Sunday, August 23, 2009

Home again, home again

It's been a week since our return to the US from Africa. From home to home and, now, back home again...

While I've yet to recover fully from the experience (it was high drama, even after getting back to JFK. The short version... I was taken by bus to my plane to DC after the door had closed, and my and Nijeul's luggage was in my recycle bin the next morning!) I have been able to reflect on the experiences Summer Study Abroad provides Howard students. The blog, to which I must admit I was a doubting Thomas!, helped in that regard. I read the posts all along, but I reread them one day last week while sitting in my office (I got 9 hours sleep, and off to work I went).

Since it was registration week, and I've yet to settle into my new position as Dept Chair, I used the blog one day as a refuge. While staring blankly at my computer screen, trying to figure out how to place 1600+ incoming Freshmen in 64 or so sections of Freshman English (capable of seating 1300 students at best), I saw pictures of the Kemet Krew flash across the screen. So, I clicked, and to the blog I came.

I remembered that I had started writing a long piece on our last night in Cairo, but for the life of me, I couldn't find it to finish and post it. (Someone in the A bldg used his/her powers to make me focus, I suppose). Then, I thought perhaps not finding it was for the best since the kids joked daily (especially Mariah) about how long-winded both Doc and I were on the blog and elsewhere. You should have seen some of the sentences we co-constructed to begin to unravel our thematic considerations! But by the last two class days, the students were all equally long-winded (well, almost), as they constructed their narratives for the day-by-day "virtual tour" video. They began to see that complex ideas often require complex-compound sentences! As soon as Brittani the video, we'll post it too.

Earlier today, I snuck a peak at some of the video interviews Toria and Shelley conducted (Shelley's final paper for her grad class at Drexel investigates ways to get more African Americans to study abroad), and I was reminded why I give up two crucial weeks of the summer (the 4 weeks of prep don't seem to count except when deadlines for my own writing & research are inevitably missed) to journey to the Continent with how ever many fellow Bison (and honorary Bison) are so inclined.

At the risk of being held to it, I say, here's to next year, & here's to home, in all its manifestations... here, and all over the world...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Still on Egypt time

Still on Kemet time…
Its 4:30 am DC time and Im wide awake, laughing at an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Aire. This time last week it would be 11:30 a.m and I would more than likely be tired from my 5 am wake up call, sweating because of the 110 degree heat and standing in the tomb of a great ancient Egyptian Pharaoh. I’ve only been home for one full day but Im still very much on Kemet time.
The trip home was less than enjoyable. Egyptian kids were literally crawling around on the airplane floor, eating sugar and kicking my seat. I had to warn their parents and make mean faces at the kids in order to get some adequate rest. The food was also bad. I tried to hold my nose and force down the dry chicken and hard noodles but after a few bites I was done, luckily I smuggled a apple and banana in my purse. On the upside, I was sitting in a row with two of the people I thought that I didn’t think I would become close friends with, Mariah and Ernest. Believe it or not, Mariah and I had a class together last semester and never spoke; Ernest and I had met briefly in passing as well and never got better acquainted. However my most vivid memories of my voyage to Egypt include them as well as the nile, Havian, Nijuel, Clarice, Sawdaiya, and Rameses II.
I’ve learned more soo much about myself, my history and my ancestors thru this trip. I learned that my history doesn’t start with slavery, it begins with Kings and Queens; I learned that the Greeks and Romans not only stole many ideas and concepts from the ancient Egyptians but also are responsible for the decline of the ancient history as we know it; I’ve learned about the Battle of Kadesh and other obstacles that the Egyptians had to overcome to continue prosper as the most advanced society in history, I’ve learned the importance of Ma’at, Isis, Osiris, Horus, Seth, Seshet (sp?) and allll of the other ancient Egyptian manifestations of the divine; I’ve looked into the eyes of the 70 feet tall statues that Rameses II built for himself as he looked back at me and asked what am I going to do with what I now know…If knowledge was equated to money, I would’ve become rich because of this trip. I was able better understand Islam and the lifestyle of the Egyptians now. Its amazing how this nation went from being soo wealthy to reducing its citizens to being poverty stricken…this blog could go on for days with thoughts, memories, and lessons learned but I think I will stop here. I will just end this by writing that I more than anything I am grateful, and that I would not change the diligence that was required of each day, the exhaustion that I felt and any of the experiences that I had in Egypt.

Shout out- this one goes out to Dr. Williams and Dr. Carr-If I could have any teachers in the world instruct me in Egypt, it would always be you two.

yours in ma'at.....
Dana Daneeeee

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Caravan of Love

While in Kemet, my partner in crime Brittani and I were caught on several occasions jamming to the music on our iPods. Fortunately, that was the only electronic device that survived my many strokes of "bad luck" (which I now interpret to simply be ma'at...where there was a negative occurrence, a positive instance was just around the corner). Well, I was sure to only listen to songs that complemented the majesty of my of my favorites that will now forever remind me of my first trip to Kemet is by Isley Jasper Isley..."Caravan of Love." The music video they released does the lyrics no justice, and therefore, I'll have to take it upon myself to create a video for the song. (I'll post it up here once Brittani and I have finished the documentary :o) In the meantime, the song will serve as the perfect background music for this post...***

Are you ready for the time of your life? It's time to stand up and fight...

We embarked on this journey with a sense of purpose. We had read the most select literature on where we were going. We were bring our life experiences, as Africans in the western hemisphere, with us across the pond. Thus, we were ready for the time of our lives...ready to fight in the intellectual battle that has concerned Kemet for millenia. We were ready to stand up against the interpreters who had it wrong, ready to fight for future generations who will learn about our ancestors. We were ready to fight for both our past and our future by learning in the best way we could.

...Hand in hand we'll take a caravan to the Motherland...

It wasn't just individuals traveling to Kemet. Our group became a family. "Hand in hand" we sought to understand the original message passed down Y our ancestors. I got to know each and every one of my companions during this life-changing experience, and they are my family now. Literally (on the camel ride) and figuratively, we were a caravan; we were a group of travelers moving together in purpose, in direction in order to trade ideas and grow in intellectual wealth. In addition, we came to grow on a personal level, learning how to work with one another, live with one another, and work in synergy to enrich lives. If that's not a caravan of love, I don't know what is. by one we're gonna stand with the pride, one that can't be denied...

This trip has really solidified one idea for me. IT'S UNDENIABLE. After going to Kemet and witnessing its majesty and wonders for yourself, you cannot deny that these people were African in both their origin and culture. The sense of pride that comes from that realization is what many are afraid of. To give Africans the pride they deserve in their heritage is the last thing many people on this earth want to do. That pride can be their pride too...

...From the highest mountain, and valley low, we'll join together, with hearts of gold...

This line of the song is very profound to me as it relates to my experience in Kemet. We climbed Kemet's "mountains" to explore the tombs of the nobles. We climbed up into the Giza pyramids; Father, son, and grandson Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure...we saw the many a benben on our way back from Abu Simbel, the primordial mound that arose from the waters of creation. We trekked through Kemet's "valleys" at the Valley of the Kings and Queens, we saw the sun's rays cascade into the valley at St Maat where the workers who created Kemet's majestic structures resided. Our hearts, rather our ib (the heart-mind) was gleaming like gold, the color of Re's body, the material of eternity that the people of Kemet so chose for their eternal representations, the material that was abundant in the land of Nubia, or Nebu - literally the land of gold.

...Now the children of the world can see, there's a better way for us to be. The place where mankind was born, and so neglected and torn, torn apart.

