If I say Ancient Greece or Ancient Rome, what is the first thing that comes to your mind? That’s the question a friend of mine asked me a few years ago. It took me a few seconds to imagine beautiful pure white statues of half-naked people with perfect bodies and muscles. That’s what most of us see when we think about those civilizations.
These statues are used as inspiration by mainstream media and Hollywood when they make movies, books, and games about these ancient civilizations. We all remember the movie 300 with Gerald Butler and his spartan warriors who were fighting the Persian empire. Pure white men with perfect bodies. That is the image printed in our minds when we think about Ancient Greece. We have that idea of a pure white elitist civilization. The dream for all white supremacists. But what if I tell you, that it is a myth? We think like that because museums, mainstream media, Hollywood, video games created & promoted that image. When we go to museums we see statues made of pure white marble. And we unconsciously think that it is supposed to represent the skin color of these people. We naively believe that those statues have always looked like that, but we are wrong. Most of these artifacts were in fact painted in bright shades of brown, blue, red, yellow and many other colors.
This has been discovered during the past few decades by scientists who have worked diligently in order to find traces of paint, inlay and gold leaf used on these ancient statues and they tried to use digital technologies to restore them to their original polychromy.
That’s what my friend told me. It was the first time for me to hear about that and I could not believe it. Mainstream media and scholars did a great job whitewashing history. But as I started to accept that truth, it reminded me of ancient African civilizations and the debate about the whitewashing of African History.
Obviously, the ancient Greeks were not those pure Aryans we’ve been told. So, I wondered why those statues remained white while in Africa, especially in ancient Kemet (Real name of the ancient Egyptian civilization) many of the ancient statues are still being “restored” but not exactly the way you might think and I will explain why.
When scholars talk about restoration, they mean that they try to bring the artifact back to its original state. Which means in these cases, to bring back the vivid colors. But why is it not always the case?
I realized that the way we color or does not color these ancient artifacts is the result of the archaeologists and artists’ own values. And these people are most of the time influenced by the governments who own the lands today or those who financed the researches. Rich white Europeans or Arabs whose objective is to promote their visions and ideologies into the world by rewriting ancient History or in this case repainting it. In their universe, blackness is problematic since they are in majority white in their own countries today.
These actions have a very negative impact on our popular imagination.
It promotes the idea that some African civilizations have been built by non-African people. And that those who are called “Blacks” did not participate to these creations. It fuels racism.
In the Greco-Roman case, the statues remain mainly uncolored, even though we know now that these statues were colored. But Why? The answer is simple. It is because whiteness is promoted today. But it has not always been the case. The idea of pure white marble as a symbol of “perfect beauty” started during later periods. And the Greeks did not really use marble for their art, they preferred bronze whose color is closer to the brown color. So, many of these ancient Greek statues made of marble that we see today in museums are actually late copies of ancient ones that were made of bronze and most people ignore that fact. People never question it and why would they? Because it seems so logical due to what the popular culture is showing us everywhere. And everything really started during the 18th century with the influence of many European thinkers.
One of them was Johann Joachim Winckelmann who wrote 2 books on the history of ancient art (Geschichte der Kunst des Alterthums). And these books defined art history as we study it today. It influenced most European artists who started to use white marble to express what they called the epitome of beauty.
When we think about history, those who never really studied it think that things have always been the way it is now. That nothing ever changed. That changes are impossible. But the truth is that many things changed, especially during the last 5 centuries. History took a new detour when Europeans started to control the world. With the slave trade that was focused on people of color, it became necessary to justify the inferiority of some and the superiority of others. And since that way of thinking was not natural, the ancient art was going against that ideology.
Black people could be seen depicted as kings and queens in most of the ancient civilizations. And this was clearly problematic for the new ideology. It was necessary to act in order to justify that new paradigm. And those thinkers have played a major role in the implematation of that new paradigm of white superiority.
This will have a tragic impact on world history because those who thought like that took control over the whole planet. They controlled all sectors of world education and especially those of archaeology and history. And when they discovered something that invalidated their beliefs, they destroyed, hid or tampered it. The goal was to promote beliefs that justified their position of superiority in the world. When Europeans discovered Kemet, the world was in the middle of the “slavery talk”. Europeans and European Americans had slave-based economies. And seeing these great Kings and Queens painted in brown and black was a problem because it puts into perspective everything they were standing for and that many of them started to believe unconsciously. It was dangerous because it could make some of these oppressed people question what had been taught to them i.e. the divine origin of black inferiority. It could make them understand that they were not condemned to live a life of captivity and make them question the truthfulness of that concept of white superiority.
