Dr. Tanure Ojaide
August 1, 2012
Who are the Nubians? Nubians are people of northern Sudan and southern Egypt. Their history and traditions can be traced to the dawn of civilization. They settled first along the banks of the Nile from Aswan. Along the Nile, they developed one of the oldest and greatest civilizations in Africa until they lost their last kingdom five centuries ago. The Nubians remained as the main rivals to the homeland of Africa’s earliest black culture with a history that can be traced from 3800 B.C. onward through the monuments and artifacts. Ancient Nubia was a land of great natural wealth, gold mines, ebony, ivory and incense that its neighbors always prized. Sudan had remained the main homeland of Nubians through their long history, but many of its descendants is today’s Egypt. The majority of Nubians today is Sudanese with a population of slightly above 300,000 but are a minority in both countries. Nubians in both countries endured a lot of suffering from intentional overlooking to their history and culture. Historians have largely omitted Nubia, known today as Sudan, in favor of its splendid neighbor, Egypt simply of prejudice displayed by archaeologists. But Nubian art impacted Egyptian Art. Through Nubian history, culture, and its architecture, one can see how magnificent and powerful these group of people once were.
By rediscovering one of Africa’s ancient kingdoms and setting one’s sight on Nubian Art history, it is clear to see that ancient Nubia deserves as much recognition as its rival counterpart ancient Egypt. For three thousand years, between these two warring nations, the ancient African kingdoms of Nubia were Egypt’s southern neighbors as well as rivals. Temples and pyramids of Egypt have been visited by millions of tourist and likewise illustrated in fancy albums and history textbooks, but where is Nubia? Although there are more royal pyramids still standing in Nubia than there are in Egypt and temples that are worthy of a visit as the temples of Egypt or Greece, the modern world is almost entirely ignorant of Nubia’s glorious past. It is as if Nubia lay not along the Nile to Egypt’s south but rather entirely in Egypt’s shadow. But during ancient times, the ancient world was not so ignorant of a land that created numerous distinct cultures over the long span of 3800 BC to AD 600. The early Egyptians first knew the land as Ta-Seti—the land of the Bow—then as Wawat and later as Meroe. Nubia is even referred in the Bible as Kush. Aethiopia, is today’s Ethiopia known as Abyssinia by the Greeks and Romans. An early Greek historian, Herodotus, amazed by their tradition calls the Nubians the “tallest and handsomest” people in the world. It is easy to account our present ignorance. Nineteenth century scholars were brilliant and tenacious researchers and the world is deeply in their debt. By being so compassionate towards Egypt, they could never properly see Nubia. Nubian was a pale reflection of things Egyptian in their eyes. The study of Nubia has also been hindered by the practical difficulties of reaching out of-the-way sites and by a prejudice that disparaged black Africa’s contribution to civilization. However, today these factors are waning and Nubian cultures are being studied in their own right, evaluated on their own terms and revealed in all their magnificence. During the last two years, indeed several museums in North America have opened permanent galleries or displayed temporary exhibitions devoted to the ancient cultures of Nubia. In addition, popular culture is catching up on Nubian civilizations that once flourished on the land of the Nile in southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Also the Nubian kingdom of Kush appeared on the Cosby Show several years ago.
Ancient Nubian Art was during a time of its binary kingdoms of Napata and Meroe from 760 BC until the end of the Meroitic kingdom in 350 AD....