Experts Rally to Save Egypt’s Heritage Amid Unrest

France 24, International News
By: Abdel-Hamid el-Chérif, February 6, 2014

In late January, a car bomb targeting the Cairo police headquarters damaged a number of antiquities housed across the street at the Museum of Islamic Art. This was far from the first time that Egypt’s cultural heritage has suffered from the security problems plaguing the country since the revolution. This time around, however, a volunteer brigade of antiquities experts was standing ready to jump in.

More here

UNESCO Team ‘Shocked’ at Egypt Islamic Museum Loss

The Daily Star, Lebanon
Mariam Rizk, February 3, 2013

UNESCO pledged Friday to help restore a renowned museum dedicated to Islamic history in Cairo that was devastated by a bomb last week, with officials expressing “shock” at the scale of the damage.
The Museum of Islamic Art was across the street from the truck bomb that targeted the Egyptian capital’s security headquarters on Jan. 24. The bomb killed four people and caused damage to buildings for hundreds of meters around, smashing the museum’s facade and sending debris crashing onto exhibits.
Antiquities Minister Mohammad Ibrahim said that 164 of the 1,471 items on display were damaged, of which 90 could be reassembled or restored. Most of the 74 irreparably damaged items were glass and porcelain, now smashed to powder.
On a tour of the building Friday, shattered glass littered the floor while fragments and steel slabs from the broken windows lay all over.
“It was an outstanding museum and to see it now, inside at least, totally destroyed is a big shock for us,” Christian Manhart, head of UNESCO’s museums sections, said at a news conference.
The U.N. cultural agency had already set aside emergency funds of $100,000 on the day of the blast and said further technical and financial help would follow after detailed reports were filed. Ibrahim said the U.S. government would provide 1 million Egyptian pounds (about $150,000) while a well-known actor, Mohammad Sobhy, said he would be giving 50,000 pounds.

More here

Denver Museum to Return Totems to Kenyan Museum

Sending Artworks Home, but to Whom?
Denver Museum to Return Totems to Kenyan Museum

By Tom Mashbergjan, New York Times, January 3, 2014

The paleontologist Richard Leakey has called their removal a “sacrilege.” Kenyan villagers have said their theft led to crop failure and ailing livestock. It is little wonder, then, that the long, slender wooden East African memorial totems known as vigango are creating a spiritual crisis of sorts for American museums. Many want to return them, but are not finding that so easy.

Now, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science says it has devised a way to return the 30 vigango it received as donations in 1990 from two Hollywood collectors, the actor Gene Hackman and the film producer Art Linson. The approach, museum officials say, balances the institution’s need to safeguard its collection and meet its fiduciary duties to benefactors and the public with the growing imperative to give sanctified objects back to tribal people.

“The process is often complicated, expensive and never straightforward,” said Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh, the museum’s curator of anthropology.  “But just because a museum is not legally required to return cultural property does not mean it lacks an ethical obligation to do so.”

The museum this month will deliver its 30 vigango (pronounced vee-GON-go; the singular form is kigango) to the National Museums of Kenya

More here.

Egypt: Art at Villa Borghese's Egyptian Museum back in Cairo

ROME - Anyone calling the museum inside the Egyptian Academy in Rome to learn about its opening hours will receive the same answer: 'We are sorry, the Egyptian museum has closed'. Employees also explained that 'the artifacts have gone back. It was a temporary exhibit'. The museum's artwork has been packed and taken back to Egypt, though it is still unclear where, in a without any clamour. This means that, for now, 200 original pieces of art mostly coming from the Egyptian museum in Tahrir square in the capital, are gone. They were brought to the Italian capital by ex-culture Minister Farouk Hosni after the renovation of the historic Egyptian cultural institution founded in 1929.

Back in 2010, the first Egyptian Museum in the capital was inaugurated with a lot of publicity by then-premier Silvio Berlusconi and former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

It is difficult to know why the unique art from the Pharaonic, Greek-Roman, Coptic and Islamic eras of which Rome was so proud has been shipped off to Egypt. According to Egyptian media, the decision was taken directly by the culture ministry with the objective of helping save Egypt's debt-ridden public finances. The new minister Alaa Abdel Aziz, according to the local Mena news agency, ordered the artifacts back in his efforts to raise money. Abdel Aziz was quoted as saying that since its inauguration 'the ministry has paid for all maintenance costs of the museum without benefiting from ticket sale revenues'. Access to the museum, however, has always been free not only to students and scholars but to all visitors. The Academy's director, Gihane Zaki, said that 'the exhibit of findings was temporary. Ever since its inception, the project provided for the art on show in Rome to return to Egypt after three years'.

More here.

Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the Wits Art Museum

Wits Art Museum, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg
We invite applications for a Fellowship in the WITS ART MUSEUM at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. This fellowship is funded by The Andrew W Mellon Foundation and will be situated in the Wits Art Museum. The fellow will work with the curators of the Wits Art Museum and the Chair in the Centre for the Creative Arts of Africa on a research-driven re-engagement with the collections of historical and contemporary African arts in the Wits Art Museum. We are therefore looking for a fellow with research experience in one or more of the following fields: African visual art, African music, African performance arts, African dress.  One of the main tasks of the fellow will be to help academic divisions in Wits and at other institutions access, engage with, and use the collections in teaching and research. They will have to outline and drive a series of seminars which will, at the end of the project, be published as a collection of essays. Fellows will be expected to participate in exhibitions and publications planned within the Wits Art Museum.
The fellowship will be for a period of 36 months (although we may consider terms shorter than that) and will include a stipend, a shared office with own computer, library access and a small research grant per year. The fellowship project will start in May - June 2013, and will end in May - June 2016.

Applications must be sent to Julia Charlton, (Senior Curator at WAM)  and should include:
  • Title and abstract of the doctoral thesis, or master’s thesis/research report
  • Copies of degree certificate (or a signed letter from a supervisor saying that the degree will be completed before the candidate is due to take up the position)
  • Copies of completed articles or published essays (if any)
  • A Curriculum Vitae (Resumé)
  • A letter of motivation.
  • The names and email addresses of two referees, one of whom should be the supervisor of the doctorate/MA dissertation.

The submission deadline is 22 February 2013.

Herskovits at the Heart of Blackness

From a news release:

HERSKOVITS AT THE HEART OF BLACKNESS is the third title in California Newsreel's monthly preview series. We invite our colleagues to view the film for free before making a purchase for your school, library, conference or organization.

About the film:

*Organization of American Historians Erik Barnouw Award Honorable Mention Recipient
*Winner, 2009 John O'Connor Film Award of the American Historical Association
*Winner, Best Documentary, Hollywood Black Film Festival

Is there a politics of knowledge? Who controls what knowledge is produced and how it will be used? Is there “objective” scholarship and, if so, how does it become politicized? These questions are examined through this groundbreaking film on the life and career of Melville J. Herskovits (1895-1963), the pioneering American anthropologist of African Studies and one of the most controversial intellectuals of the 20th century. How did this son of Jewish immigrants come to play such a decisive role in the shaping of modern African American and African identities? Herskovits emerges as an iconic figure in on-going debates in the social sciences over the ethics of representation and the right of a people to represent themselves.

Read more about the documentary here.

Position Open: Curator of Musical Instruments--Africa

The following is copied over from an announcement forwarded to me from a member of the MIM staff:

Position Available: Curator of Musical Instruments – Africa

The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) will celebrate the similarities and differences of the world’s cultures as expressed through music – a language common to us all. With musical instruments from every country in the world, MIM will pay homage to the history and diversity of instruments and introduce museum guests to their varied and unique sounds. MIM will be an engaging, entertaining, and informative experience, in which the uninitiated and the knowledgeable, the young and the old will feel welcome. MIM is an approximately $125 million project, with a 190,000 square foot building that is currently under construction in Phoenix, Arizona and is scheduled to open in 2010. Further information on MIM may be found at

In partnership with the President and Director, the Board, the Curatorial Department, and other MIM departments, the Curator will help build, interpret, and care for the MIM collection of African musical instruments. Specific duties will include:

• Building the collection by working independently and with the MIM team to identify, evaluate, document, and acquire appropriate instruments for exhibit, educational, or reference purposes.
• Developing content for exhibits including instruments, video, audio, and contextual elements.
• Preparing and presenting acquisition recommendations to the Acquisitions Committee.
• Identifying potential sources for long-term loans and donations of musical instruments and working with MIM staff and Board to secure these loans and gifts.
• Building relationships with scholars, collectors, other museum curators and professional societies.
• Contributing information for label copy and writing articles and catalogs relating to the collection and ongoing research.

The ideal candidate must bring high energy, vision, enthusiasm, and resourcefulness to this important position. MIM has an aggressive timeline for opening, so an ability to act quickly and with good judgment is paramount. Exceptional organizational, negotiation, problem-solving, and communication skills are required. Essential qualifications include:

• Advanced degree in Ethnomusicology with a focus on Africa, or advanced degree in Anthropology with a focus on African music or musical instruments. Broad trans-regional knowledge of African musical cultures is highly desirable.
• Extensive knowledge of and interest in musical instruments. Organology coursework is a plus.
• Some museum and collection management experience is desirable.
• Demonstrated success in building relationships with diverse people, such as research consultants, collectors, other museum curators, and musicians.
• Ability to problem-solve, work both independently and collaboratively, and excel in a high-performance team culture.