So, something had to to be done in order to hide the evidence. We have proofs of these facts in numerous writings, books, and museums. During the 18th century, the craze for Egyptian antiquities was growing so much that people started to “embellish” them. Thus, this statue below, whose nose was considered “not Greek enough”, was rectified by the care of a very talented Italian sculptor. It is exposed today in the Louvre Museum in Paris.
In Egypt, the tomb paintings and statues are still being “restored” today, but these “restorations” are done according to the archaeologists’, artists’ and governments’ values. These fields are dominated by white people.
There is obviously a diversity problem. So, we can assume that during the last centuries the work that has been done, was done according to the dominant ideologies of these time periods that were without a doubt racist.
One of the most iconic figures of this field was the American archaeologist George Andrew Reisner, who is known for the development of a new archaeological technique that became a standard in the profession, combining the British methods of Petrie, the German methods of Dorpfeld and Koldewey, his own American practicality and his skill for large-scale organization. But in spite of all his great knowledge and intelligence, Reisner was racist. And all his researches were biased when it concerned Africa and black Africans. He believed that black Africans were inferiors & that they could not build civilizations. According to him, all the African civilizations were the accomplishments of white Europeans or caucasian people who migrated in Africa to build or help black people build. He did many excavations in Sudan, and now that we know his way of thinking we can assume that all his work is biased and requires to be studied with a lot of care.
And This man is still one of the most revered archaeologists in 2019.
A global practice
After many years spent studying the ancient artifacts of Kemet, I realized many changes and inconsistencies through time.
Similarly to what can be seen in ancient Rome and Greece, many of the Kemetic (ancient Egyptian) artifacts remained completely white. And for the average person who does not possess any knowledge on Kemet, these statues are similar to those found in Ancient Greece and Rome and represent “the white people who were living in Africa & who built the pyramids”. But this is a trick that many scholars and museums use in order to maintain the illusion that the people of Kemet were not true Africans without having to lie about it. Because the artifacts are exposed without any explanation on why they are completely white.
When I first started to study that civilization, these statues were the first barriers to my understanding of the fact that these people were for the most part indigenous black-skinned Africans. I could hear the information and read the facts, but when I was looking at the art, all I was seeing was these white statues and it was really disturbing.
Later in my journey, after many years of research, I discovered that these statues were originally black, brown or reddish brown (the natural color of the African people) and that they lost their original color with time and several restorations. But museums like to exhibit them in major spots to represent the image of the “perfect
But there was something else…
But contrary to most Greek and Roman artifacts, many statues and paintings from Kemet still carry their original colors. I noticed that many of them were even darker on oldest pictures. The pictures from the archives, taken right after their discoveries for example. You can see some of them below.
Later I understood that these inconsistencies were due to whitewashing. Especially because of the difference in shades that can sometimes be seen on different body parts of these statues and paintings. As if some restorations had been done but not to repaint the pieces and bring them back to their original states, but to remove the original color in order to make it look less dark. The early modern restoration practices and historic cleaning methods have all reduced the polychromy of the sculptures. I noticed that most of the time the feet were darker than the face or the whole upper part of the body.
I wondered why then an answer came to my mind. I realized that it was probably due to the fact that most people when they look at these ancient depictions focus on the faces. We all want to see what the pharaoh looked like. No one really cares about the pharaoh’s feet, and it makes sense. We all try to see the face first, and sometimes it is all we care about. The lower body parts probably only attract the most passionate people. Whitewashing so many statues must be a lot of work, so, those who accomplished it probably tried to be as effective as possible. That’s why when you look at ancient statues, and you want to see their original complexion, it is better to look at their feet. Those parts remained untouched most of the time.
The hidden ones
My last category is for the perfectly preserved statues that you probably never saw on mainstream media. Statues depicting Kings and Queens with their original complexion and features (noses). It took me many years to find those statues. Because the most popular ones are tampered and not representative of the original leaders of that civilization. The statue of Amenhotep III is the one that ended my doubts about the skin color of the ancient Kemites. I had never been exposed to such a statue. It is almost perfectly preserved, but mainstream media never show it in documentaries or anything related to ancient Kemet. Amenhotep III is almost unknown by most people today, while for those who know the History of Kemet, He is probably the most powerful King of that civilization. You should wonder why…
A tragic impact on society
Today, all the racist theories have been proven to be wrong, but the world is still under their influence. The whitewashing became the norm. Some people even consider that the darker representations of the Kemites as fake. People think that they have been photoshopped by Afrocentrists who try to appropriate the Kemetic culture. Those who try to reestablish balance in these topics have been called Afrocentrists by racists Eurocentrists scholars and they are pushed out of mainstream media.