And in the final lines of that verse, the purpose is recaptured. Now we, the children of the world, are able to see what must be done. I am back in the states with the most sirene sense of direction, purpose, and objective. I am as solid as Hatshepsut's tekenu (or obelisk) at Ipet Isut (known as Karnak). I have a foundation now. And I know that we must take more and more students to Kemet. And finally, we must save Kemet. We must save it from misinterpretation. We must save it from damaging "restoration." We must save Kemet from Egypt, really. From the influences of modernity that threaten to turn it into a whimsical themepark and Disneyfy its story rather than truly restoring it to the sacred intellectual birthplace that it once was (the place where mankind was born). Kemet has, for thousands of years, been neglected and torn apart, and it is our job, as scholars, as Africans, to put the pieces back together, to venerate our ancestors, and to honor their memory with reverence and performance. It is, as I have said many times, our purpose to outdo them.

As I looked into the eyes of the statues at the Luxor Museum in Waset (modern day Luxor), it came to me...if there was any reason why the people of Kemet built these structures, painted these scenes, sculpted these statues, It is Maat. We look at their faces carved in the stone, and 4000 some-ought years later, they look back at us...beckoning us....telling us to do the opposite of what the "childlike" Greeks and Romans did...urging us to take the time to understand, study, learn. They have the answers to all of our they did back then. And even if every stone in Kemet crumbled today, we, with this trip, have received the message. We will pick up where they left off.

In Maat,


Back to the states

It's so weird being back in the United States. I woke up several times in the middle of the night thinking I was still in Kemet. If the opportunity presented itself, I would go back right now. Overlooking the dry desert, hot temperatures, and difference in food, I'd gladly return home to Kemet. The love and excitement we received from the people of Egypt was amazing; more than I have ever had in the states.

It's crazy. I was listening to a song by Erykah Badu and it said, "They take our history and make it a modern mystery." That statement is so true. I remember when we went to Dendera and we saw the drawing of what could be a light bulb or battery. There could be chance that the people of ancient Kemet might have had electricity. It was the first time we had ever seen a picture of it. The fact that we aren't sure what the picture was, makes it what Erykah calls "a modern mystery." It's a shame because that's our history. It's something we should know, but was taken from us.

I wish more of our people would take the time to study the history of ancient Kemet. I guarantee that there would be a change in our community. There's no way you can learn about ancient Kemet, and not feel a sense of pride. Our people created math, science, writing, religion, history, and more. What we see today are all imitations. I'm proud of my people. They had a true understanding of community, something that has been demolished due to Western influence.

For all of us who attended, it doesn't stop here. We were fortunate enough to study in Kemet for a reason. It is our obligation to share what we learned and encourage others to enhance their knowledge. The change starts with us and it starts now...


Back in the States






Sunday, August 16, 2009

The Deepest Sense of Purpose

It all started last year. As a rising senior trying to graduate, I was checking Howard's site religiously. On one such e-pilgrimage, I saw it. Howard in Kemet. The photos, and the expressions of joy, awe, focus, and enlightenment...the temples, the mdw ntr (hieroglyphics)... plus, the fantabulous Dr. Carr! I was infatuated with the whole thing, and whined to my friends about wishing to go.

Fast forward some months, to a monthly meeting with my honors program. Evie Hightower stood up and said, "I went to Kemet and I couldn't even begin to tell you what it was like. It was life changing." She went on and on, but what stayed with me was the glow in her face as she spoke. It was the spirit of the things she could not put into words.

I decided right there. I'm going next year.

So as I sat on the bus in Cairo, on the way to the Citadel and the hotel I reflected. I thought of my parents, of sacrifice, of the final senior year push to graduation, of it's how much to expedite a passport?! I thought of my whole church praying on safe travels for Angi, Brittani, and me. And I realized this trip was bigger than me. I thought of those before and after me, and on my first blog, wrote:

I have a responsibility to have an experience full enough for all of us to share.

On this trip, I felt fulfilled for the first time in a long time. I felt the deepest sense of purpose. Before this trip my sense of purpose was limited to myself and my family. It was simply to do my best, make my family proud, give my siblings a good example and, as Umi Says (via Mos Def), "shine my light on the world." But being in Kemet, seeing how these beautiful black people took that sense of purpose and surpassed anything the world had ever seen, on every level of human life, I felt so humble and so very powerful at the same time.

I will never forget this.

Although my trip was abbreviated, it was still so much. We turned our minds inside out with talks of God and how He/She/It is conceptualized and manifested. We dove into oceans of imagination wondering how much we still don't know about Kemet, and how much we've lost in the politics and filters of translation. We held on to each other while trekking through millenia of knowledge, meeting long lost cousins and uber-great uncles through the legacies they left us.

From an ancient river that flows against gravity itself, to the (increasingly nonsensical) temporal context I find myself in, one thing has resonated above all else: our potential (collective and individual) for all things is infinite. The real question is, what will our legacy be?

PS.....Thanks for rollin' with us =)

Returning "Home": A Blue(s) Mood

We are back in Heliopolis, site of the ancient city of On, ten minutes from Cairo International Airport. Tomorrow morning, we return to New York and to our lives and studies with renewed spirits, reshaped visions and the foresight born from measured contemplation of where we have been. Still, the moment is not without its bittersweet undertones, its mood indigo. Last night in Luxor, we convened around the dinner table to reflect on our two weeks together. A breeze blew in from the Nile, drying the tears that flowed, mingling with voices offering gratitude and determination. Many evoked the names of family and friends who raised money to subsidize their voyage, vowing to repay the investment with detailed descriptions and the lessons learned from the places they’d studied. Ernest, with his trademark coolness, thanked us all for stretching him. Angi observed that she sat in a place that her father has dreamt of visiting his entire life. Brittani evoked the Biblical passage that the race (in this case to recover our past and use it to rebuild our present and future) is not to the swift or strong, but to they that endureth to the end.

When we left the U.S. two weeks ago, the country was just entering the latest denoument of fatigue that accompanies supercharged stories of racial strife. The dying embers of the the latest contretemps, this one involving the “intellectual entrepreneur” Dr. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., offers a useful example of what we must confront and what must not distract us as scholars of African descent. As Glenn Loury noted in the New York Times, Gates could have used his arrest and the media spotlight it afforded him to focus the country on the many instances when men and women of African descent have found themselves without the ability to defend themselves from legalized injustice, as well as on the many who languish behind bars wrongly or with sentences far more severe than their alleged offenses. Instead, Gates chose to highlight himself and move quickly to the rhetoric of forgiveness and reconciliation. In other words, he made another futile attempt to entertain the question that W.E.B. DuBois offered “nary a word” in response to a century ago, “How does it feel to be a problem?”

Race is a social reality in today’s global society. It is also a recent world historical phenomenon, and one that must ultimately be discarded if humanity is to develop beyond our fears and live our dreams as more than a handful of select individuals scattered in webs of privilege and sheltered isolation. The reality of Kemet and classical Africa removes the consideration of race as the lens through which those who study it view the world and approach social problems. Examining the ways that these Africans thought about themselves and their reality has the potential to re-attach us, first as Africans and ultimately as human beings, to the rich trove of ideas about self and society, world and cosmos that began with the dawn of organized thought and continues, unbroken, in the traces of the intellectual genealogy of Africana.

Last week, by examining in line by line fashion The Memphite Theology, our study tour group regained a point of view from the Kemetic wisdom literature on the relationship between matter and sentience, and considered the world’s most influential culture’s explanation of how to know the world we live in while contemplating that world’s essence. By tracing out the expression of this understanding at every stop we have made, culminating in this return to the ancient city of On, we have begun to understand the usefulness of discarding smallish, unhelpful frameworks for thinking about what is and what can be. Race becomes a puny thing, an ugly glitch in the long line of the best of what human beings have imagined.