• This is a full-time position that is located in Phoenix, AZ; relocation assistance available.
• Salary is commensurate with education and experience.
• The ideal candidate will be available to start work within 1-2 months from date of hire.
• As the museum evolves, some of the duties of this position may change.
• Applications will be reviewed on an ongoing basis and will be accepted until the position is filled.

Qualified candidates should submit a letter of interest directly addressing the qualifications detailed above, resume or CV, and three professional references to:

Curator of Musical Instruments – Africa
Musical Instrument Museum (MIM)
8550 S. Priest Drive
Tempe, AZ 85284

Open Curatorship in African Art at the Brooklyn Museum

This announcement was recently posted to the CMA email list. I suspect that the "2007" date is in error.

Curator of African Art

The Brooklyn Museum will appoint an extraordinary communicator/scholar to the position of Curator of African Art. The Brooklyn Museum collection of African Art is famous for its breadth and quality, and as one of the earliest to be assembled in the United States. The Curator of African Art will provide leadership to the Museum as it takes a more visible interpretive role in its community and among museums in the field. The successful applicant will have demonstrated deep commitment to engaging a large and diverse public audience in innovative and exciting ways. S/he will be recognized for achievement as a scholar of the history of African art, with a deep understanding of its aesthetic, social, and political contexts and implications.

Because the Museum views its collections and programs holistically, preference will be given to candidates who can relate their work to such other areas as the Islamic or Ancient Egyptian collections of the Brooklyn Museum.

The successful candidate will have extraordinary leadership and organizational skills, flexibility, and proven ability to work well in a collaborative environment. Candidates should also demonstrate knowledge of language(s) relevant to the field of study, and familiarity with the cultures, both past and current, of African and African diaspora peoples.

Minimum Requirements: Advanced degree in the history of art or related studies required (Ph.D. preferable). Three to five years of museum experience or the equivalent highly preferred; strong contacts in International and American art circles are a major plus.

Excellent verbal and written communication skills and research skills are required, with a strong writing/publication record. Good interpersonal skills are essential.

Responsibilities: This is a Curatorial Collections Division position (see description of Division responsibilities). The Curator of African Art will be responsible for overseeing the collection, including researching, developing, and installing the collection. The Curator will be a leader in the field, in the community, and at the Brooklyn Museum in broadening public knowledge of and interest in African art and culture.

Reports to: Chief Curator

Work Schedule: Regular office hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Frequent evening and weekend hours, as necessary.

Interviews begin: September 2007

To apply: Candidate should submit curriculum vitae and a letter outlining her/his particular suitability to the position by mail to Department CD, Curator of African Art Search, 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, NY 11238; or by email to Brooklyn Museum is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Applicants for positions are considered without regard to race, creed, color, country of origin, sex, age, citizenship, disability, or sexual orientation. Candidates of color are strongly encouraged to apply.

Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Change in the Middle East and North Africa

A conference announcement forwarded by Annette B. Fromm:

Traditions and Transformations: Tourism, Heritage and Cultural Change in the Middle East and North Africa Region

In April (4-7) 2009, the Centre for Tourism and Cultural Change in partnership with the Council for British Research in the Levant (the CBRL is an overseas Institute of the British Academy) will hold a major international conference to explore the changing relationships between tourism, culture and heritage across the Middle East and North Africa Region. Delegates from across the Middle East and the North Africa Region, together with scholars from the rest of the world will assemble to discuss the critical relationships between tourism, heritage and culture.

The Conference is being hosted by the Greater Municipality of Amman in Jordan and will be held in the King Hussein Cultural Centre in the heart of the vibrant downtown area of Jordan's Capital City. We are delighted that the patron of the Conference will be Her Royal Highness Princess Sumaya Bint Al Hassan.

The aims of this inter-disciplinary conference are: To critically explore the major issues facing the MENA region with regard to the development of tourism and its relationships with heritage and culture; To draw upon ideas, cases and best practice from international scholars and help develop new understandings and research capacities regarding the relationships between tourism, heritage and culture in the MENA Region and; To provide a major networking opportunity for international scholars, policy makers and professionals.

The conference will feature over 150 international academics, policy makers and practitioners and will feature keynote addresses from Dr Taleb Rifai, Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation, Professor Nezar Alsayyad, Director of the Centre for Middle East Studies at University California Berkeley, and Dr Seteney Shami, Programme Director of the Middle East and the North Africa region at the Social Science Research Council.

