Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British

Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British
The Charge of the 21st Lancers at Omdurman, by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 20 June 2022

Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British

Sudan seeks return of treasures looted by British
  • Items including human skulls, armor among collections of numerous UK institutions
  • A banner taken from the battlefield at Omdurman, currently at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, is among the items Sudan wants returned

LONDON: Sudan is seeking the return of numerous historical items from the UK, including antiques, artefacts, and human remains, taken during the colonial period after the British Empire invaded the region in 1898.

The list includes two skulls belonging to Sudanese soldiers taken from the battlefield at Omdurman that year, as part of a wider pattern of trophy-hunting and looting by British soldiers, which was seen as revenge for the death of Maj. Gen. Charles Gordon at the siege of Khartoum in 1885.

The skulls were passed to the Edinburgh Anatomical Museum by the businessman Henry Wellcome, where they joined a collection of human remains from throughout Africa used to promote racist scientific theories popular in 19th-century Europe and North America.

Authorities in Khartoum are keen for the remains of the two Sudanese soldiers to be returned.

Dr. Eglal El-Malik, director of conservation at the National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums, said: “We have to have a big campaign. These people are our brothers, our heroes. They unified and defended our country. It is a very special story of resistance to imperialism. Their descendants should see this all here.”

A banner taken from Omdurman, currently at Durham University’s Palace Green Library, and a suit of armor held at the Royal Armories collection, are also among the items Sudan wants returned, with the aim of displaying them at a specialist museum in Omdurman, recently restored with money from the British Council dedicated to the battle and the legacy of British colonial rule, which ended in 1956.

Ahmed Mohammed, a curator at the museum, told The Guardian: “I want to show the real detail of the battle of Omdurman, and I cannot do that without all the items. It is very important for the Sudanese people to know.”

Some items have already been repatriated, including a robe worn by a Sudanese warrior returned by a British family whose ancestor took it from the battlefield.

Despite this, many practical challenges remain, including legal and security issues.

“There are lots of Sudanese (people) who want these items back now (but) they need to be aware of the legal issues. The reality is we have so many difficulties (in Sudan). It would be great if we had all these things back now but (they are) in a good situation where it is and so many people see it. So, we have to be reasonable,” El-Malik added.

Not all Sudanese experts even agree that the country’s treasures should be returned yet, given that the nation has been ravaged by war for decades, hampering its ability to recover and safeguard its looted heritage.

As well as British investment in the museum at Omdurman, the country’s National Museum in Khartoum is being refurbished with a $1 million donation from the Italian government.

Ghalia Gharelnabi, acting director of the National Museum, said: “The situation here is not suitable. For the moment they (the items) should stay where they are, but of course eventually we would like to have them in our museum.”

El-Malik noted that academics and officials at UK institutions holding Sudanese items had been “very helpful on the whole” about the issue of repatriation.

A spokesperson for Durham University said: “We work closely with the National Corporation of Antiquities and Museums in Sudan, including currently on loan requests for several items from the Sudan Archive to be displayed in Sudan. They and we recognize this is not without difficulties.”

Prof. Tom Gillingwater, of the Edinburgh Anatomical Museum, said his institution had not received a formal request for the return of the Sudanese skulls.

“Anatomical remains are now utilized for research into the history of genetics, diets, and the movement of people. We take our colonial legacy, and its contemporary impact, very seriously, and are continuing to examine ways to address these important issues,” he added.

Britain’s vast number of historical artefacts taken from overseas during the age of its empire has been a source of controversy for some time, including other items from Sudan dating back to the ancient Roman and Egyptian eras.

Other European countries have also grappled with the issue: In 2021 Germany became the first country to return famous statues looted from West Africa in the 19th century known as the Benin bronzes — a number of which still reside in the British Museum.


Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards
Updated 01 October 2022

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

Amal, George Clooney host inaugural Albie Awards

DUBAI: Lebanese human rights lawyer Amal Clooney and her actor husband George Clooney this week hosted the first-ever Albie Awards, an event created by the celebrity couple to honor individuals who, at great personal risk, have devoted their lives to justice.

The awards ceremony, which took place in New York City, is named after South African lawyer, activist, writer and former judge Justice Albie Sachs, who spent much of his life “defending people charged under racist statutes and repressive security laws.”

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo. (AFP)

Amal was spotted on the red carpet wearing a silver and gold beaded Atelier Versace column gown and strappy silver Aquazzura sandals, while George wore a black tuxedo.

The event was attended by A-list celebrities including Oscar Isaac, Dua Lipa, John Oliver, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Ethan Hawke and Meryl Streep.


Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
Updated 30 September 2022

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win

Dance group Mayyas to perform in Beirut after ‘America’s Got Talent’ win
  • Crew ecstatic over ‘dream’ prize, says choreographer Nadim Cherfan
  • Artists will showcase their gifts at the US embassy this weekend

DUBAI: Lebanese dance crew Mayyas are set to perform for the first time since winning “America’s Got Talent” at the US embassy in Beirut this weekend.

