Egypt bans Dutch museum from excavations at Saqqara after alleged 'Afrocentric' exhibition
The National Museum of Antiquities (RMO) at Leiden provoked a social media backlash from Egyptians after hosting an exhibition called ‘Kemet: Egypt in hip hop, jazz, soul & funk’, which celebrates “the significance of ancient Egypt and Nubia in the work of musicians from the African diaspora”.
The exhibition, which began in late April and runs until September, depicts hip hop artist Nas as Pharaoh Tutankhamun, singers Rihanna and Beyonce as Queen Nefertiti and actor/comedian Eddie Murphy as Pharaoh Rameses II, among others.
However, now the RMO has received an official email from the Egyptian Ministry for Tourism and Antiquities, claiming the museum is guilty of “distorting history” due to the alleged “Afrocentric” approach of the exhibition, according to the Dutch newspaper NRC.
The RMO, which has been conducting excavations for years at the famous burial site of Saqqara near Giza, has now been banned from doing so by Egyptian authorities.
RMO director Wim Weijland told NRC that he was saddened by the ban but angered by the accusation of “distorting history”, saying: “The exhibition was created with great care … such accusations should not be made among colleagues in the scientific community”. Weijland further called for the claim to be “retracted”.
Following #Egypt's anger over black Cleopatra on Netflix, Egyptian officials also expressed anger over a exhibition in a Dutch museum on how Pharaonic Egypt inspired black artists in US. Egypt punished the museum - RMO in Leiden - by stopping its excavation mission in Sakkara https://t.co/SViwhIj1hF— Eduard Cousin (@EduardCousin) June 6, 2023
The curator of the exhibition, Daniel Soliman, who is half-Egyptian, thinks the reaction has been so strong due to “surging nationalism and anti-black racism in Egypt”, noting that no one from the Egyptian government even requested to see the exhibition.
Weijland has invited Egyptian delegates from the Antiquities Ministry to view the exhibition, while they have now given their commission at the excavation at Saqqara to the Egyptian Museum in Turin.
The backlash against the exhibition coincided with Egyptian anger against the allegedly “Afrocentric” depiction of Cleopatra VII in the Netflix docudrama Queen Cleopatra.