Representation Problems

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Egypt banned archaeologists from a Dutch museum from conducting excavations at a key site after a new exhibition on Egyptian history at the institution drew condemnation from officials and historians for linking ancient Egyptians to contemporary Black musicians, the BBC reported.

The National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) in Leiden confirmed the ban this week, saying that its archaeologists will not be allowed to excavate at the Saqqara necropolis near Cairo after nearly five decades of work there.

The museum said the ban came after authorities in the North African nation accused the museum of “falsifying” the country’s history through a recent exhibition exploring the influence of ancient Egypt on Black musicians.

Entitled “Kemet: Egypt in Hip Hop, Jazz, Soul & Funk,” the exhibition seeks to show how ancient Egypt and Nubia have been “an undeniable source of inspiration for musicians of African descent for over 70 years.”

It showcased how artists of African descent – such as Beyoncé and Miles Davis – have embraced ancient cultures and employed the associated motifs “as symbols of resistance, empowerment and spiritual healing,” according to the RMO.

The museum added that the exhibition also looks into what scientific research has unveiled about ancient Egypt and Nubia, as well as discusses their study from Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives.

But since its opening, the RMO said the exhibition has received abusive messages via social media that were “racist or offensive in nature.” Criticism also emerged from Egyptian antiquities scholars and lawmakers, who said it supported “Afrocentric theory.”

The Dutch museum called the accusations “unfounded” and expressed disappointment at the ban.

The recent controversy comes weeks after Egyptian officials condemned a new Netflix docudrama series depicting Queen Cleopatra as a Black African.

Egypt’s antiquities ministry countered that the ancient queen had “Hellenistic (Greek) features,” including “light skin.”

In response to the Netflix series, an Egyptian state-backed broadcaster announced last month it was planning its own Cleopatra documentary, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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