Tuesday 29 November 2011

Egypt: Huub Pragt, el-Hadidi, the "Missing" Artefacts and Borrowed Photos

There is a novel just out about the looting of the Egyptian Museum by Huub Pragt.
Thanks in part to confusing statements by the Minister of Antiquities, mystery surrounds the objects that are missing. In this thriller the reality of the Egyptian revolution and fiction are mingled to a surprising result. English Egyptologist Kevin Savernake, his colleague Isabelle Montet and their friends Marc Spencer and Waldo van Elst distrust the reporting around the break in. It can’t be just coincidence that almost all the missing objects date from the Amarna Period. It is widely known that Rosanne Mubariz, the wife of the president, is fond of the art of Akhenaton and Nefertiti. Or did the Minister of Antiquities hide the top pieces on a safe spot because of the uncertain situation in the country? In any case there is much more going on than Minister Mahmud el-Hadidi presents to the Egyptian people and the international press. Who is really behind this art theft?
I can't read Dutch, but my own feeling is the actual truth about this matter is stranger than this fiction. I think el-Hadidi knows much more than he's letting on (though in my version, neither he nor the Mubariz clan were involved in the staging of this pseudo-break-in) and we've not hear the last of this. A little birdie tells me that after the new government is formed, we may be seeing the return of "a" Ministry... My guess is that a few of those "missing" objects are going to be turning up at a convenient time.

Mr Huub has an interesting photo used on his "Kunstroof" website as a banner. It looks familiar doesn't it? Right down to every last shadow, speck of dirt and nuance of lighting . I have no objection to his using it, though it would have been nice if he'd actually shared the information where he got it and whose photo it is ("Op sommige van de afgebeelde foto’s kan het auteursrecht bij derden rusten") - I wonder how much else taken from this blog found its way into the book?

Meanwhile it seems the Registration, Collections Management and Documentation
Department (RCMDD) and the curatorial staff of the Egyptian
Museum, Cairo, not having managed ten months later to provide an updated list of what is still missing since the latest "retrievals", has now announced they are not going to be answering any more queries about artefacts as they have a "backlog" of something or other. Still, at least it also says they are doing some 'renovation' work, maybe they'll also get around to cleaning those windows and under some of those cases.

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