Brother Tunde Ra
Preserve The Ancient Sacred Egyptian Treasures!
I t was not your ordinary press conference. The visual richness was striking, as the Khemetic community began with an ancestor veneration ritual. The speaker chanted ancient Egyptian sacred incantations and bade the audience to call out names of honored ancestors who had danced to that mysterious land beyond this world. Then he read out a long list of scholars and cultural institutions that have served the black community and sang their praises. It reminded me of the ancient Yoruba Igun Igun ritual, which testifies to the cultural unity of Africa celebrated by Dr. Shek Anta Diop.
Displaying the Sacred Ankh
Avatars of The Khemetic Community
Queen Afua’s Dance
The first speaker to follow the MC was Queen Afua, a natral healer and writer who has practiced the Ancient Egyptian healing arts for more than a quarter century. She has written books addressed to African peoples on ancient Egyptian culture and sacred beliefs. After anointing the audience with warm salutations, she performed a sacred dance for us. She was followed by Tunde Ra, who gave the official position of the Khemetic community regarding the present uprising and the responsibility of all parties to protect the ancient treasures of Egypt. He pointed out that while they hold special meaning to them, these treasures are the heritage of all mankind..
Then the keynote speaker, Baba Samahj Se Ptah, took the podium and read an erudite letter written by himself to the Curator of Egyptian Antiquities at the world famous Metropolitan Museum of Art. .
Samahj Se Ptah
Mother and Son Listen to The Father’s Words
The letter was spurred by the decision of the MMA to return some ancient art treasures to Egypt. “I read in the World News section of the Wall Street Journal the intent of the Metropolitan Museum of Art to return nineteen antique artifacts to the United Arab Republic of Egypt. This sets an awful precedent. The Western world has been at the forefront of preserving artifacts from ancient antiquity. With regard to Egyptian antiquities in particular, “he writes,” had it not been for the Frenchman Augustus Mariette, the founder of the Cairo Museum, the ancient artifacts of Egypt would have been plundered and sold to private collectors by illiterate grave robbers whose very culture encourages the collection of booty (treasure). The internecine religious conflict in the Middle East does not bode well for the preservation of ancient artifacts fashioned by “Infidels.”
Although Samahj does not mention them by name it is obvious that it is the Muslim Arabs he is referring to. His comments demonstrate a sophisticated knowledge of history and religion that is often absent in Afro-American nationalist; many of whom have been influenced by the Nation Of Islam. And others identified with Orthodox Islam as a way of rejecting their western Christian heritage – especially high profile Jazz musicians like Ahmad Jamal, Yusef Lateef, Shib Shihab, et al – which they rightly viewed as the religion of their slave masters.
Yet blacks who became Muslims failed to see that what was true of white Christians is also true of white Arabs, Turks, Persians, et al. However the justification for the enslavement of Africans by the Arabs or the Europeans – Christian or Jew – was the polytheistic nature of African religions: Whether Egyptian or Yoruba! Just as monotheism is characteristic of Semitic cultures, polytheism is characteristic of African cultures.
The danger posed by militant Muslims to the artifacts produced by “Pagan” cultures was recently demonstrated by the Taliban in Afghanistan, who dynamited the colossal Buddhist statues in that counter. Baba Samahj recognized this danger: “The fate of the Buddha in Afghanistan is a harbinger of what awaits the Pyramids of Giza as well as the Temples, Oblisks, Stellas and sculpted images of ancient Kings, Queens and other ancient African Nobles of the Nile.” He went on to declare; ‘The Arabs are the last of the rapists of that great civilization of the Nile…they drove out the Romans from that holy Land and have squatted there ever since plundering, desecrating and stealing until curbed by western man. THE WEST OWES THEM NOTHING!”
Baba Samahj went on to admonish the MMA to “please remind Mr. Hawass of the Arab Republic of Egypt that he has no claim to these artifacts; that his religion prohibits the fashioning of beauty and artistry which his nomadic ancestors were incapable of producing anyway. The west must not allow the proclivity for violent solutions practiced by fundamentalist believers to intimidate or coerce you into giving up treasures which your ancestors have risked their very lives crawling on their bellies with pick and shovel through rat and bat dung to bring to the light of day.”
This statement is easily the most interesting that I have heard on the question of preserving ancient Egyptian treasures, and after news reached the outside world that these priceless treasures were being desecrated and pillaged. However Mr. Samahj was not finished; he also had a word to say about the historical role of westerners in the pillaging of Egyptian art treasures. “I never in my wildest dreams guessed that I’d be defending western man. Many of whom were also plunderers of African ancestral treasures with fancy titles such as anthropologist, Archeologist and Egyptologist.” But then in a magnanimous gesture he said: “Yet in all fairness we ascendants of those Africans of the Nile must be grateful to those honest westerners who wrestled with nomadic thieves to preserve ancestral crafts in museums where we people of African ascent in particular, and humanity in general can go to receive inspiration.”