Every single piece of art created in our popular culture that is related to ancient civilizations omits to express the diversity or the blackness that existed in a majority in them. For example, the depictions of ancient Kemet or ancient Greece within video games or even in most school books, maintain and even reinforce the perception of whiteness through their recreated depictions of the people of these ancient civilizations. These last years, science proved that until around 4500 B.C in Sweden or the north of Europe, there was probably no white people anywhere else. But if we look at what is available today, we may think that black people did not exist in the ancient world.
Maintaining these biased views discourages the people of color from seeing themselves in these landscapes but also from wanting to learn about ancient history. It is a fact that most people like to see themselves in the picture in order to be interested. This effect can be seen in many aspects of our lives. According to their ethnicity, people are more or less interested in a movie for example. Their level of interest depends, for many of them, on the diversity within the cast. Many people within the black community, for example, pick their movies that way. When they don’t see themselves represented, they are less interested in the movie.
Many people from the African community won’t be interested in a movie like Lord of the ring for example, because there are no black people involved in the story. And I can say the same for the White community. With a cast mainly black, many white people won’t really be interested in seeing that movie, and some European countries even ban black movies because of that reason.
Did you say solution ?
And this leads us to Mr. Imhotep. Rebranding Africa.
If you follow us on social media, you probably already heard that sentence. It is our slogan, our way of life. In our community, we noticed all these problems within history and our global culture. We became really concerned about it and our goal is to do something to fix it. We noticed that even though many content creators and museums were aware of what they were doing, many people who also participated to maintain these lies did not. Many of them ignore our true history and look for the experts to acquire the knowledge, ignoring the fact that the knowledge of these founding fathers was biased due to their racist beliefs. These people suffer from a lack of the availability of “unbiased content” related to these topics. The good reads that could help them truly understand these civilizations have been flagged as Afrocentric. So, people avoid it, don’t promote it or don’t even know that something different from what is shared in mainstream books, movies or video games exist.
The ancient civilizations were not truly racist. The people knew the world and were aware of the fact that we came from the Africans. The Africans were known as the most ancient human beings. Romans even had a great variety of skin tones within their world. And frescoes, mosaics and painted ceramics from both Greek and Roman periods reveal a fascination with black Africans that they called the Ethiopians. Most ancient Greek scholars even wrote about the people of Africa.
Homer the legendary writer of the Iliad and the Odyssey, two epic poems that are the central works of ancient Greek literature even refers to the Africans as blameless Ethiopians. According to him, the Greek gods visited the Africans or were reported among them when they were absent from Olympus. We can see that Black people have always been present in the ancient world, and they even had a very important role in it. Nothing to do with what we are being taught today.
It is difficult to believe it today because black people are targetted by racism and their image is constantly being destroyed in our societies. We tend to believe that Racism the way we know it today has always existed and that it is natural. But the people of the ancient world differentiated themselves according to their cultures rather than skin color. There was no color prejudice. But today museums are recreating our past according to the modern racist ideologies. They overpromote the artifacts that reinforce their idea of an ideal ancient world, which is rooted in white superiority. They value their ideology over the truth. And mainstream media, who could help reestablish balance in these fields, are controlled by people with the same ideology. In other words, we are attacked on all the fronts. The only solution is to do it ourselves.
Today, technology allows us to recreate more accurately the people of these ancient civilizations for a better understanding. We can finally choose to bring back the diversity and the truth in our world’s history. But those who do it, never really do it because of racism. Blackness is still problematic when we talk about the ancient world. Many people are still ashamed to admit that we all came from Africa and that our ancestors were all blacks. The lack of diversity within these institutions and fields plays a major role in their decisions when it is about depicting our ancestors.
That’s why with Mr. Imhotep we decided to bring a different truth, a truth that will be unbiased and historically accurate. We decided to invest and bring to you the genuine faces of these ancient African civilizations. That is our contribution to the world. And we are convinced that by bringing these representations, we will show the true face of Africa to the world and we will also bring more self-love among the people of Africa, whose history and identity has been taken in hostage by mainstream media.