The embassy will also host a virtual meet-the-artist session which will be released on Oct. 1 on YouTube.

“I am very happy that Mayyas will do a collaboration with the US embassy,” the crew’s choreographer Nadim Cherfan said in a video shared on the embassy’s Twitter page.

Earlier this month, the group took home the $1 million grand prize after winning the show.

“We can’t believe what’s happening,” group member Marcel Assal told Arab News after the show. “We can’t believe what we’ve achieved — giving so much energy, leaving our work and education, dedicating our time to training every day to be here to represent our country, and this is what we were looking for.

“We were very stressed out by the fact that we had to (prepare the dance) in two to three days, but when we went up on stage and heard the cheers, the audience gave us a push and an adrenaline rush that wasn’t there and we did it,” added Assal.

Cherfan said: “This win gave me an opportunity to dream again. When you have a dream and you achieve it, you start to look for another dream. So I’m very happy that there is something to look forward to now — something to dream of, something to fight for.”


UK expedition tracing steps of Philby hopes to inspire next generation to explore Saudi Arabia’s beauty

UK expedition tracing steps of Philby hopes to inspire next generation to explore Saudi Arabia’s beauty
Updated 30 September 2022

UK expedition tracing steps of Philby hopes to inspire next generation to explore Saudi Arabia’s beauty

UK expedition tracing steps of Philby hopes to inspire next generation to explore Saudi Arabia’s beauty
  • Granddaughter Reem Philby part of homage to Ibn Saud and explorer
  • Pact with KAUST to collect data on culture, desert life, biodiversity

LONDON: A small team of UK explorers have launched an expedition to retrace the 1,300-kilometer 1917 journey of British explorer and scholar, Harry St. John Philby, across Saudi Arabia, in the hope of impacting future generations.

The Heart of Arabia expedition, named after Philby’s book about his journey, was launched on Tuesday at the Royal Geographical Society in London, which was held under the patronage of Britain’s Princess Anne, and with the attendance of Saudi ambassador to the UK Prince Khalid bin Bandar.

Speaking at her first public engagement since the death of her mother Queen Elizabeth II, she said: “The scope for finding more in this expedition is just enormous to add to that level of knowledge, and I think we all have something we can really look forward to, and possibly something that we will envy about those taking part in this expedition, which allows them to be part of that learning exercise.”

The planned 1,300-km Heart of Arabia coast-to-coast trek across the peninsula was launched by Anne, Princess Royal of the UK, in her first public engagement since the death of her mother, Queen Elizabeth II. (AN Photo)

Omani-based British explorer Mark Evans MBE, leader of the expedition, said the team, who will be making the journey on foot, and with camels and four-wheel drives, consists of four people. The other members are Swiss photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache, regional expert Alan Morrissey, and Philby’s granddaughter, explorer Reem Philby.

“When Philby reached Riyadh in 1917, he met Abdulaziz ibn Saud and the two of them became almost lifetime companions (and) he and Ibn Saud spent hour on hour, day after day talking, and then he continued to Jeddah, so we will follow the same structure,” Evans told Arab News.

The first leg begins on Nov. 15 in Al-Uqair in the Eastern Province and will pass through Al-Ahsa Oasis, Al-Hadida/Rub Al-Khali, Hofuf, Ramlat Dahna, Abu Jifan and stop in the capital, Riyadh, on Nov. 30, where they will take a short break. The second leg will begin on Jan. 15 with a visit by Princess Anne to the Kingdom, where she will see the team off as they continue to Dhurma, Halban, Qahqa, Taif, Darb Zubaydah, and conclude in the western city of Jeddah on Jan. 30.

The Heart of Arabia journey will set off in November, a century after Philby’s crossing, and is led by veteran British explorer Mark Evans (C). (AN Photo)

“The journeys are incomparable really, because in Philby’s day, no one knew where he was, he had no way of communicating other than by sending back messages via camels, whereas we will have satellite technology, social media, we’ll be doing live Instagram posts from the middle of the biggest desert on Earth, so life is so much easier today,” he said.

Evans added that some of the challenges of the past would not be an issue this time, with regards to finding water and food, but he said the biggest potential weak link may be the camels. They have to choose the right ones and “toughen them up” before the start.

“Camels have gone soft today like human beings, we have Deliveroo, camels have their Bedouin handlers who bring the food to them rather than having to wander to find the grass or water ... so camels are not working animals anymore,” he explained, whereas when Philby did his journey, camels would walk over 50 kilometers a day carrying heavy loads.

 

 

The aim of the expedition also differs from Philby’s due to its nature. He was sent for political reasons by British writer, traveler, political officer, administrator, and archaeologist Gertrude Bell from Baghdad to meet the future king in 1917 to stop the Ottomans smuggling guns across the central deserts of Arabia. However, their mission now is to “celebrate an extraordinary man and an extraordinary country,” while also collecting cultural, geographical, and scientific data.

“There’ll be young people joining us in all stages of the journey, so we want to inspire the next generation of Philbys to go out there and look and record and just add to our understanding of Arabia,” said Evans, who also heads the NGO Outward Bound Oman.

