Monday, April 14, 2014

"I destroyed them because they belong to the Government and I'm mad at the Government."

So a young man reportedly said to SAFE award winner Monica Hanna to explain his participation in the looting and destruction of the Minya Museum with other locals angry that the military had  deposed their Muslim Brotherhood president.

CPO will report more on other revealing admissions Ms. Hanna made at an event organized by the so-called Antiquities Coalition soon, but this statement in particular gets to the heart of what's wrong with Egypt's cultural establishment and why US Collectors should not be made to pay the price for a mess entirely of Egypt's own making.

The Military Government that has run Egypt for decades,  like its much more bloodthirsty cousins in Syria and the former Baathist state of Iraq, has declared ownership of all antiquities as part of nationalist campaign to associate the regime with the glories of the ancient past.  This may sit well with collector-hating foreign and domestic archaeologists, but it also means that common people associate antiquities with their government oppressors.  The results have been sadly predictable in all three countries, what with wanton destruction of archaeological artifacts during times of strife.

And yet, rather than facing this basic truth, the media and government decision-makers uncritically accept the received wisdom from archaeologists with an axe to grind against collectors and self-interested foreign cultural bureaucrats that the real culprits are foreign collectors and shadowy antiquities dealers.  No, the real problem is the state ownership model they support, particularly when this approach awards absolute control to violent and venal governments at war with their own people.


Unknown said...

Aside from the fact that your argument seems to make no sense - I would like to point out several inncorrect facts in your post (and these are just the basic ones)
1) It is called the Mallawi National Museum - There is not Minya Museum

2) I believe the party you are attempting to refer to in the first class was the Muslim Brotherhood - but I suppose for someone's carelessly put together blog post Islamic Brotherhood will suffice -- I can't imagine many of your readers are of the caliber to care

3) Monica Hanna is a "Dr." not a simply a "Ms." (thanks to google for that one -- Not hard to do to check your info, just for future reference)

4) Upon a simple google search (again, great tool to check sources if you're into that sort of thing) of The Antiquities Coalition, it is an actual organization -- curious where the "so-called" came from -- are you implying that they don't exist?

5) The military government (notice the lack of capitalization because it is not a proper name for the government) in Egypt is not "cousins" with the military regime in Syria -- again, any half assed attempt to qualify any of the information in this post would reveal that these two governments are from different sects of islam (shocking to you, I know).

Now, aside from the overall ridiculousness of your argument that the collectors in the US have the right to own the cultural property of an entire race of people. You can at least rest easy that the other jibberish in your article can at least attempt to be factually correct. I look forward to your corrections in this post, and to actual references in your future posts.

Cultural Property Observer said...

It seems like you are more concerned with nomenclature than substance. As for substance, Egyptian artifacts have been widely and legally collected here and abroad since the 19th c. at least. If you are going to make grandiose claims to the contrary, please support them. They were also for a long time legal to own and trade in Egypt itself. Part of the current problem is that as there is no legal trade, they are either illegally traded or devalued so much that they are just destroyed.

There is plenty elsewhere on this blog about the Antiquities Coalition-- so called because the name does not describe what they are really about.

As for the military regimes in Egypt, Syria and in Iraq in the Saddam era, each was born in the 1950's out of Arab Nationalism. They were all closely aligned until Egypt threw out Russian Military advisers in the early 70's. They nonetheless stayed on good terms until Saddam's Iraq invaded Kuwait. So, yes they are cousins.

I'll give you one about the Muslim Brotherhood and change this post accordingly.