Jacob Carruthers summarizes the idea of God in the Memphite Theology and the Kemetic worldview, noting that, for the Egyptians, God was the interaction of the fundamental essence of the eternal elements of all that is, described in their texts as four principles: Solvency [Nenew/Nenewt], “the primeval condition and substance of creation which has neither form nor stability”; Infinity in time and space [Hehew/Hehewt]; Darkness [Kekew/Kekewt], or the unicity of leveling perception; and endless, directionless Movement, hidden but constantly present[Tenemw/Tenemwt or, in many texts, Imun/Imunet].

As these eternal elements interacted, they expressed themselves in an act of ordered improvisation, a Sep Tepy (“first occasion”) moment of creation signified by the Netcher (expression of the Divine) Ptah. The Kemetians described this moment as “Medu,” or “speech,” the first word. Subsequently, Carruthers goes on to note, reality becomes an unending progression of the word, a genealogy of speeches that stretches from timeless infinity through now and the future, and includes the moment of thought that forms each moment in the human being. It attended the articulation of the elements out of which humans were said to have formed: Earth (Geb), Sky (Nut), Air (Shu) and Moisture (Tefnut). It then brought about the comingling of these elements as the expression of the four pairs of ancestors to human beings: Wosir (Osiris), Auset (Isis), Setekh (Set) and Nebhet (Nepthys). These were simply names for forces that have always existed but which always reveal themselves to the Egyptians’ limited perception in ways that were best managed by imagining and giving name to that which they could not see.

The Egyptians did not attempt to imagine that the interaction of these principles was not, in fact, the order of things in reality. In naming order Ma’at, in fact, they expressed a sentiment born from scientific observation that everything that is, always has been, and resolves itself ultimately in harmony, from the order of the stars to the rising and setting of the sun and the inundation of the Nile and the beating of the heart. For the Kemetic thinker, only our memory of witnessing and experiencing this ever-resolving harmony (provided by devices of writing and measuring gifted to humanity through the ideas of Djehuty and Seshat) is limited, and then only by the space we are willing to give our recorded memory and our creative intelligence, themselves issue of the self-same eternal principles.

Is this intellectual approach really different than the science that physicists evoke to discuss “string theory?” Does it differ qualitatively from the children that the Memphite Theology gave birth to, from the Abrahammic faith traditions to the various improvisational expressions of Africana deep thought, from Vodun, Cadomble or Santeria to the Africanized Protestantisms of Shango (Shouter) Baptists, Pentacostals or good old “shoutin’ Baptists?”. Of course not. The Kemetians did not distinguish between science, technology and spirituality, between sacred and secular, in any sense we would recognize today. Their faith was born from steady, patient observation: They believed, in the words of the 16th century African scholar from the great mosque of Timbuktu, Ahmed Baba, “in God and Science.”

But now, faced with a world that struggles to free itself from the maddening recent habit of reducing people to “races,” how do we capture in language this sense of the interconnectedness of all things? Western scholars have often evoked the alphabet as a progression in the human capacity to articulate ideas, noting that using symbols exclusively for sound (as distinct from using them for both sounds and ideas) frees the mind to recombine thoughts in endless variation. The fact that the modern alphabet is derived largely from Kemetic Medew Netcher notwithstanding, the Egyptians created their inscription system in an attempt to produce a method for capturing ideas, sights, sounds—even smells and tastes—in a coding process that hovered somewhere between the abstract and the concrete.

In an unbroken genealogy, African people have maintained these improvisational approaches to speech, apprehending the unknowable nature of the Sep Tepy but generating technique after technique for capturing more of it than mere words can achieve: In other words, Africana inscription systems consistently free “speech” from the straightjacket of word/script exclusivity. From the parent Medew Netcher of classical Africa, we see the danced reinscription of the orbit patterns of the stars Sirius and Sirius-B of the Dogon, who claim to have migrated with this knowledge to West Africa from the East; we observe the varying conceptual inscriptions of the Akan, collapsed into Adinkra symbols of cloth and metal and ink and bourne according to their collective memory along a similar migration arc; we note the ground markings of the Ki-Kongo Cosmograph, forming the perpetual cycle and spiral of reality whose movement traces the “four moments of the sun” in identical fashion to the Kemetic concepts of Kheper, Ra and Atum.

And, our memory re-attached by the memory of Djehuty and the measurements and records of Seshat, we trace anew the unbroken genealogy of these Africana improvisational speeches, Medew forced into ships and emptied living and whole into the Western hemisphere, reconvening itself and blending and reblending its systems of word, sound, sign, smell and taste, speaking yet again in the Sep Tepy that links classical Africa to the contemporary African world.

We may usefully refer to an essential element of these speeches as the “Blue Note,” that conduit of apprehension and expression that, like its ancestor Medew Netcher, enters the senses as a concrete expression and frees the mind and spirit to join as one, offering the ability to Sedjem, or “hear,” the highest form of intelligence for the Egyptians, so important that they inscribed the admonition to hear on the wall enclosing the double holy of holies at the late period Kemetic center for healers, Kom Ombo.

What is the best-known conduit of the Blue Note, the Blues, except a perpetually resolving expression of Ma’at? How different is the speech of the word-less Blue Note that Louis Armstrong sends forth for the three and a half minutes of West End Blues from the speeches of Khun Inpu in the Kemetic narrative of The Nine Petitions of the Farmer Whose Speech Is Good? Is the in-between the pentatonic scale wail of the Ki-Kongo/Bambara descended New Orleanian not improvising the original speech of Ptah within the perpetually resolving harmony of Ma’at, and in so doing allowing us to release our frustrations, hopes and determination into the expectation that, like Inpu before the magistrates and Per Uah, we shall find that which is true? When Inpu threatens to evoke the Netcher Inpu (Annubis) as the final arbiter of right and wrong, thereby bringing the corrupt officials to account before the scales of Ma’at, we can see Louis Armstrong sweating and smiling, handkerchief in hand, slicing through the subterfuge of minstrelsy with a trumpet sound that could, in the words of Ossie Davis, “kill a man.”

When Martin King, the night before his death, envisions the promised land, is this not an expression of the apprehension of Ma’at? “I Have a Dream,” far from an exercise in hopeful expectation of a failing system of Western “democracy,” becomes an improvisational re-inscription of Africana expectations of the resolution of dissonances into harmony when viewed through the lens of the judgment scenes we have traced in the tombs of Horemheb and Ramses IX, and read in the texts that adorn the walls of Abydos.

The western framework cannot hold such concepts. It is too ill-constructed, too immature. Ralph Ellison’s genius descriptions of the Blues overflow the modest and ill-equipped vessel of American exceptionalism into which he pours them, and the lineage of Homer, Hesiod, Dante, Shakespeare, Hawthorne and Thoreau which feed that vessel. But the Blues are at home with Ma’at, in vertical conversations with the classical genealogy and in horizontal conversations with its varied and various relatives across the African world. Like the main character in the Kemetic story of the “shipwrecked sailor,” the Blue Note points the way home, and home, Thomas Hardy’s admonition from the sidelines notwithstanding, is a place to which you can always return. Just as the Per Uah told the wayward Sinhue to “return to the Black Land (Kemet): It’s the place where you came into existence,” so the Blues reminds us of a place that exists beyond physical time and space and yet suffuses the time and space of any place that we find ourselves. It is speech writ large, like Medu Netcher.

One can imagine the Blues playing as one enters the sacred chambers at the temple of Seti I at Abydos. The Blue Note could reconcile the tender scenes of Seti adjusting the rainments of the Netchers, from the crown of Wosir to the garments of Auset. As Earth, Wind and Fire sang to us to “tell the story/morning glory/all about the Serpentine Fire,” it seems as if the Kemetic people took the idea of inscribing spiritual transcendence to heart.