Reem, who has trekked across the Kingdom, as well as in Peru and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, said the expedition was “completely down her alley” and it was “truly overwhelming” to trace the steps he walked over 100 years ago.

The expedition will honor the undertaking and achievement of adventurer, Arabist and intelligence officer Harry St. John Philby, who traveled from Al-Uqair to Jeddah, on a mission in support of Ibn Saud. (Heart of Arabia)

“Having that impact on the young generation is truly important, in my opinion. I am a strong believer of the importance of taking kids to the outdoors and having them experience being uncomfortable, step out of their comfort zones and their homes and their usual environments,” said the 42-year-old mother of two. “I know that it will shape truly humbled (and) strong adults in the future.”

Pavalache, who has been a mountain leader in the Swiss Alps, said it is important to tell the story of an incredible man, who brought enormous information to mapping the region. She thinks “it might be a challenge to get immersed in what he was doing, because today, Saudi Arabia is very modernized and to find that balance” between the past and present.

“We would have a couple of places where we will try to get the same images, but I think it is important for us to see how the environment changed today, and also the people who live in the desert and the community, and after we have three parts of research that we will follow within this context,” she said.

The team, which will travel by foot and on camels, includes Swiss photographer Ana-Maria Pavalache (C), regional expert Alan Morrissey and Philby’s Saudi granddaughter, Reem. (AN Photo)

The data and observations generated by the team, in collaboration with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, will support scientific specialists to advance human performance in extreme environments, understanding of pre-Islamic history, and insights into local biodiversity, specifically bats. There are around 30 species in the Kingdom with very little known on the populations, distribution and ecology.

UK ambassador to Saudi Arabia Neil Crompton said Philby was an important figure in the history of relations between Great Britain and the Kingdom, which was known as Arabia when he set out on his expedition, and where he lived most of his life and was an important adviser to Ibn Saud on many matters.

“It’s a chance to learn about his life and the role that he played in the development of relations between the two countries and in Saudi Arabia,” he said, lauding the “immensely strong” ties that exist between the two kingdoms.

“Saudi Arabia is opening up its tourism sector (and) Britons from many different walks of life are coming in, and it’s great to see the explorers came 100 years ago, but now they’re coming back, and so hopefully, we’ll see more of these sorts of things,” Crompton said. “I think that people-to-people links are ultimately the foundation of the relationship.”

He added: “I think the chance to see an expedition crossing the desert in this way will be very interesting to many people in Britain, and I hope encourage more people to visit the Kingdom in the way that so many Saudis come to the UK.”

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Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood
Updated 01 October 2022

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai questions lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood

DUBAI: Pakistani activist and Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai addressed the lack of Muslim representation in Hollywood films during Variety’s recent Power of Women event in the US.

Yousafzai, who was honored at the event, said: “I’ve been doing activism for more than a decade now, and I’ve realized that we shouldn’t limit activism to the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations) only: There’s also the element of changing people’s minds and perspectives — and that requires a bit more work.”

The 25-year-old, in her new role as a content producer, pointed out that despite Muslims making up 25 percent of the population, there was “only 1 percent of characters in popular TV series.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Malala (@malala)

Addressing A-list guests including American politician Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea, US actress Elizabeth Olsen, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, and the American former actress, and wife of British Prince Harry, Meghan Markle, she added: “You’re often told in Hollywood, implicitly or explicitly, that the characters are too young, too brown, or too Muslim, or that if one show about a person of color is made, then that’s it — you don’t need to make another one. That needs to change.

“I’m a woman, a Muslim, a Pashtun, a Pakistani, and a person of color. And I watched ‘Succession,’ ‘Ted Lasso,’ and ‘Severance,’ where the leads are white people — and especially a lot of white men.

“If we can watch those shows, then I think audiences should be able to watch shows that are made by people of color, and produced and directed by people of color, with people of color in the lead. That is possible, and I’m going to make it happen,” Yousafzai said.


Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December

Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December
Updated 30 September 2022

Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December

Rapper Post Malone to perform in the UAE in December

DUBAI: Nine-time Grammy Award nominee Post Malone is set to perform on Dec. 3 at Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Park in celebration of the UAE’s National Day.

The rapper, who sold 95 million singles and 13 million albums in the US alone, is expected to sing a selection of hits from his catalogue, including “Rockstar,” “Psycho,” “Sunflower” and “Better Now,” as well as new tracks from his latest album “Twelve Carat Toothache.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by @postmalone

“I’m excited to be returning to Abu Dhabi and performing for the incredible audience there again,” said Malone, whose real name is Austin Richard Post, in a released statement. “The crowd for my last show there were electric and I can’t wait to take to the stage and perform for my fans in the Middle East. Together, we’re going to enjoy a fantastic weekend.”

The 27-year-old singing sensation performed in Abu Dhabi in 2018 for the Formula 1 Yasalam After-Race concerts.

Malone, who is the eighth best-selling digital artist of all time, rose to fame for his unique blend of hip hop, pop, R&B and trap genres and subgenres.