I am happy to announce that the Ethiopian City Guides latest issue on Gondar has just been released by the French Centre for Ethiopian Studies (CFEE) in Addis Ababa. This is one of the last projects to emerge from those I (co)managed in Addis Ababa (2011-2014).

The idea of the collection is very simple: help tourists and visitors to discover the hidden gems of Ethiopian cities, thus encouraging them to spend one more night in these cities, and collaborating to the cities’ economy.

Gondar City-Guide, CFEE- Shama Books, Addis Ababa, 2015

Gondar City-Guide, CFEE- Shama Books, Addis Ababa, 2015

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What do Voltaire, Mozart, Bonaparte, Freud, Hergé, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson have in common? 

To find out the answer, read Florence Quentin’s Livre de Egyptes, released on 29 January 2015, which explores the everlasting Western fascination for Egypt.

Extras on the set of Mankiewicz 's Cleopatra,1963

Extras on the set of Mankiewicz ‘s Cleopatra,1963

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  Camille el Kareh, Self-portrait , Lebanon 1920

Camille el Kareh, Self-portrait, Zhorta, Lebanon, 1920, Collection: AIF/Mohsen Yammine Copyright © Arab Image Foundation

I work now as a Research Associate for the Arab Image Foundation in Beirut on a strategic program called the Middle East Photograph Preservation Initiative (MEPPI). MEPPI is led jointly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the University of Delaware, the Getty Conservation Institute and the Qatar Museums Authority.
MEPPI main goal is to raise regional awareness and expertise in photograph preservation
. This initiative has three interconnected components:

– The MEPPI Survey, a survey aimed at identifying and assessing significant photograph holdings in the Arab world. Our scope also extends to collections in Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan.
– The MEPPI Courses, a series of courses, where collection keepers will be invited to learn and share best practices about photograph preservation.
– The MEPPI Symposium, where regional cultural policy decision-makers will be invited to reflect upon the importance of photographic heritage.
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Here is the very beginning of a (short) article (in French) that has just been published in Qantara, Magazine des cultures arabes et méditerranéennes of the Institut du Monde Arabe, Paris.

Cet article fait partie d’un dossier spécial “Patrimoine antique, le regard des Arabes“. Coordonné par François Zabbal, ce dossier analyse le transformation du regard porté sur les antiquités gréco-romaines dans le monde arabe. Observée depuis une décennie, cette transformation semble s’accélérer avec le “printemps arabe”. Loin des considérations politiques du moment? Peut-être pas, car il s’agit d’observer comment les identités collectives se font et se défont.

The Arch of Marcus Aurelius as a cinema, 1911

The Arch of Marcus Aurelius as a cinema, 1911

Un arc aux objets encombrants

Elevé au IIe siècle, l’arc de triomphe de Marc Aurèle règne au coeur de la médina de Tripoli de Libye. Ranimé voici un siècle par le colonisatur italien, qui en fit le symbole de la romanité glorieuse, il est à l’inverse tout juste toléré depuis l’instauration du régime de Khadafi, victime de la décolonisation de l’histoire nationale entreprise par le colonel. Mais peut-on occulter l’Histoire en la passant sous silence?

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Negative picture of Nuer boys relaxing (Evans-Prtichard, ca. 1930)

How to disentangle the conflictive logics of cultural and ethnic diversity? How to understand the complexity of cultural diversity? These questions lead my research (and projects) in Sudan and Ethiopian borderlands. I have studied diversity through the angle of heritage-making policies. Heritage is  a byproduct of modernity.  Studying heritage-making, i.e. understanding the value and the role actors as well as local population assert to heritage while  institutionalising it, enables the researcher to apprehend  narratives of culture, identity and diversity developed by local insiders and outsiders. Thus, one can understand how the diverse and ofter opposed groups perceive each other and how their mutual reflective perception defines the limits of identity.  However, drawing on this reflection,  identities appear to be caught in dynamic and moveable nexus rather than tight clusters.