As challenged by long-term memory loss as its author may be, nevertheless the Blues-tinged lines and sounds of 50 Cent’s “Many Men" is still much better equipped than Thucydides or Patton to help us understand the mood and mind of Ramses II, depicted in the temple at Abu Simbel astride his steed and preparing to plunge his Set battle division into the heart of the Hittite army.

"Many men/wish death upon me/Blood in my eye dawg and I can't see/I'm trying to be what I'm destined to be/And [Hittites] trying to take my life away/I put a hole in a [Hittite] for messing with me/My back on the wall/now you goin' to see/Better watch how you talk/when you talk about me/Cause I'll come and take your life away."

It is a Blues moment, infused with part Stagolee, part Muddy Waters channeling Jesus Christ in the temple. In the temple built next door for his wife, Nefertari, a simple glance at the adoring Ramses offering lotus flowers and incense to his wife is not enough: This is not Romeo and Juliet, or Brad and Angelina. Looking above Nefertari's head, one translates the glyph “Hemetch,” not semantically as “wife” in English, German, Spanish or French, but literally as “well of water.” If there is confusion to what water means to a people surrounded by desert, or to a Black Man, one simply has to reference the great speech of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, the nearly eight minute “I Miss You.” Clearly, these are African people, these Egyptians.

Ausar battles his brother Setekh. Ausar is murdered, his body cut into pieces in some versions of the story and strewn in the Nile. Auset is alerted to the deed and, with her sister NebHet, retrieves all the pieces of her husband's body except the phallus, which is ultimately replaced with a proxy that allows her to impregnate herself with Ausar's seed and give birth to Heru. How many Egyptologists have linked this narrative to writers from Sophocles to Freud?

Perhaps the virtuoso performance of Son House’s Death Letter by the Blues emperess Cassandra Wilson before a live audience in New York City for the Great Night in Harlem album would, in linking indelibly to the unbroken genealogy of Africana medew, remove these ill-considered gestures. Riding the groove convened with congas, electric bass and guitar, she pulls tight the threads of lyric and tone she has woven through the ears and souls of the listening participants, enveloping the audience and every subsequent listener in a grand and irresistible call and response. It is medew, reaching a level of Ancestral communion that flows through her smoky contralto and helps us understand what Auset must have felt when she heard the news, and what she did in its wake:

"I got a letter this morning/how do you reckon it read/it said “hurry hurry, on account of the man you love is dead/got a letter this morning/how do you reckon it read?/It said “hurry hurry, the man you love is dead”…

"I packed up my suitcase/took off down the road/when I got there/he was lying on the coolin' board/Packed up my suitcase/took off down the road.../when I got there/he was lying on the coolin' board."

“Looked like it was 10,000 people/standing round the burial ground/I didn’t know I loved him/Till they layed him down/Look like it was 10,000 people/standing round the burial ground/Lord, I didn’t know that I loved him/until they layed my daddy down…

“You know I got up this morning/right about the break of day/I was hugging the pillow/Where he used to lay/I got up two in the morning/well, right at the break of day/I was hugging the pillow/where he used to lay…”

“Everybody hush!/Thought I heard him call my name/Wasn’t loud/it was so sweet and plain…/so sweet…./hush…/everybody hush…/I heard him call out my name…”

And what of the child born of that Blues moment of pain, triumph and the restoration of Ma'at? The story of Heru is not, as gestured toward by the German Egyptologist Jan Assman, a narrative that might be compared as a revenge fantasy in some fashion to Hamlet. Not if you refocus the speech as an antecedent to the sentiment expressed by Clarence Carter in “Patches.” One can hear Auset telling her son that she is counting on him “to pull this family through/my son, it’s all up to you.” Like the Blues, the narratives of Kemet are expressions of an understanding that transcends the limiting narratives of tragedy, comedy or the genre divisions of internal and external conflict. They are reminders that every challenge comes with the tools through which to meet and transcend it. And, we must remember, beyond the challenges lies the reassuring presence of Ma’at.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Reaching the Higher Ground

“I’m so glad that he let me try it again/Cause my last time on earth I lived a whole world of sin/I’m so glad that I know more than I knew then/Gonna keep on trying/Till I reach the Highest Ground”
---Stevie Wonder, "Higher Ground" (1973)

Dr. Williams and I are sitting in the Sekhmet conference room at the Sonestra St. George Hotel in Luxor, listening to the easy laughter and light conversation of the students as we ease into our final class work day in Kemet. Over the last two days, these young people have written and recorded a mini-documentary of their journey, adding another layer to the long-standing engagement of Howard students with the study of classical Africa. We are both tired but energized by the enthusiasm and unflagging effort of each member of this remarkable band. They have kept on pushing, each question and comment linking them more definitely to the numerous bands of scholars who preceded them. We’ve a story to tell that the blog only scratches the surface of.
This afternoon, we will visit the Luxor Museum, opened in the 1980s and recently refurbished and infused with additional treasures from the endless Kemetic cache. It is an under-visited crown jewel, and we will use the experience to sum up much of what we have seen and discussed to date. The core of the Luxor Museum collection consists of pieces buried for centuries by the priests of Ipet-Isut (“The Most Select of Places,” known to the Greeks as Karnak) to hide them from robbers whose contemporary counterparts have heisted booty that now adorns collections in Berlin, London, Paris, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. As Dr. Williams wrote earlier, Ipet Isut was the spiritual center for Kemetic life for at least two millennia. When they were discovered in the 1960s, the statuary, stelae and assorted artifacts buried at Ipet Isut were in such pristine states of preservation that, when treated and prepared for display, they seemed to reconstruct Kemet as a living civilization.
At the Luxor Museum, we will be greeted by a massive head of Amenhotep III, Husband of Tiye, Father of Akhenaten and legendary New Kingdom link between the Hatsheptsut-Djehutymes III era and the Akhenaten-Horemheb-Seti-Rameses eras. The first thing you notice about all the Amenhotep III statuary in the Luxor Museum—and there is a lot of it—is the lips. This man was unmistakably African. Four days ago, we visited the “house the Amenhotep III built,” the companion temple complex to Ipet Isut known as Southern Opet (The Place of Seclusion), or Luxor. We lingered at the massive twin statues that front what remains of his morturary temple, two pieces known as “The Colossi of Memnon” in a gesture toward the Greek king made famous in the Iliad, five centuries later.
We will wind around the various pieces of limestone, pink and black granite, and malachite, the pristine glyphs, astonishing detail and serene visages pulling us into deeper and deeper reflection on the many places we have visited in the last two weeks. These students have drilled into a deep well of Classical Africana, nestled along the Nile, and mined gems that they have prepared over the last several days to present on this website in the next days and weeks.
As with the story of Hatshepsut, we have aspired to strengthen that which has been strong and to do right by the great legacy we have inherited. Though she was schemed against by the forces of her day, this great Per Uah managed to extend the authority of Kemet as a diplomat and visionary, in the tradition of her predecessors and as the custodian of the legacy of her ancestors. As we stood at her morturary temple, we reflected on what she wrote on her Tekken (Obelisk) at Ipet Isut:

All foreign lands are my subjects, He placed my border at the limits of heaven. What Aten encircles labors for me. He gave it to him who came from him. Knowing I would rule it for him. I am his daughter in very truth, Who serves him who knows what he ordains. My reward from my father is life-stability-rule. On the Horus throne of all the living, eternally like Re.

