The Metropolitan Museum: Ancient Egypt (Kemet)

Goddess Sekhmet
Goddess Sekhmet

I had researched most of the popular museums in New York for my trip today and nothing really resonated with me. As I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline, my attention was pulled to a group of pictures that @NKeferhetep had posted from the Ancient Egyptian section of The Met.

"Standing Man" probably from a tomb at the site of El Kab (ca. 2575-2465 B.C.) .
“Standing Man” probably from a tomb at the site of El Kab (ca. 2575-2465 B.C.).

I am not a scholar on Kemet, Ancient Egypt, but I am on the path of learning more and I feel led to discover and experience something that was not taught to me even though I studied “African history” in university. The last time I visited The Met, I was an associate at a large corporate law firm and I was attending a work function, having cocktails on the rooftop and fetching lighters for partners in need of a smoke. I was definitely not tuned in to our ancient ancestors and the remarkable legacy that has been taken from its land of origin.

Below are some pictures from my visit as well as my thoughts on what I viewed. I will be sharing more pictures along with a bit of history in upcoming articles.

"The Royal Acquaintances" probably from Giza (ca. 2575-2465 (B.C.).
“The Royal Acquaintances” probably from Giza (ca. 2575-2465 (B.C.).

So one debate that has been on-going in our culture and the world of academia is who were the Ancient Egyptians, or Kemetians. Kemet is one of the original names of the place we now know as Egypt. I took careful notice of the physical features, hair styles, and attire of these ancient people who some believe resembled Elizabeth Taylor. (Taylor played Cleopatra in the 1963 film of the same name.) One particular hair style that stood out to me was braiding. Another was a very shortly cropped style worn by women similar to a style many “natural” African-American women wear today.

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Adorning the body with precious stones and metals in the form of elaborate headdresses, extensive beadwork, and detailed carvings was another craft remarkably similar to other parts of Africa and to indigenous people throughout the world.

jewels4 3.20.14Neck collar.

jewels2 3.20.14Royal Headdress.

jewels 3.20.14Items worn by deceased.

jewels1 3.20.14Eye of Heru rings.

The most heart-breaking image was the repeated and obvious decimation of the noses and lips of the majority of the statutes. Many of us have heard the explanation that the faces of these statutes were destroyed by European conquerers to hide the true identities of these ancient peoples. Below are some examples of this atrocity.

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In these next photographs, I was interested in capturing the features of the Kemetians on carvings that remain intact. They are strikingly similar to the features of Africans in areas that are now known as Sub-Saharan Africa. They also bare strong resemblance to African-Americans in the United States.

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This journey definitely felt like a type of spiritual pilgrimage. It was meditative to walk on my own through the past and see first-hand the destruction of a culture and how elements of it continue to be hidden. The Ancestors were there with me and made their presence known before I walked up the steps into The Met. I hear their encouragements and I quietly take heed.

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Photography by Ajua Hawkins taken at The Metropolitan Museum on March 19, 2014 in New York City.

Copyright 2014 Ajua Hawkins

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