seek to remake the nation in their own image, but rather to re-establish the order of Kemet by returning it to its ancient ways. This approach is best described by Pharaoh Shabaka's restoration of "Memphite Theology" by ordering the re-writing of a decrepit papyrus on what is now called the Shabaka Stone. Today the Nubians still maintain their culture by retaining their own non-Arabic language. Interestingly, they will not teach their language to outsiders.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I must say that I am always amazed when media outlets in the United States fail to cover key international news events. Unfortunately this is routinely the case when Africans are involved. Thankfully this item was covered by the Asian news outlet, Taiwan News.
After touring the current home of the Nubians in Aswan province, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak publicly pledged better treatment of them. You may recall approximately 60,000 Nubians were relocated from their villages as a result of Aswan High Dam project during the 1960's. The dam project created the world's largest man-made reservoir, Lake Nasser, and flooded the Nubian villages and 18 ancient temples. Only the magnificent dual temple of the Pharaoh Ramses II, known as Abu Simbel, remains. Under a UNESCO plan, the monuments were moved to a higher elevation on an artificial hill overlooking the lake.
The Nubians were very skeptical of the Egyptian government's promises concerning their relocation. "The government promised us paradise, but we thought we were leaving the Garden of Eden," states outspoken activist and author Haggag Oddoul. In fact, the settlements were a poorly built ramshackle of 30 camps named for each of the flooded villages situated five miles east of the Nile. Within a short period, many of the one-story cinder block houses cracked or collapsed completely from their inferior construction. To make matters worse, the relocated inhabitants were not able to cultivate date fields or fish as they were accustomed. Their cotton and sugar cane crops were poor replacements.
For several years now the Nubians have been slowly returning to their traditional homeland along the Nile. "The settlements are false Nubia," explains Oddoul. "To restore our character and community, we need to be rerooted. We need to return." Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's pledge comes as the Egyptian government is poised to once again remove the Nubians from their homes. Several media outlets have begun to report a large scale agricultural, commercial, and residential development plan along approximately 300,000 acres. The plan even included large swaths of land set aside for foreign developers, but of course ... no allotment of land for the Nubians.
Who are these Africans who today struggle to maintain their cultural identity? The Nubian people were responsible for the world's oldest monarchy (more on this in future posts), the progenitors of the Dynasties of Ancient Egypt, and also stood as one the world's most powerful nations.
The current state of the Nubians is an all too appropriate metaphor for the plight of Africans and African Diasporans. Every year I have visit a Nubian village on the island once known as Elephantine. It is virtually difficult to see these humble, spiritual people as a once powerful nation. Their condition is an example of the under-development of Africa at the hands of foreign powers to numerous to name. Africans worldwide should stand behind them as they return to their homeland. I can't help but think of the words of a great African leader, the Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey; "Up, up you mighty race! You can [once again] accomplish what you will!" Shem em Hetep!
Articles on Current Nubian Return to their Homeland:
Taiwan News - Egypt president pledges improved care for Nubians - http://www.etaiwannews.com/etn/news_content.php?id=973431&lang=eng_news
NY Times - Nubians push for a return to their drowned homeland (quotes taken from this article)- http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/23/world/africa/23iht-letter.2.18890692.html?_r=2
Egypt Then and Now - Development plan along Lake Nasser unfair to Egyptian Nubians - http://allaboutegypt.org/2008/12/development-plan-along-lake-nasser-unfair-to-egyptian-nubians/