When we enter the sakhu (mummy) room at the Luxor Museum, we will see Ahmose, laying there, with the golden fly-shaped amulets signifying the battle citations awarded his Mother, the Theban Queen Tetisheri: HIS MOTHER!!—for her helping to lead Kemet’s armies against invaders. These amulets lie under glass a few feet from Ahmose and next to his own battle dagger. Ahmose, a petit man who had commanded the respect and admiration of first his troops, then a nation. Ahmose, whose Black skin and African features are indistinguishable from those we viewed when looking down on Seti I and the Djehutymeses in the Cairo Museum.
We will see statues of Horemheb, the once-general under Tutankhamun who was considered the first legitimate Per Uah since Amenhotep III and who rose to lead Kemet into the transition between the 18th and 19th Dynasties and the era of Ramseses. Three days ago, we visited Horemheb’s tomb in the Valley of the Kings, as well as that of Tawosret, mother of Seti I and the Ramses line, a Per Uah in her own right before being succeeded by Setnakht. As we scrutinized these tombs in the Valley, the guides allowed us the freedom to comment on the various texts inscribed therein: The Book of Days and The Book of Nights; The Book of the Earth, The Litanies of Re and The book of Amduat. They re-christened us “Egyptian Negroes,” to hearty laughter all around that rang the limestone shafts cut deep in the earth. Like the nondescript piano movers, train station wayfarers and pedestrians described by Ralph Ellison in his essay The Little Man at Cheraw Station, these guards know more about the contents of the tombs than many who profess to be experts. As African-Americans, we have learned to meet people in our common humanity and take them at their lived experience rather than at the social rank or status that is often used to separate person from person. Because of this, we have been afforded particular warmth everywhere we have sojourned so far.
At the Luxor Museum we will see statues of Seti I, master builder and the moving force behind the temple he built at Abydos, described according to David O’Connor as being set “in the province which he loved, his heart’s desire ever since he had been on earth, the sacred soil of Wennefer (Osiris)” At Abydos two days ago, we examined the site with the richest untapped potential to yield traces that connect all periods of the Kemetic state. The area served as the burial site for the first rulers of Kemet (including Narmer the Unifier) and was venerated since at least 2,000 b.c.e. as the burial place of Wosir (Osiris). It is almost entirely un-excavated, and most of its temples and tombs were razed millennia ago so their materials could be re-used for other structures. Visitors to Abydos come to walk, meditate and absorb the unparalleled carvings in the astonishing temple of Seti I, completed by his son, Ramses II during the 19th Dynasty. The official name of the temple is The Noble Mansion of Millions of Years of the King Men-Ma’at-Ra who Rests in Abydos.
As significant as Abydos is, however, many tourists do not visit. According to the tour guides, Abydos is not on the standard tour package: It lies three hours from Luxor by bus. In visiting there, as well as Memphis and the Tombs of the Nobles in both Aswan and Deir el Medina, we have followed a generation of African-American tours of Kemet that were built by women and men who knew their importance to the intellectual genealogy of the Nile Valley, of African people, and of humanity.
Due to the focused and informed nature of our discussions as we visit the sites, other tour groups have been pausing to take note of how much our group knows about each place; the temple and tomb guards have been referring to us as “professors”; African-American tourists in the hotels have come up to us to ask how we have acquired so much information, and a couple from Eritrea brought her teenaged sons to class yesterday to exchange experiences. When we visited Dendera after leaving Abydos, we were able to discuss the particulars of Kemetic notions of time and space. The classical Africans gave the world the calendar it still uses; the concept of the 365 day year, the 24 hour day and the progression of the constellations in the star-strewn sky, inscribed in the famous "Dendera Zodiac." Our tour guide has been duly impressed with the level of hard work and preparation we have undertaken. She can, of course,only glimpse the passion that lies behind that type of effort.
Ours is a passion born of a sense of urgency. The world changes, but that which can be recovered of human memory that can save us from making the same mistakes of the past must be retrieved. Stevie Wonder had a premonition of his demise near his 23rd birthday and awoke from the vision to write and record"Higher Ground" in three hours in May, 1973. Three months later, he was in a coma because of an automobile accident. His road manager and friend, Ira Tucker, Jr., sat by his bedside as his vital signs ebbed. Finally, Tucker "got right down in his ear and sang 'Higher Ground." As he sang, Wonder's fingers, resting on Tucker's arm, started moving in time with the song. Tucker remembers saying "Yeah! This dude's gonna make it!"
I think of the fact that the lyrics of "Higher Ground" speak to the fact that our lives do not begin with our physical births, but rather have access to all the memories that previous lives provide to be retrieved. As we restore our memories, we give ourselves the means for our salvation, no matter what immediate tragedies or crises we encounter. Moment by moment, we have watched Ernest, Angi, Brittani, Sawdayah, Miriah, Jazelle, Shacrai, Clarice, Marcy, Nijeul, Dana, Havian, Robert and Jalena move as individuals and in concert to reach the highest ground. As Dana, Toria, Shelley, Gussie, Maria, Brittany my mother and I have worked alongside them, learning every moment of the way. I'm so glad that we have been able to do this again. Our last time here we did it well. Next time, should we be allowed, we will do it differently and differently better. For now, as we begin to reflect on our journey, we stand firmly on the highest ground.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009


*on the bus from Abydos...*

Over the course of our journey through the various sites of timeless communication erected by our ancestors here in Kemet, I have been repeatedly reaffirmed in my accordance with Jacob Carruthers' suggestion to cut out the middle man, so to speak, and step past our "European interpreters" who have told us how our history went down. Carruthers would know; he has shown us firsthand in his essays how the politics of translation can twist a story into something that would probably be strangely unrecognizable to the people of Ancient Kemet. In the case of dealing with our history, there is a point where is it unacceptable to wholly trust any interpreter. Of course, be cordial :o) but the point is to learn how to think for yourself. Use the available resources to develop that ability.

In that respect, I think our entire group has taken part in the exercise of speculation...and it's now evident that we don't just have European interpreters to worry about. We must be cautious of any interpretation that spawns from a place that lacks integrity.

We must be cautious of the "Restorative Societies" that attempt to reconstruct the temples and tombs of ancient Kemet. In some cases, they sand the limestone, sandstone, and granite blocks down to a bare pulp, devoid of the one bold and telling mdw ntr (glyphs) that decorated their faces. The "restorers" misplace a block here, redraw a scene there, remove a segment over there. All so the modern day tourist may marvel at "how the temple originally looked." Revisiting and revisiting, like the crazy woman at Seti's temple in Abydos, who couldn't even read the walls enough to critique them if she wanted to. (Not that Abydos was incorrectly restored, but the consideration to make that determination should be made.) -- I wonder how much money that woman has spent, marveling at scenes she can't even decipher, twice a day for two months out of the year. We know with certainty that she is off the mark in her interpretations of the temple, but the other interpreters are more stealth.

We must be cautious of the Egyptologists, who take bold steps for high profile discoveries. They make targeted finds and publicize on what we see as credible networks. They excavate just enough to open a site to the public. They determine just enough to declare a conclusion. In fame, they become the same romanticized cowboys who violently expanded the "American frontier", except here they are ravaging and pillaging our historical record, building their case and sending the real evidence on a Trail of Tears only to be hidden and potentially lost forever. The Egyptologists play their charades, knowing they don't fully believe in what they do. And somehow I end up spending 60 more Egyptian Pounds to play charades with them in the Mummy Room at the Egyptian Museum, knowing in my heart that that mummy is probably not Hatshepsut. It's easy to speculate when you reflect and realize that Almighty Dollar has won the bout with your ability to reason.

So now, I'm cautious. Especially of those who have the power and the resources to serve as interpreters for a large audience. They are not all malicious or misinformed. But we must sift to find the gold.

