Most of us living in the Diaspora do not know which African ethnic group or groups we hail from. And so, when we honor and revere the Motherland, we tend to see it as a whole. As we evoke this naturally Pan African vision, we tend to focus on ancient Egypt. As the Hyksos and then the Persians and then the Greeks and then the Romans and then the Arabs came pouring into the Nile Valley, the Egyptians spread throughout the continent setting up new civilizations and greatly enriching those that they encountered that were already established.
Here, in the museums of the West, the Egyptian exhibits, curiously, but perhaps not surprisingly, are separate and apart from the African displays, as if Egypt somehow is not part and parcel of the Motherland. Recall that Lower Egypt was the north of the country, Upper Egypt the south. The Nile Valley peoples and cultures hailed from the heart of the African continent, and so their orientation was Southward.
Hollywood movies and PBS documentaries, notwithstanding, the ancient Egyptians were an African people. Look at the many, many statues they left behind and you can see this, even though oftentimes their lips and noses were chiseled off in fruitless attempts to hide their ancestry. Walk down any street in America. Do the Americans of today look like the Americans of Columbus’ time? 1492 was but 500 years ago, while the Egyptian Old Kingdom, the era when the Pyramids were built, was five millennia distant. Nonetheless, Arabs play ancient Egyptians in documentaries and Europeans play these most revered, iconic ancients, in Hollywood motion pictures.
Many a time have I stood in long and silent contemplation of 5,000 year old statues that resemble my family and friends. They say a man named Jesus lived 2,000 years ago and spent most of his life, from the ages of 18 – 30, living in Egypt. Might he not have pondered these very same statues, and if so, they were already 3,000 years old. As for the Greek “philosophers,” they were foreign students permitted to come in for a period of years to study in the Egyptian universities and libraries.
I can hear some say, “If the Africans were so great, why did they fall?” Nothing lasts forever. In fact, the history of civilization is, literally, the history of the rise and the fall of civilization. The ancient Egyptians themselves practiced archaeology, digging up and rediscovering their own ancient past. The Pyramids at Giza may be 5,000 years old, but the Sphinx which guards them is believed to have been constructed more than 15,000 years before the Pyramids.
Yes, Egypt rose and fell a number of times. There was a 500 year decline between the fall of the Old Kingdom and the rise of the Middle Kingdom, which itself would collapse only to be followed by an even longer period of decline before the New Kingdom sprouted from the ashes. And so, yes, Africa shall rise again. This is but another Intermediate Period in a seemingly endless cycle.
Yes, we in the Diaspora, when we revere the ancestors, we honor Ancient Egypt, Kemet, “The Light of the World.” Look at the map of Africa. See how the mighty, undulating Nile ends in the shape of a lotus-like flower which empties out into the sea in the Middle of the Earth carrying Egypt’s seed, its wisdom and its culture to every corner of this blue marble whirling endlessly through Black Infinity.