AFRICANGLOBE – Black History Month is known for being celebrated throughout the African diaspora in the West, not in Egypt.
What started as week created by famed African-American historian and author Carter G. Woodson has turned into a month long international celebration of the African diaspora’s achievements. The celebration was officially recognized in the U.S. in 1976, followed by the United Kingdom 1987 and Canada in 1995.
Despite the fact that my homeland, Nubia, is thousands miles away from the shores of Atlantic Ocean, which witnessed the brutal journey of Africans in chains to the New World, Nubian history is still an essential part of the Black History Month although the Egyptian government might not acknowledge it fully.
Transcending the borders of southern Egypt’s province called Aswan and northern Sudan, Nubia has remained one of Africa’s oldest civilizations.
It was in February 1987, when Nubian history was first featured prominently as part of the Black History Month in U.S. academic institution. An exhibition by the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute called “Nubia, Its Glory and Its People,” displayed the ancient artifacts from Nubian dynasties from 3500 B.C TO 1200 A.D., introducing a new generation to ancient Nubia’s achievements.
“The Black Pharaohs of Nubia” were famous for their protection of the holy city of Jerusalem from the Assyrians and the more than 200 pyramids they left for future generations to marvel at, most of which can be found in Sudan.
Today, however, most of Nubia’s monuments, are surrounded by the sand of the desert and buried under the negligence of the Islamist regime, which controls southern Nubia (in Sudan) an and adopts discriminatory ideology towards all “Africans” in the country.
The situation is not much brighter in the northern Nubia (southern Egypt), where I was born.
As a child during elementary school, I was really confused about what my family taught me before school and what Egyptian school books often said. As with any child, the parent’s lullaby will remain with you forever and cannot be easily forgotten, but in my case this process was distorted through mis-education.
While my parents sung to me about the greatness of “the Kush Kingdom” and the legendary Nubian leader King “Tharka,” extolling the greatness of my ancestors, history books in Egyptian schools commonly dressed Nubians as prisoners of Northern kings. Images showed Nubians handcuffed by chains, ran over by the Pharaoh’s Chariot, or cursed on the walls of the ancient temples. As an impressionable ten-year-old, all of this left me with so many questions.
Why they are telling me such things? If we were such unwanted group of people, why are all the monuments are in my hometown? And why then do the Pharaohs look like me and my people?
The solution of such dilemma was by getting deeper and deeper with the oral history that my people tell me. What is the lost land of ancient Nubia?
Learning about the betrayal of the Egyptian governments towards my people, I started seeing things in a different way from what school books originally had taught me and my classmates…
For example, the Aswan high dam, which was once a fun and exciting place our school took us for field trips became the most hateful place on the earth to me when I discovered that it was the building of the high dam that drowned Nubian villages in 1964, leading to our mass forced exodus. It wasn’t in our interest as they claimed. For me the lake, is no longer a miraculous human work. It’s now a mass grave and ironically it’s named after the one who ordered the crime: former President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
Our forced alternative housing was planned to be our cemeteries, but somehow we survived. We survived years of unsuitable drinking water supply, endemic diseases, the rough weather conditions of “Kom Ombo” Mountain where they moved many of us. An estimated 1,500 new born, died in the first months of the Nubian displacement.
Growing up Nubian in Egypt, was like being forced to live a double life. In school you have to answer your tests with this fabricated curriculum that ignored your real history both the accomplishments and the tragedies.
They teach you one thing but the rest of the day you do your own research about your history and how it’s glamorized. While growing up, it becomes clearer day by day that it’s not about just wrong information they want you to believe in, it’s more about identity that they want to erase.
This includes cultural traditions like, our indigenous language, which the state would prefer died off by “Arabizing” our tongues.
But it also means the land they exiled us from. A land, in which we were born in before the history itself. On this land, throughout the ages, we built our homes, castles, we painted our churches and prayed in our mosques.
Despite this, Nubians are fighting to preserve our culture. We have established cultural clubs in Cairo and throughout Egypt’s major cites, with the mission to educate the new generations of Nubians who were born in Cairo or outside Aswan about their traditions, history, and culture. Famed Nubian language teachers like expert Hany Kabra teach the our indigenous language to the youth in well-known community clubs that were established in the early 1900s.
But now officials are insisting on keeping us away from much of rest of our lands by issuing a unconstitutional law, called Law 444 issued under the current repressive regime of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The law seeks to put the historical land of Nubia under the military supervision, which many of us see as just another attempt to prevent us from returning back to our original homeland.
As Nubians we have struggled for our rights and recently gained unprecedented recognition in Egypt’s most recent constitution, a victory that will no doubt certainly subvert plans to erase Nubia as race, language, culture. Most recently, on Feb. 22 Nubians protested against Law 444 in front of the famous Nubian temple of Abu Simbel. The protest is one step on a series of other steps Nubians are willing to take to end state persecution and land dispossession.
As we celebrate Black History Month, I’d like to say, that although we may not have been shipped viciously off to the New World as my fellow African-Americans were forced to, until we return to our historical lands beside the Nile, we too are a part of the “diaspora” fighting to reclaim our history.
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