Exhibition unwraps drama of Tutankhamun’s discovery

Updated 12 September 2014
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Exhibition unwraps drama of Tutankhamun’s discovery

Egypt’s “boy king” Tutankhamun has gripped the imagination since his tomb was discovered in 1922, and a new exhibition tells the enthralling tale of how archaeologists unearthed and recorded the contents of his 3,000-year-old resting place.
“Discovering Tutankhamun,” at Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum until Nov. 2, takes visitors through the drama of how Howard Carter found a step leading down into the sand in the Valley of the Kings to the opening of the tomb and the painstaking unwrapping of the king’s mummified body.
Along the way, the exhibition places the discovery in the political context of Egypt’s struggle for independence, looks at the cultural impact that turned Tutankhamun into something of a Hollywood star and at the origins of the legend of “the pharoah’s curse.”
Unlike some previous Tutankhamun exhibitions, the Ashmolean show does not include masses of gold treasures — many of those items never leave Egypt.
At the core of “Discovering Tutankhamun” are photographs, drawings and other records from the university’s Griffith Institute, marking its 75th anniversary this year, of the thousands of artefacts jumbled in the tomb.
“Our initial thought was to mark the moment just by showing some examples from their most famous archive, the Carter archive,” said Paul Collins, who curated the exhibition with Liam McNamara. “But then we thought there were many other stories we could tell, and the great story is the process of surveying the tomb of Tutankhamun and its impact on the wider world and our understanding of Egypt.”
Tutankhamun died, of causes still disputed, in about 1322 B.C. at around 18, having reigned for nine years. He lived in turbulent times and many of the monuments he left behind were usurped by his successors. So why does he have such a hold on the imagination?
Collins thinks it is partly due to when the tomb was found. World War One was over, economies were picking up and international travel was growing. Mass media fought to cover the story and it was the heyday of Hollywood.
“King Tut” inspired fashion and furnishings, included in the exhibition, based on motifs from the tomb, novels, films and even a song called “Old King Tut was a wise old nut.”
“It’s the first time you get fashion and tourism coming together, and Tutankhamun becomes in a sense a Hollywood star,” Collins said.
For Egyptian nationalists, who won nominal independence from Britain in 1922, Tutankhamun became a symbol of national identity. Political disagreement over access to the tomb meant Carter had to stop work for a year.
The opening of the tomb also gave rise to tales of the “pharaoh’s curse” — a myth fed by the death in 1923 from blood poisoning, after he cut himself shaving, of Lord Carnarvon, who had bankrolled the work.
For all the focus on Tutankhamun, areas of his life and death remain a mystery. Much work remains for scholars. Collins said that only 30 percent of the contents of the tomb had been studied in detail.


Women bring light to remote villages on islands of Zanzibar

In this undated photo provided by XPRIZE, a child in a village in the Tanga region of Tanzania learns to read from a tablet using open-sourced software that would easily be downloaded by illiterate children to teach themselves to read. (AP)
Updated 21 May 2019
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Women bring light to remote villages on islands of Zanzibar

  • Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016

KINYASINI, Tanzania: A s a single mother, Salama Husein Hajja was low in the pecking order in her village in Tanzania and struggling to eke out a living for her family as a farmer.
But now she hopes to gain status and a stable income after being trained as a community solar engineer for a project bringing light to scores of rural villages where no homes are connected to electricity on the islands of Zanzibar.
Grandmothers and single mothers — many of whom have never learned to read or write — are among those being trained under the program which they say could transform lives in their poor fishing and farming communities.
“We struggle a lot to get lighting,” said Hajja, 36, a vegetable farmer and mother of three children from a village on Unguja, the largest and most populated island in the Zanzibar archipelago.
“When you don’t have electricity, you can’t do many things like teaching children. It forces you to use a lamp. The smoke is harmful, the eyes and the chest are affected.
“When the electricity is there, it’s better.”
Life is challenging for women in Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania made up of numerous islands where half the population lives below the poverty line.
Women are almost twice as likely as men to have no education, and are less likely to own a land or have access to a bank account, according to a Tanzania-wide government survey in 2016.
Many poorer and rural families also lack access to electricity, compounding the challenges they face.
The island region’s entire energy grid depends on an underground cable connecting it to the mainland which was damaged in 2009, plunging it into darkness for three months.
Furthermore, only about half of houses in Zanzibar are connected to mains power, with many of the remainder forced to rely on polluting fuel lamps for light.

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“We only use a lamp inside,” said Aisha Ali Khatib, a mother of nine, training as a solar engineer alongside Hajja at the Barefoot College in Kinyasini village on Unguja.
“The lamp uses paraffin ... Buying one spoon of paraffin is 200 shillings ($0.09) but I can go for two days without making 200 shillings.”
Solar power offers solutions to connect rural villages with little prospect of getting mains power and increase resilience and sustainability.
Millions of people across sub-Saharan Africa are getting access to electricity through off-grid renewables, the International Energy Agency said last year, which forecasted strong demand to boost growth in the sector up to 2022.
The solar training scheme offered by Barefoot College, a social enterprise that began in India and is now working in East Africa, also focuses specifically on training women.
The project was designed to address the fact that women are much less able to leave their villages due to poverty and family links while also empowering women in Tanzania’s male-dominated society by offering them decently paid work.
Communities in participating villages are asked to nominate two women aged between 35 and 55 to leave their families and travel to the college to train as engineers.
Many of those chosen lack formal education, but they are recognized as people who can command authority and who are deeply embedded in the life of their villages.
“When you educate a woman, you educate a whole community,” said Fatima Juma Hajji, a solar engineer trainer at Barefoot college in Zanzibar.
“When you educate a man, he will not stay in the village, he will go away but when you educate a woman, she goes back to her village and helps improve.”
Women on the project spend five months living and training at the college, after which they return to their villages and set up solar lighting systems for their family and neighbors.
Households pay a few dollars a month for power – a cheaper option than buying paraffin or electricity from the grid.
Some of the money is used to pay the engineers a salary in return for maintaining the village’s equipment and funds raised can also be plowed back into community projects.
Women on the scheme said they had benefitted by gaining a stable income stream, and a new sense of independence and respect within their villages.
“We have been given a better life because after we leave here, we will be engineers and will go back to teach others,” said Hajja.
“When I go back I will have status. I will be knowledgeable and I will be proud.” ($1 = 2,300.0000 Tanzanian shillings) (Writing by Sonia Elks @soniaelks; Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change.