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Multiple Ways of Understanding Egypt

17 February 2023
Meet the Expert | Daniel Soliman

Meet Daniel Soliman, Egyptologist and curator at the National Museum of Antiquities / Rijksmuseum van Oudheden (RMO) in Leiden. He conducts research and creates exhibitions on ancient Egypt, of which the upcoming exhibition ‘Kemet’ is the latest.

Dr. Daniel Soliman was born in Egypt, but raised in The Netherlands. As a child, he was used to seeing many souvenirs in his home that his parents brought from Egypt. It is here where his strong interest in ancient Egypt first arose, which later made him decide to study Egyptology at Leiden University. He did his PhD here as well, for which he did research about identity marks in the ancient Egyptian village of Deir el-Medina. This site is unique since it has been preserved remarkably well during the ages, but even more since the workers in the village used a special ‘pseudoscript’ to do administration and mark their identities.

When asked about his favorite part of being an Egyptologist, dr. Soliman answers it is impossible for him to choose. What he enjoys most is the diversity of his work. For example, dr. Soliman is currently on a research trip to Egypt, where he joins the excavation in the city of Sakkara. This site has been excavated for decades already, but still continues to amaze and raise questions among researchers. The current excavation focuses on the development of the local cemetery and the insights it can give about social structures and hierarchies in ancient times. Dr. Soliman's contribution to the excavation concerns the analysis of the objects found during the fieldwork.

Back in the Netherlands, he will spend a lot of time preparing for the upcoming exhibition Kemet at RMO. ‘Kemet’ means ‘the black land’, the name that ancient Egyptians gave to their land. The exhibition focuses on references to ancient Egypt in music from artists with African roots. Their perspective on Egypt sometimes differs from the traditional and sometimes stereotypical ‘Western’ perspective. For many artists with African roots, Egypt symbolizes Africa as a whole, and in this way is used for self-identification and self-empowerment. As such, their music is also an act of resistance against ‘Western’ depictions of Egypt derived from the colonial past. Dr. Soliman emphasizes this does not mean the African perspective is ‘better’; rather, he hopes the exhibition shows its visitors that there are multiple ways of understanding ‘Egypt’.

The exhibition Kemet will be on display from 22 April to 3 September 2023. Dr. Soliman introduces the exhibition in this film (on facebook).

Interview by LeidenGlobal intern Nina
February 2023

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