The majesty and mystery of stone monuments from the ancient African kingdoms of Nubia have come to Emory University in an exhibition of photographs from famed New York Times photographer Chester Higgins.
"Nubian Dreams: Images of the Sudan," on view through Aug. 15 in the Schatten Gallery of Emory's Woodruff Library, documents the spiritual and architectural remains of the Nubian civilizations which rivaled those of the pharaohs for control of the Nile.
"In ancient times, Egypt ruled the world," Higgins says. "Then, Nubia ruled Egypt. Most people are pretty familiar with the monuments and personalities of ancient Egypt. What they don't know is that there are more than twice as many pyramids in Nubia as there are in Egypt.
"How those pyramids got there, and who and what history they represent, are details that only have begun to emerge during the last 50 years," Higgins says.
Higgins shot the photographs on several six-week field trips to ancient Nubia – today's southern Egypt and northern Sudan – between 2000 and 2006. A total of 45 images depict primarily pyramids, tombs and temples, most framed against the undulating warm, reddish-brown hues of African desert sands and clear, pale blue skies. A slide show of additional images, as well as a small number of Nubian artifacts such as baskets, beading and woodwork, are included in the exhibition.
"These images capture the spirit of place, concentrating on the remains of ancient sanctuaries dedicated to the belief in African Naturalism," Higgins says. "To me, these images capture the imagination of an ancient people. Here we see the human mind focused on issues of divinity and the sacred life. We see religious metaphors. We see what these ancient people constructed to their faith, believing in a God greater than themselves, with the power of life and death."
Nubian treasures also on display at Emory’s Carlos Museum
The Schatten Gallery showing of Higgins' photography compliments a nearby sister exhibition in Emory's Michael C. Carlos Museum. That exhibition, "Lost Kingdoms of the Nile: Nubian Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," features some of the most significant archaeological treasures ever found in Africa. Visitors can gain insight into ancient Nubia by viewing more than 250 objects in gold, silver, bronze, ivory, stone and ceramic dating from 7000 B.C. to modern times.
Higgins will discuss his photography in a free workshop at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 10 in the Carlos Museum reception hall. For more information, contact Priyanka Sinha at 404-727-4291.
Higgins is one of the premier photographers of his generation. An Alabama native, he has been a staff photographer for the Times since 1975. His photographs have appeared in many publications and are featured in the PBS films "An American Photographer: Chester Higgins Jr." and "Brotherman."
He authored the photo collections "Black Woman," "Drums of Life," "Some Time Ago," "Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa," and "Elder Grace: The Nobility of Aging." His latest book is a 2005 memoir, "Echo of the Spirit: A Photographer's Journey."
Schatten Gallery is located on level three of Emory's Woodruff Library, 540 Asbury Circle, Emory. For more information, contact gallery director Julie Delliquanti at 404-727-0136. The exhibition runs through Aug. 15, and is free and open to the public.
The Carlos Museum exhibition "Lost Kingdoms of the Nile: Nubian Treasures from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston," is within walking distance of the Schatten exhibition at 571 South Kilgo Circle, Emory. For more information, contact Priyanka Sinha at 404-727-4291. The Carlos exhibition runs through Aug. 30. Admission is a $7 donation, free for museum members and Emory faculty, students and staff. Free docent-led tours of the museum depart from the rotunda on level one every Sunday at 2:30 p.m. during the Emory academic year. Call 404-727-4282 to confirm.