Emory Report
February 11, 2008
Volume 60, Number 19

African art galleries reopen
In conjunction with the opening of “Lost Kingdoms of the Nile,” the Carlos Museum reopens its Galleries of Sub-Saharan African Art this month.

Drawn from the permanent collection, recent acquisitions and loans from private collections, the African galleries exhibition is organized as a theme-based exploration of the numerous ways to see and experience the museum’s collection of 19th- and 20th-century African art.

“In this installation we expand the definition of art to better reflect African value systems so the viewer will also encounter ceramics, textiles and jewelry traditions,” says curator Jessica Stephenson.

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February 11, 2008
Explore Africa’s ancient treasures

By Kim Urquhart

Welcoming visitors to the Carlos Museum, receptionist and docent Ginny Connelly points to the cover of this month’s National Geographic. It features King Taharqa, one of the Nubian kings of the 25th dynasty who ruled Nubia and Egypt during Egypt’s last great cultural renaissance.

“This is very timely,” Connelly says. “The very person depicted on the cover is part of our permanent collection and is featured in our new exhibit.”

The National Geographic story comes alive in the Carlos Museum’s new traveling exhibit “Lost Kingdoms of the Nile: Nubian Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston,” on view until Aug. 31.

Ancient Nubia thrived from 6000 B.C. to 350 A.D. in today’s southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Featuring some of the most significant archaeological treasures ever found in Africa, this monumental exhibition — consisting of more than 200 objects in gold, silver, bronze, ivory, stone and ceramic — illuminates the remarkable civilization that shared the Nile River with the ancient Egyptians.

“Egypt wasn’t the only great African civilization,” says Peter Lacovara, senior curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art at the Carlos Museum. “And in many ways these artifacts are more remarkable because the Nubians had such limited resources compared to the Egyptians, yet they were able to accomplish so much.” For example, there are more pyramids in Sudan than in all of Egypt, he notes.

Highlights of the chronologically organized exhibition include a queen’s golden diadem, reconstructed in its entirety for the first time; finely crafted ceramics, including some of the earliest pottery in the world; treasures from the royal Nubian tombs; and inscriptions in the mysterious language of Nubia. The exhibition is augmented by pieces from the Carlos Museum’s own Nubian collection and a variety of interpretive materials prepared by staff and faculty experts.

“Lost Kingdoms of the Nile” highlights not only some of the finest artworks ever found in ancient Africa but also the stories of their discovery by the intrepid archaeologists who were part of the Harvard-Boston Expedition from 1906 to 1913. “It was both the first archaeological salvage campaign and the first archaeological survey,” says Lacovara.

The items uncovered by archaeologist George Reisner — whose discoveries offered the first archaeological evidence of Nubian kings who ruled over Egypt — were later presented to the Boston Museum.
“The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston houses the world’s greatest collection of Nubian art,” says Lacovara. “For the first time it’s been put together as an exhibition that premieres at the Carlos Museum.”

Lacovara believes the Nubian exhibition will resonate with the Emory and Atlanta community.

“This is an important cultural area that often gets ignored,” he says. “Especially now, because when people think of Sudan they think of Darfur and the country’s problems with genocide and civil war, and it eclipses the fact that this region had a great history.”