The conference seeks to promote dialogue across disciplinary boundaries and welcomes papers from all disciplines. Key themes of interest to the conference include:

* Histories, mobilities, and the symbolic / political economies of tourism;

* Tourism in the construction of places / spaces / nations;

* The role of archaeology in contemporary tourism;

* Structures / infrastructures of International tourism - building/architecture/ design for tourism & tourists;

* Tourism and the role of the museum;

* The conservation of heritage for tourism;

* The practices and performances of 'tradition';

* Tourist art and art for tourists;

* Intangible heritage and its role in tourism;

* Rural and urban tourism practices.

Members of the Conference Scientific Committee include: Dr Khaled Adham, (United Arab Emirates University), Dr Rami Daher (German Jordanian University), Professor Bill Finlayson (Council for British Research in the Levant), Dr Habib Saidi (University of Laval) and Dr Lina Tahan (Leeds Metropolitan University).

If you wish to submit a 300 word abstract as an electronic file (including title and full contact details) please do so no later than 17th October 2008 to

To participate in this conference or to learn more please contact: or visit or

Iyare! Splendor and Tension in Benin's Palace Theatre

From a UPM Press Release:

November/December 2008 Special Exhibitions at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology

Iyare! Splendor and Tension in Benin's Palace Theatre
November 8, 2008 through March 1, 2009.

"Iyare!"—"May you go and return safely!"—is the phrase onlookers shout when Edo nobles head for Benin's palace. For centuries, Nigeria's Benin Kingdom was one of West Africa's most-renowned and powerful political states, with artists and artisans unsurpassed on both African and European continents. Despite British colonization in 1897 and Nigeria's independence in 1960, Benin's Edo people continue to profess loyalty to their monarch the Oba, even as they fully participate in modernity. Inside the Benin palace, the principal royal venue and a site of splendid artistic display, Edo noblemen and women meet, as they have for centuries, to play out rivalries, reenact historic conflicts, impress, inspire, and gossip with one another.

More than 100 objects from Penn Museum's extraordinary Benin collection of cast bronzes, carved ivories and wooden artifacts, dating from the 16th to the 21st centuries, forms the core of this new exhibition, an outgrowth of a University of Pennsylvania Halpern-Rogath curatorial seminar, and a curatorial collaboration between its students and African art historian and professor Dr. Kathy Curnow. Benin artifacts are used to illuminate the activities—cultural, religious, political, and intensely social—that make up the theatrical experience of palace life for "actors" and "audiences" alike: the Oba, chiefs, courtiers, commoners, and visitors. By focusing on the "theater" that is indeed at the heart of the palace experience, Iyare! tells the story of cultural continuity, change and influence—of an African people who bring all the arts to bear as they engage in the social activities of life.

A website to accompany Iyare! Splendor and Tension in Benin's Palace Theatre has been made possible with the support of the PoGo Foundation. The William B. Dietrich Gallery.

Kings, Chiefs and Women of Power: Images from Nigeria,
November 13, 2008 through January 18, 2009

Arthur Ross Gallery, 220 South 34th Street (in the Fisher Fine Arts Library)

Twenty-five large format Cibachrome photographs taken in 1993-94 by Phyllis
Galembo highlight the costumes, customs and traditions of Nigerian communities. Also included in this exhibition, on loan from the Penn Museum collections, are 19th and early 20th century prestige objects from the Benin Kingdom and southern Nigeria which provide further cultural context.

Timbuktu to Tibet: Rugs and Textiles of the Hajji Babas

From a Textile Museum press release:

Timbuktu to Tibet: Rugs and Textiles of the Hajji Babas
is on view at The Textile Museum October 18, 2008 through March 8, 2009

July 22, 2008, Washington, D.C. — This fall The Textile Museum will take visitors on a journey through North Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and beyond in Timbuktu to Tibet: Rugs and Textiles of the Hajji Babas, an exhibition examining the central role that rugs and textiles play in diverse cultures around the world. Through the display of 90 Oriental carpets and other woven objects, the exhibition showcases the dazzling beauty of the pieces and explores the context in which they were created and used within cultures on several continents. Timbuktu to Tibet is on view October 18, 2008 through March 8, 2009.

With textiles, people around the world express their diverse traditions, lifestyles, fashions and technologies, all while addressing fundamental physical, aesthetic and spiritual needs. Textiles serve as clothing, provide shelter and accompany rituals. Through material, color, pattern, design and other facets, textiles reveal an individual’s wealth, social status, occupation, and religious and ethnic associations, as well as a culture’s values, codes and social order. Timbuktu to Tibet illuminates these encoded messages and explores the varying functions of carpets and textiles. By examining the practical uses and complex iconography of the rugs and textiles on view, the exhibition offers visitors a deeper look into the lives, beliefs and events that shape cultures around the world.

Learn more here.