Monday, June 14, 2010

a small point about nubia

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via guerrilla mama medicine by mama on 6/14/10

a small point about nubia

i found waldo!

srsly. it is really common in the black n. american boho alterna conscious scene to refer to oneself as nubian.  or to talk about 'nubian queens'. or 'nubian culture'.  etc.

here's the thing.  there are people, real people, who live right now, who are nubians.  nubia is a real place.  nubians are a people. the word 'nubian' cannot accurately be used in this day and age as a simple adjective to mean 'black race'.  and doing so, erases the nubian people.

yeah, i found waldo.  but i also found nubia.

and nubians are the indigenous people of the southern part of egypt (as well as northern sudan, actually the majority of nubians live in sudan).  who have been occupied since the 7th century by arabs.  and even 14 centuries later, the nubians are treated as second class citizens in their own land, as indigenous people are around the world.

Many Egyptian Nubians were forcibly resettled to make room for Lake Nasser after the construction of the dams at Aswan. Nubian villages can now be found north of Aswan on the west bank of the Nile and on Elephantine Island, and many Nubians live in large cities such as Cairo.

when we as black n. americans talk refer to ourselves as 'nubians', because we think of nubian as a mythological people (and i am so calling myself out on this, before i moved to egypt, i thought of nubia as a mythological kingdom, or at best an extinct people.) we participate in the egyptian national project of turning nubia into a tourist site, a curiosity. we participate in the cultural genocide of a people, inadvertently, and unintentionally, but we still do it.

so rather than co-opting and culturally appropriating the word nubian to ascribe dignity to us as black n. americans, we could actually support the cultural survival of the nubian people.  feel me?

dont get me wrong.  when i am in my historically nubian neighborhood (abdeen), or in aswan (the capital of nubia), and i am called nubian by nubians, i smile.  it is a compliment.  a way of being welcomed and given a place that as a stranger that i dont deserve, but am grateful it is offered.

but that is totally different than me calling myself 'nubian'.  im not nubian.  i live in a nubian neighborhood. i have visited nubia, and its capital, aswan, and love the people, culture, land, art, music. we moved to abdeen, in part, because we wanted to live in a nubian neighborhood (which by the way is called 'the ghetto' by middle class arab egyptians…ahem…)


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