TAHARQA – THE BLACK PHARAOH
Exhibition 10.4 – 28.6 2015
Ancient Egypt is often depicted as an autonomous, stand-alone realm, one that remained untouched and unaffected by the African cultures that surrounded it. The new special exhibition at the Glyptotek depicts a period in history where the balance of power shifted, where the cultures of Egypt and the rest of Africa met and mingled, prompting a revival and reinterpretation of Egyptian customs, gods and cultural modes of expression.
For more than 2,000 years, Egypt was by far the stronger player in the balance of power between itself and its neighbouring kingdom to the south, Nubia. The exhibition ”Taharqa – The Black Pharaoh” focuses on a particular chapter in the history of Egypt: from around 750 BCE and in the century that followed, the Nubian rulers upset this balance, seizing power of Egypt. The period reached its acme with Taharqa – the most powerful of the black pharaohs.
Egyptian with a twist
Featuring more than 70 archaeological finds, the exhibition sums up a time when Egyptian and African traits and cultures fuse together. The invading forces from the south appear almost more Egyptian than the Egyptians themselves. Pyramids are built, old traditions and gods are revived, and hieroglyphs and Egyptian iconography are appropriated by the new regime. Very notably, this revival prompts a highly distinctive mode of expression, as is evident in the depiction of Taharqa’s clearly Negroid features on an otherwise classical sphinx, a prominent loan from the British Museum, which has made the extraordinary gesture of allowing the Glyptotek to display one of the highlights from its own collection.
The exhibition also points to how the African roots of the Nubians are apparent in connection with their funerary customs, as well as to how their culture remained strongly influenced by Egypt even after they retreated back to Nubia.
Closer to Taharqa
The exhibition zooms in and out on its subject, presenting temple finds of varying scope and scale as well as small, but highly sophisticated artefacts from Nubian tombs and palaces. The vast majority of the archaeological finds on display were excavated in Meroë and Kawa in present-day Sudan, where large-scale archaeological excavations are still in progress. Through photographic documentation, including reports from the Glyptotek’s most recent expedition in the area, and through reconstructions of the arrays of objects that appeared to the archaeologists working there in the present, some 2,500 years after the last black pharaohs trod the Earth, the exhibition seeks to capture echoes of the glories of the past.
The exhibition supplements the Glyptotek’s rich collections from the period with important loans from the National Museum of Denmark and the British Museum. In preparation of this exhibition, the Glyptotek has carried out extensive restoration and conservation work on a number of archaeological finds. Two large stelae that were completely smashed during transit from Sudan some hundred years ago have now been put back together, like a particularly challenging puzzle, and are now ready to be put on public display for the first time ever. They are presented here alongside two other stelae, also owned by the Glyptotek, which were found at the same site: Taharqa’s large temple in Kawa.
To accompany the exhibition the Glyptotek will publish a catalogue, in English, written by the exhibition curator, Tine Bagh. The book provides the first-ever comprehensive account of the Glyptotek’s collection of finds from Meroë and Kawa in Sudan.
Finds from J. Garstang’s Excavations in Meroe and F. Ll. Griffith’s in Kawa, Sudan, in the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
132 pages, lavishly illustrated. Price: DKK 129. Available from the Glyptotek bookshop.
The exhibition is sponsored by Knud Højgaards Fond.