The politics of translation is pervasive. After all, everything is a translation of sorts. For instance, you will never know how I truly feel...even if you looked into my eyes and saw a reflection of the African sun. Even if you experienced all of this with me. With my words, my face, my behavior, my touch, I translate it all to you, settling in the satisfaction that "you know what I mean." But to be me right now, to feel the heat on my skin, to feel the melancholy of awe, to comprehend the universe from a place that only my soul inhabits and its experiences have impossible.

What, then, is a primary source but another lens? When will we be able to take our glasses, our filters off? ...Education, I believe, is the LASIK. Read it all. Hear it all. See it all. Experience it all. You can then begin to see with a clear eye. Placing our cameras at every angle, we make some kind of composite photo of the realm we study...

As I close, now having just returned from Abydos and Dendera, I hope that you can capture my feelings as a component of your composite in the study of Kemet. The key thing is to remember where your information is coming from, and what it has been through. Listen for the intellectual accent of your interpreters...

As your interpreter on this study abroad experience, I do what I can for you. I use the available media to make that doomed attempt to eliminate the inevitable void of human loneliness. I want to give my best attempt. I want to provide the closest translation to how I feel in this place, in this moment. I hope that, with the best job English can do and the best understanding written communication can provide, I have done just that.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

4:30 in the morning?!...

So, it's 4:30 in the morning and we're on the bus to Abydos. Surprising, I'm not sleepy. I'm wired up.

Yesterday, we visited the Valley of the Kings, Worker's Village, and the Temple of the Nobles. Then we returned to the hotel in which I went swimming and got a Roman Bath Massage...GREAT! I guess it's safe to say that I'm just relaxed and ready for the day!


It's About Time...

I’ve been attempting to write this blog since we left the Nubian Village in Aswan. It’s now at least three days since then, and I continue to discover new ideas and moments to write about as time moves forward. It only goes to show how each moment and experience that I am having evokes millions of thoughts and ideas of change over time ad where I stand in the moment. That’s why this blog will most likely appear scattered brained, unorganized, and all over the place—but one must look at the lesson within that. This opportunity is TRULY once in a lifetime…You can’t imagine getting up at 4:30 a.m. (Yikes!) to explore the tombs of our ancestors, Kings and Queens, from Dynasties before our time. And for me, that is the energy that pushes and motivates me forward. Once in a lifetime…so with that:

The more I experience the life and culture of current and Ancient Egypt, the more I am intrigued and pressured to find more. Therefore, I am charged with the process of staying true to “Intellectual Integrity” and the pursuit of knowledge. Yesterday, we visited the mega complex at Karnak, Ipet Isut, which sits on the Eastern Bank of the Nile, connecting directly across the river to the Valley of Kings and Queens and south to the Luxor Temple. You can’t imagine the power these mega structures posses until you actually have all five of your senses centered to their surroundings. You can see the intense detail of the Avenue of Sphinx’ as you enter the temple. You can imagine and hear the chanting of priest walking around the temple in their traditional white. You can feel the texture of the cobbled stones below your feet. You can smell the eased air as you stand in front of the Sacred Lake and breathe deeply.
Acting theorist Stanislavsky refers to the technique of listening and responding. As humans we naturally listen and take in information given to us, and then we respond naturally to that stimuli of information and it motivates our next action or thought. For me, our night sessions have been just that, information received and when we step into the places we talk about, I respond to that stimuli and am motivated and therefore activate my response based on the information received and the stimuli I feel, hear, see, touch, and smell. Robert said that we were receiving a ‘Crash Course’ in Egyptology—I cannot imagine how even more effective this experience would be had we all been in a semester of two of Egyptian Culture.

While in Aswan, were able to step into the life of the Nubians. We visited a Nubian Village which rested along the Nile River on Elephantine Island. We gathered at the village’s kindergarten school and were greeted by village nobles, including the Mayor, school teachers, and other town officials. We were immediately welcomed with cold drinks and had the opportunity to play and talk to the children of the village who spoke little English, however, their spirits and energy attracted us all.

I became really connected to the Nubian.
I felt really connect to the Nubian.
I am really connected to the Nubian.
I am Nubian.

And the journey will continue…this conversation will continue…and history we be told..

Until Next Time,


The ancient Egyptians did not use bulldozers

After a long day of strenuous sightseeing, a girl would think she could retreat to her hotel room for some peace. Sadly, this is not the case. We just returned from lunch at a neighboring hotel. While the meal was cheap and sufficient, the service was horrible (I guess we were spoiled rotten in Aswan). But I eagerly headed to my room to shower and rest but that is on hold right now because all I hear is the bulldozers and jackhammers working in the next lot right outside of my balcony. Oh joy!

But as for today, it was....very active. We climbed up and down hills into temples and tombs. We got personal narratives from the "security" working down in the tombs. I think the energy of Dr. Carr and motivational speeches and cheers of Dr. Williams kept us going. Well I know it did for me atleast, along with my fellow radio Dana, my energy remained decent to enjoy all the sightseeing of the day. What I loved the most about today is that we got to go into the tomb of King Tut and actually see HIM; and when I say HIM, I mean we saw his mummified body down there. But all the walking, running, and climbing I did today has me fully prepared to scale the hills at Howard with ease come August 24.

I can not believe this experience is almost over :] They are moments when I have to remind myself, "Clarice, you are in EGYPT!" It amazes me each time. It is a great feeling to have.

Clarice :]

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Time For Bed

Honestly, I can't believe I'm still up. We've had a long day. We visited the Temple of Karnak in the morning and Luxor Temple (Southern Opet) this evening. It was crazy because I skipped lunch and when dinner rolled around, I still wasn't hungry. I guess all of this excitement has caused me to lose my appetite.

Tomorrow, we have a wake up call at 4:30 am. It's better than the 2:30 am wake up call we had a few days ago, so I'm not complaining. Instead, I'm going to lay here and listen to "In a Sentimental Mood" until I fall asleep. Goodnight everyone, until next time...

Looking Back on Where We Have Been: A Match-up

Sitting in our room from the east bank of the Nile at modern day Luxor (Waset - or Thebes, as the Greeks --always just unashamed in being wrong --called it), we can, with a clear mind, reflect on our experiences here in Kemet. Now, as we have a 4:30 a.m. wake up call in order to beat the sun at Hatshepsut's temple and the Valley of the Kings and Queens tomorrow, I will keep this blog concise and lighthearted; I have to get the silliness out in order to conduct my late night study session in preparation for tomorrow, which will doubtless leave me in a weary haze in the morning.

Thus far, we have stayed in two cities in Kemet: Cairo and Aswan. Luxor has yet to prove itself as a favorite in certain areas, which we'll judge after we've exhausted its abundance of important sites. However, it is with great pleasure that I match up Cairo and Aswan (a very western method of critique, one may argue) and declare a winner as the "favorite."

The 10 Dimensions of Satisfaction: Cairo vs. Aswan

1. Speed: Cairo happened to be very fast-paced and loud - similar to New York City if we want to suggest an equivalent. Aswan, on the other hand was slow and quiet, aside from the canting that blared from the mosque several times a day. I'm a small town girl, so I'm going to have to give this one to Aswan.

2. People: Considering that most people we interacted with were selling something, whether it was the vendor on the street or the guard in the tomb or temple trying to get tips in exchange for the privilege of taking pictures, I can only judge the people based on the "hustlers" we interacted with. In Cairo, we had some serious salesmen-women-and-children. You would get the occasional scarf thrown on your head or the 20 postcards for a dollar offer. This was also the case for Aswan, but at least there, the hustlers may preface the hassle with "My sister." Thus, Aswan takes it.