Baba Semahj Se Ptah was followed by his son, who went to great lengths to try and disprove long established facts about ancient Egypt – such as the fact that they were polytheistic. This is a curious argument, since all indigenous African religions are polytheistic – it is what distinguishes them from the Semites. We are told to ignore the voluminous volumes of scholarship by well trained Egyptologist, when in fact these folk know what they know about Egypt because of these scholars…whose contribution the father had already admitted. The Son’s argument was unconvincing. And he never tells us why we should believe them except that he claims a direct racial connection to the ancient Egyptians. It was the model of spurious argument. Before he was done he even professed to be a “follower of Christ,” although he denied being a Christian.
One of the most curious contradictions that ran through their discourse is the attraction/repulsion theme. Islam and the Arabs are denounced as racist who desecrated African shrines on the one hand, and extolled as brothers on the other. Baba Samahj pointed out that the destruction of the great colossi in Afghanistan was committed by Muslim fanatics; then they praised “Allah.” Yet Islamic theology cannot be reconciled with the beliefs of ancient Egypt.
The future Of the Khemetic community
Convener Of The Conference
Like all spiritual belief systems or sacred theology, the Khemetic community’s interpretation of ancient Egyptian religious beliefs may or may not accord with the historical record. But that is of no matter here, because the beliefs of Christians, Jews and Muslims are equally ahistorical. Which is to say that there sacred narratives do not meet the standard of evidence established by professional historians, who are best equipped to teach us about what actually happened in the past. Those who deny this do so because they are ignorant of the modern scientific method of resurrecting history.
It is easy enough to silence these critics simply by challenging them to explain their method and to present a body of scholarship based on that methodology, then compare it to the vast scholarship of the traditional academic Egyptologist. But this is a superfluous exercise because they are about the business of making myths, not teaching history, and the only test that matters for believers in any theology is whether it serves their needs. And the theology – which simply means “God talk” – constructed by the Khemetic community serves their purposes well.
Although many who adhere to Khemetic theology may not be aware of this fact, but they belong to a tradition of African centered Black Nationalism that goes back a couple of hundred years in the US. It began in the 18th century and by the middle of the 19th century it was the dominant ideology of the black community. However the place of Egypt in African American nationalist ideology has a curious history. Whereas twentieth century nationalism is Egyptocentric, the leading nationalist thinkers of the 19th century; the founding fathers of contemporary Black Nationalist thought, despised ancient Egypt and considered it a wicked place.
This is because most serious nationalist thinkers were Christian clergymen who were deeply knowledgeable of biblical texts, and as a people who were enslaved in America the US president was a modern Pharaoh and the US a reincarnation of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage. Hence they viewed the ancient Egyptians as a nation of godless idol worshippers who enslaved the Jews…whom their Bible said were “God’s chosen people.” Men like Bishop Alexander Crummel, who went and lived in Liberia after earning a degree in philosophy from England’s Cambridge University, or the erudite Presbyterian clergyman Edward Wilmont Blyden, who hailed from the Danish Virgin Islands – which was also the native country of the early twentieth century black radical intellectual Hubert Harrison.
The point here is that the nationalist ideology embraced by contemporary black Americans is diametrically opposed to that of their ideological ancestors in the 19th century on the question of Egypt. It is important to understand this because it provides a historical perspective from which we can better understand the function of Black Nationalist ideology today. If one listens carefully to the arguments of the Khemetic community, it is clear that they are motivated by a desire to create a classical antiquity for black folk that rivals, if not surpasses, the Greco/Roman civilization of Europe.
The impetus for this however, is the same as that which motivated the “African Redemptionists” of the 19th century. These men – and the major thinkers were all men – sought to identify a “golden age” of black civilization to counter the racist propaganda of whites who claimed that black people where incapable of building a great civilization. This claim was no picayune matter; it was the basis for their justification of the enslavement of black people, it allowed them to engage in the most barbaric practices against us and yet claim that “all men are endowed by their creator with the inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Historically the rise of Black Nationalism was a response to the aggressions of white nationalism, and whether or not it is apparent to those who practice African cultural nationalism today, this remains their fundamental motivation. In the end, as I listened to Baba Samahj’s son recount the good works the Khemetic temple is performing, their work sounded just like the work of the Christian church and the Muslim Mosque in the US: uplifting the race! It is called salvation among the Christians. And the approach of the Khemetic community is using to accomplish their mission 100% American!
Irreplaceable at any price!
Harlem, New York
March 6, 2011