Influenced by Alfredo Gonzalez-Ruibal research on failures of modernity in extreme borderlands and Fredrik Barth‘s work on boundaries of ethnicity, I carried out fieldwork research in Gambella region, on the  border with Ethiopia and Sudan in January-February 2008. Below is presented one of the first outcomes of this research as proposed to the AEGIS-ECAS conference in Leipzig, 2009 in the panel Writing the Oral: the building of history and the notions of ‘past’ and ‘present’ convened by Manuela Palmeirim and Manuel João Ramos.

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On the 7th of October 2009, the French Culture minister  announced the Musée du Louvre would return to the Egyptian authorities five  fresco fragments   supposedly stolen from a tomb in the Kings’ Valley (Louxor). Why did it break the news?

Egyptian officials and the returned hair of Ramses IIThe issue is not really new. Since the early 2000’s, the problem of cultural property have gained visibility and  became a  source of diplomatic and political conflict. Two opposite positions are confronting. On one hand, institutions in archaeological-source countries claim for the right to be returned, rapatriated or restituted “their” “looted” artifacts as part of the national heritage. On the other hand, 18 museums from antiquities-importing countries have signed the Declaration of the importance and Value of Universal Museums (2002) stating the artifacts in their collections do not belong to a  nation in particular but to the entire Humanity. As both arguments can be considered as valid, it results  in a deadlock situation such as in the case of the Parthenon/Elgin Marble whose property is claimed at the same time by Greek authorities and the British Museum.

The new thing about this recent return is that the Louvre is one of the museums that signed the 2002 Declaration. For the first time, one of those museums agrees in such a short time (less than two weeks) to return the claimed pieces… without negociating any condition. How was it possible?

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Les guerres du patrimoine

February 23, 2009

crédit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

crédit: Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty Images

Le patrimoine est-il une des cibles des guerres du XXIe siècle?

Le 23 février 2009, le Musée iraqien de Bagdad a été réinauguré après près de six ans de fermeture. On se souvient du pillage du musée en avril 2003 au moment de l’entrée des troupes américaines dans Bagdad. Le symbole était fort dans le contexte d’une action armée -invasion-  critiquée par la communauté internationale. Les Iraqiens dénonçaient la destruction de leur patrimoine national. La réaction internationale condamnait alors avec la perte irrémédiable de collections d’objets assyriens, babyloniens, etc. la destruction d’un patrimoine de l’humanité.  Le texte qui suit est tiré d’une intervention donnée au Cedej, Le Caire en octobre 2006 dans le cadre d’une projection sur le film de Mika Assaf, La mémoire volée, retour au musée de Bagdad (2006).

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Above is the presentation related with the article beneath:

« La question des restitutions d’œuvres d’art : différentiels maghrébins », L’Année du Maghreb, Paris, CNRS édition, 2008, p. 79-97 (Dossier « La fabrique de la mémoire : variations maghrébines », dir. Jean-Philippe Bras).

Here is the introduction:

« Eh quoi ? Les indiens massacrés, le monde musulman vidé de lui-même, le monde chinois pendant un bon siècle, souillé et dénaturé, le monde nègre disqualifié, d’immenses voix à jamais éteintes, des foyers dispersés au vent, tout ce bousillage, tout ce gaspillage, l’Humanité réduite au monologue, et vous croyez que tout cela ne se paie pas ? » Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme, 1950

Depuis une quinzaine d’années, les demandes de restitutions d’objets pillés par les puissances coloniales ne cessent d’augmenter en nombre comme en médiatisation. Parallèlement, la question des réparations de la dette morale et physique du colonialisme s’est engagée entre anciens colonisés et colonisateurs. Le débat sur les restitutions et les réparations conditionne les rapports Nord-Sud ; comme si, pour faire mentir Aimé Césaire, l’Humanité n’était pas réduite au monologue et que le bousillage devait être payé. La restitution d’oeuvres d’art sert-elle la réparation d’un passé bafoué ? Comment des objets de patrimoine sont-ils devenus des objets de conflits ? Read the rest of this entry »

Heritage Policies in Sudan

January 5, 2009

Here is the  powerpoint presentation of a conference given in the Biannual conference (ECAS) of the European network of African Studies (AEGIS) in Leiden 2007.