3. Postcard Moment: In Cairo, riding a real-life camel with the Giza Pyramids of Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure as a backdrop. In Aswan, the magnificent cliff facade of the temples at Abu Simbel...after a 3 hour bus ride and some incidents of racial profiling in the temple. Aswan, you lost on this one.

4. Museums: Cairo had the Cairo Museum. It was HUGE and full of so much that we've seen on TV, in books. The antiquities were absolutely breathtaking...if you could breathe at all in the musty, no-A.C. or climate control interior. Plus, you are not allowed to talk, take pictures, or breathe wrong, so don't even worry about it. And you had to pay extra to get into the mummy room. Now at the Nubian Museum in Aswan, although the place was much smaller, there was definitely better climate control, and the exhibits were labeled better. And we could talk. And take pictures. I'm going to call this a tie.

5. Hotel: Honestly, earlier today I couldn't even remember our hotel in Cairo (Le Meridien Pyramids) because it paled in comparison to Aswan. Nuff said. But because I like to embellish I will say that I now remember that Cairo's pool closed early. Wack. Plus the hotel was loud and crowded. In Aswan, we stayed at the Movenpick, which was a veritable resort on Elphantine Island. I mean, we had to take a ferry across the Nile every day to get back there. It was quiet, and everyone's room had a view of the Nile at sunrise and under the night sky. (A view that I miss considering I have a view of of a construction pit here at Luxor right now. I don't even want to talk about it anymore.) Aswan wins that round.

6. Transportation: Cairo gave us the please of riding a bus everywhere. Well, we did get to take a plane from Cairo, although that plane had some serious turbulence on the landing, which I'll fairly attribute to the atmosphere over Aswan. In Aswan, however, we got to ride a bus, a ferry, a boat, and we even moved around a little bit by swimming! The Aswan bus, though, was driven in high-speed-police-chase fashion. Tie.

7. Sites: This is a hard match-up. On one hand, we saw the Giza Pyramids, Khufu's funerary boat, the Step Pyramids at Saqqara, a colossal statue of Ramesses II at Mennefer (Memphis), the tomb of PtahHotep, Teti's pyramid, Kagemmi's tomb in and around Cairo. In Aswan, we went to the Philae Temple, Abu Simbel, the unfinished obelisk of Hatshepsut, and the Tombs of the Nobles. How can someone really compare the satisfaction of being at any of the sites. I loved them all.

8. Merchandise: In Cairo, it was all about people flirting with you and handing you things that you can find all over Egypt. And there was a semi-sketchy jewelry store. In Aswan, we could purchase and watch people make papyrus. There were also oils and spices. Prices were cheaper, and at the market, you could "talk em down." Aswan gets this one.

9. Things done and heard as a consequence of being Black: Cairo - "Obama! Obama!" "1 dollar." ...Aswan - "Obama! Obama!" "My Sister" "My color" "My Cousin" "You are Nubian. American Nubian." Get to be followed by some guards. Get to ride a boat, though. Get to dance on a boat. Get to drive a boat. Get to use my Nubian-ness to negotiate lower prices. Definitely Aswan.

10. Contributions to Exhaustion: Cairo - Climbing a steep pyramid bent over liable to self-decapitate or break spine with one false step. Temperature = summer in Texas with a slight breeze....Aswan - Climbing mountains with no pyramid stuffiness. However, Temperature = hell. "Re, why have you forsaken us?" Cairo has it.

All-in-all, Aswan is the place that has the key to my heart thus far. Something tells me, though, that after tomorrow, there may be some competition between Aswan in Waset (Luxor). Waset has already tugged at my heartstrings with Ipet Isut ( "The most select of places" or the Temple at Karnak )Until tomorrow, let me get some sleep so I won't be looking like a zombie walking around the west bank.




The Most Select of People in The Most Select of Places - HU in Luxor (Ipet Isut)

Amid the many benefits of a summer study abroad experience is the challenge of staving off fatigue—intellectual, physical, psychological or emotional fatigue. The first few days roll along easily out of sheer momentum. The next few days find people getting comfortable with each other and adjusting to the surroundings and all that that entails. Then, the venturing out begins. You try new food. You learn a few words. You begin to understand how the people move through their space. By day 3 or 4, you forget that it’s not typical that you spend 16-18 hours (depending on how long our day is) with the same people day after day.

Once the newness wears off, a subtle shift occurs. You start to think of home. You begin to think about what must be done and by when. So, here, in our final stretch—in Luxor—we’re forced to find new ways to inspire ourselves. Aswan was quiet and peaceful. The Island and everyone on it exuded an air of calm. Here, everything around the hotel is moving fast. The energy, quite simply, is different. Yet, in many ways, the best is yet to come. So, Doc and I have to find new ways to light the last little bit of fire under this newly burning kindle.

Those students who have been reading all along are in good shape, in terms of their academic/intellectual/historical awareness. So, for them, no inspiration is needed. They can sense the coming together of the last few days. But for those who are coming along slowly but surely coming along, Doc and I both probably called on every ancestor known and unknown to help up meet the challenge of reenergizing the group. Search though we might have, we would have never been able to generate the energy Ipet Isut (Karnak) generated all on its own.

No sooner than we got off of the bus and headed toward the open courtyard lined with sphinxes (after a short stop in the visitor’s center to see the model of the complex) did the same students who swore we were punishing them by announcing the 5:30am wake-up call! begin to leave us, walking ahead to see in person the statues they had only seen pictures of. As we entered the courtyard, they marveled at the sandstone columns and the obelisks. But first, a quick detour to White Chapel…

Last night, we had a good session that prepped them for what to look for especially, since you could easily spend 2 hours in a single temple in the complex, and each temple or memorial is only one of many. Everyone who came into power would leave something there. Since they knew that White Chapel was a crucial site and that we’d try to get over there quickly and get in even (we’re inventive in finding ways to get around the ropes!).

Once they saw how crowded it was at the complex generally, even at 7:30am, they began to concede that we wouldn’t be able to do anything but roam around the open air museum. “We’ll get in,” I kept telling them. And not because of anything mysterious or magical but because everyone heads for the big and shiny stuff, leaving the most select of the select places to the most select of select people. Sure enough, when we headed toward the largest open air museum in the world, not a single group of people were to be found. We had the White Chapel all to ourselves. We poured a libation, and in we went… literally. I tried to hide excitement (of our group of 60+ last year, only Dr. Carr was persistent (and sneaky!) and Nubian enough to get in). Hide it though I tried, I’m sure there is now a picture somewhere in the world of me with my eyebrows raised, my mouth agape, and my eyes peeled and moving slowly (but only so slow; we made the deal for a 5 minute no-so-covert operation) across these limestone/alabaster walls. And all the energy we needed to make it through the morning was granted to us.

Once we came back toward the court yard, we examined the columns and ceilings in the hypostle hall, the obelisks, the attempts to hide and deface my girl Hatshepset, and more temples within the complex (including Ramses II’s and a brief stint in the Kiosk of Taharqa); then we walked to the Sacred Lake, and we eventually made it back toward the bus.

All of that, and the day is still young… I haven’t even had lunch yet.

Tonight, we head to the Luxor Temple, which was dedicated to Amun Re and which is refered to as Southern Opet [Place of Seclusion]. As it goes, the Amun of Karnak visited the Amun of Luxor yearly during “The Beautiful Feast of Opet,” which was linked to the Nile flood season. There we will see reliefs created by Shabaka; the birth room of Amenophis III [birth mound of Amun]; the colonnade of Amenhotep III; and the shrine of Alexander of Macedon (oh joy!).

Since I’ve never seen the temples lit at night, it should be interesting. A part of me thinks we shouldn’t sacrifice the day-time experience for seeing it in the night since there was no electricity then. It would have not been lit during its years of use, so we’re seeing it differently. But the other part of me thinks that if ancient peoples of Kemet could have imagined the edifices themselves, surely they could have imagined a day when there would be artificial light, if they didn’t generate it themselves and declare it useless.

Perhaps after the evening is done, I will have decided if visiting a temple at night (surely it will be cooler) is “to be or not to be.” Until then, I’ll enjoy my view of the Nile, while sitting on the balcony in my suite, the wind blowing in my face, and Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple (which I can see with a simple glance to the right) stealing my imagination for the rest of the afternoon (or until I sojourn there again in the morning)…

This is costing me LE 10

So we found an internet cafe in Luxor. Nijuel is over here talking to the boy over the cafe. It is interesting hearing them talk to one another . He is just like any other 14 year old boy. We just learned his name is Mohammad. But its so great being able to talk to the locals here and get the real deal about living here. has been good so far. We went to Karnak. It was so massive. I can't believe we only have one more week here. I need to study for my PCAT exam but it very easy to get distracted here. However, I did get some time to study on the bus ride yesterday. Now I am going to go back to the hotel and chill with the homies. Hopefully we don't get hassled by the " No Hassle" shops.

Clarice :]

Ma'at IS cool.

Hello Everyone,

I thought I should write in purple to do something different. Today is our first full day in Luxor. We went to the Karnak Temples....they cover such a large amount of space it took us 2hrs to get through them and I'm sure we didn't see all of it . This is such an amazing trip. We are in an internet cafe that charges 5pound per 1/2 hr..the best price yet..except for the free wifi @ Mcdonalds..apparently their food tastes the same as American Mcdonalds but I'm not going to try it..well anyway, I can't wait to get home to tell everybody what I've experienced and learned here. I think that everyone should participate in a study abroad trip. You will always remember this experience. I think I'll probably remember alot more information this way also because its more of a personal, intimate type of learning. You gain more from experiencing and seeing and touching than just reading about things in a book. It's kind of like gigging. You can practice all you want by yourself in a practice room but you gain more from performing and putting all of the things you've learned and practiced to work. I need to practice. I was hoping this hotel has a piano in a secluded area so I can have some ME time. Ok,well i'm gonna go piano searching..but facebook first.


Mariah M. Maxwell

Howard University

Representative from the Division of Fine Arts,Department of Music

Music Composition


Bare with me..

I always hate the first day of school- not because I dislike school but because I hate making new friends. August 2 was like the first day of school again, and I wasnt looking forward to that part of the trip. However, I can honestly say that the friends that I made on this trip will be life long friends because we have seen, learned and experienced so much here. This time last week, I would have never thought that I would have been looking at Ernest like an annoying brother. I dont think I will ever forget the first day we went to the market together and how he tried protect me from the persistent market vender's. I dont think I would have bonded so closely with Clairice, my fellow radio. She and I sing songs all day to keep our energy up from this exhausting trip. And Mariah, she is soo funny. She and I always miss the jokes and are often lost in the sauce :) Nij has a spending habit and its hilarious. He sits up and talks to the vendors and then buys it after having a good convo wit them. Its funny. Me and Havian have grown more as sisters and closers as friends. Before the trip I didnt know Brittany or Angela, Robert or Marcy either but they and everyone else are all cool too. I love love love Dr Carr and Dr Williams. Im usually tired at the end of the day and I dont want to go to lecture, but I go because I know that they are tired too.
Today we went to Karnak, it was sooo big. It was filled with temples of many of the Pharaohs. It was enlightening because I knew that I was walking in the same steps of my ancestors. That is the best part of this trip for me-its knowing that Im talking in the footsteps of those who birthed humanity and brought math, science, technology, and art the world. Today we went to the "White Chapel" an architecture building that is proof that our ancestors knew that the earth was round. Touching the stones and walking the ground of scared temples and tombs overwhelmed me every time. Im thankful for this experience because I know that never again will I will i experience that feels that I have right now. Bare with me..


Shout out to the Kings and Queens who ruled this land before it was taken from us...

Monday, August 10, 2009

Kom Ombo and Edfu: Healing The Body and the Mind

Day 8 on the ground dawned with us in motion. We left Aswan and travelled by bus to Kom Ombo and Edfu today, two temples from the late period of Kemetic history and, in the case of Edfu, the largest and best preserved temple in the Nile Valley. We have learned so much over the course of the past week: at Kom Ombo, everyone quickly identified major symbols and figures and easily identified the image of Seshat, the female creator of numbers and measurement, as she supervised the "stretching of the cord," laying the foundation for the temple structure. I often think of Seshat, the partner of Djehuty and also the keeper of all records in Kemet, as the figure whose energy animated the work of the phalanx of woman librarians of African descent who collected and preserved our history in the twentieth century, from Howard's Dorothy Porter Wesley and Wilberforce's Hallie Quinn Brown to the Schomburg's Jean Blackwell Huston and Tennessee State's Lois Brown Daniel, among so many others.

Kom Ombo, situated near an important trade town that dealt in gold from Nubia in ancient times, was a center for healers known for its double holy of holies, dedicated to the veneration of Sobek and Heru. On the wall beyond the holy of holies is a remarkable series of panels depicting medical advances in Kemet, from the birthing chair to suction devices, scalpels, flasks, knives, tongs, sponges and saw blades, among other tools. We looked at the eye of Heru, inscribed next to the surgical instruments, and Clarice noted that the "Rx" of the apothecary takes its shape and direct inspiration from this earliest of symbols for healing.

We re-boarded the bus and decamped an hour later at Edfu, the imposing temple dedicated to Heru which contains the remarkable narrative rehearsal of the epic Battle of Heru and Setekh (Horus and Set). The temple of Edfu took 180 years to finish and was finally completed under Ptolemy XII, father of Cleopatra VII (the minor figure who seems to attract all the attention in discussions of the "race of the ancient Egyptians" even though she was of no consequence to the long-view stretch of Kemet and was clearly Greek). By now, the heat of the day was upon us: we were set upon by the vendors at Edfu, a particularly aggressive lot who were all the more intent on selling us something given the relative lack of visitors at the time of day we had arrived.

Still, we managed to complete our work, including a reflection on the principal character lesson taught by the struggle between Heru and his uncle: Setekh, who often represents the lesser angels of human nature, cannot be killed. He/it can, however, be controlled by strength of character and purity of purpose. The Yoruba have a phrase, "Iwa Rere" (gentle/good character) and contend that the purpose of being on earth is to work on one's character. In another demonstration of the conceptual cultural unity of Africa, the classical people of Kemet used the narrative of Horus and Set to reinforce this basic message: one should never relent to the temptations brought about by urgings to revenge and to reactionary impulsiveness.

Before I sign off for the night, I want to send love to the high school students in Philadelphia who are completing the tenth "Philadelphia Freedom Summer" as a part of Philadelphia Freedom Schools. These young people hold their end-of-summer research symposium today, and I am saddened at the thought of missing them for the first time in a decade. Their symbols are Djehuty and Ma'at, and they have been models of intellectual excellence and passionate commitment. Like the healers of Kom Ombo and the character-building lessons taught at the Temple of Heru at Edfu, they aim to restore our people to wholeness and health.

Tomorrow we spend the day engaging the largest outdoor museum in the world and the single most imposing collection of artifacts in the valley: Wa'set (The Scepter), known as Thebes to the Greeks. We will start at Ipet Isut, "The most select of places" (Karnak) and end the day at Southern Ipet (Luxor), beginning the day by pouring libation at the White Chapel of Senusret (pictured below), one of the most powerful single structures in the sprawling Ipet Isut complex. We'll have so much to report tomorrow night. Hotep.