It covers one of my favorite topics:

heritage policies in the “post-conflict” Sudan.

Summary:

This paper is an abstract of the communication given in the ECAS, the second biennial conference of AEGIS (Africa-Europe Group for Interdisplinary Studies) in Leiden, on the 10th of July 2007. This article presents the results of my fieldwork research in Sudan in April-March 2006 and January-April 2007. A complete version of this article will published in Egypte/Monde arabe 5-6 on Heritage policies in Egypt and Sudan (forthcoming, first semester 2008).


This paper aims at reconsidering the evidence of national identity construction through a reflection on heritage-making and its institutional mechanisms in the Sudanese context.

The fifty-years civil war of Sudan has been considered by many analysts as a war of competing identities [1]. Since the signature of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, the reconstruction of the country is presented as the priority of the authorities, but the internal context remains very conflictive (e.g. Darfur) and the national integrity is still problematic (referendum on the autonomy of Southern Sudan in 2011). However, cultural heritage is being promoted by national authorities and international agencies according to the CPA implementation agenda. Heritage is used as a resource to develop cultural diversity as well as a national identity.

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Here is a polemic research article I wrote in 2007 about Dr. Zahi Hawass published in Enrique Klaus et Shaymaa Hassabo (ed.) Chroniques Égyptiennes 2006, Cairo, CEDEJ, 2007. new! (september 2009) download the article here or buy the book here

Et Zahi créa l’Égypte: Quand glamour et patrimoine défraient la chronique

Cet article analyse le discours et les polémiques publiés dans la presse égyptienne autour de la personnalité de Zâhî Hawwâs, le secrétaire général du Conseil suprême des antiquités (CSA) en 2006. L’homme a bâti son pouvoir sur le patrimoine égyptien, utilisant sa position institutionnelle ainsi que l’image de prestige qu’il a projetée dans les médias étrangers.

L’article rend compte de son emprise sur le patrimoine égyptien qui englobe les champs culturel, économique et politique. Néanmoins, sa présence dans la liste des 100 personnalités les plus influentes dans le monde dressée par « Time Magazine » ainsi que sa reconduction à la tête du CSA n’ont pas empêché les critiques en Égypte concernant sa stratégie de communication, orientée vers les médias.

Cet article décrit ainsi un jeu de miroir reflétant les ambiguïtés de la politique locale et le prestige international de Égypte en termes de patrimoine, d’identité, de pouvoir, de connaissance, de sciences mais aussi de business. En tant que personnification de l’archéologie égyptienne, Zahi Hawass incarne toutes ces ambiguïtés.


“And Zahi created Egypt”, When Glamour and Heritage Break the News

Abstract

The aim of this article is to analyse the discourse and the polemics in the Egyptian newspapers that surrounded Zahi Hawass, the Supreme Council of Antiquities General Secretary in 2006. By his institutional position and by the prestigious image of himself  he projected in the international media, he built up his power over the Egyptian heritage.

The article gives an account of his seizure over that heritage, which encompasses realms of culture, economics and politics. Yet, his nomination in Time Magazine’s list of the top 100 most influential personalities worldwide and his reappointment at the head of the Supreme Council of Antiquities did not prevent national criticism towards his media-oriented policies.

This article describes a game of mirrors reflecting the ambiguities of local politics and international prestige of Egypt in terms of heritage and identity, power and knowledge, science and business. As the personification of Egyptian archaeology, Zahi Hawass epitomises all those ambiguities…