British Museum blog

Angareeb – a living Sudanese tradition

Shadia Abdu Rabo, Sudan National Museum

New beds stacked up in Omdurman market near Khartoum

New beds stacked up in Omdurman market near Khartoum

In November, clearing out a store in the expedition house at Amara West, we came across many fragments of traditional beds, or angareeb, made of wood, leather and rope. We have repaired some of these, to use in our lounge area, but also in some of the bedrooms.

Angareeb bed legs found in the storeroom of the expedition house at Amara West

Angareeb bed legs found in the storeroom of the expedition house at Amara West

These beds have a very long history in Sudan, going back to the ancient Kerma culture, where the dead were placed on low beds inside graves.

The Virgin Mary on a bed. Painted scene from Faras, Sudan National Museum

The Virgin Mary on a bed. Painted scene from Faras, Sudan National Museum

In the cemetery at Amara West, despite the actions of both robbers and termites, there is clear evidence that some of the burials featured similar beds. In some tombs, there is evidence for both beds of this type and Egyptian coffins, reflecting a mixture of different cultural traditions in the late second millennium BC.

But the form of the bed survived through historical, political and religious changes.

In a fifth century AD painting in the church at Faras, now in the Sudan National Museum, the Virgin Mary is shown upon a bed, while in the late nineteenth century, the wife of the ruling Mahdi owned a lavish example of an angareeb.

An angareeb decked out for a wedding

An angareeb decked out for a wedding

The beds follow people from birth to death: childbirth often takes place on such angareeb; circumcision rituals are performed; beds are used in Koranic khalwa-school, are adorned for wedding ceremonies, and are a feature of funeral processions.

Craftsman cutting legs for a new angareeb, in Omdurman market near Khartoum

Craftsman cutting legs for a new angareeb, in Omdurman market near Khartoum

The shape has not changed radically, and today one can visit craftsmen in the market to see the beams of acacia, mahogany or date palm being cut and joined (now with wire and metal nails), before the bed is strung – often with nylon string not rope.

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The next gallery in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series is Room 67: Korea. The Korea Foundation Gallery is currently closed for refurbishment and will reopen on 16 December 2014. You can find out more about the refurb at koreabritishmuseum.tumblr.com  The unique culture of Korea combines a strong sense of national identity with influences from other parts of the Far East. Korean religion, language, geography and everyday life were directly affected by the country’s geographic position, resulting in a rich mix of art and artefacts.
Objects on display in Room 67 date from prehistory to the present day and include ceramics, metalwork, sculpture, painting, screen-printed books and illuminated manuscripts.
A reconstruction of a traditional sarangbang, or scholar’s study, is also on display and was built by contemporary Korean craftsmen. This is Room 66, Ethiopia and Coptic Egypt. It's the next gallery space in our #MuseumOfTheFuture series.
By the 4th century AD, Christianity was flourishing in both Egypt and Ethiopia. Christian Egyptians became known as the Copts (from the Greek name for Egyptians) and the church maintained strong links with its Ethiopian counterparts. Since antiquity, Ethiopia had been a major trade route, linking Egypt and the Mediterranean with India and the Far East.
The resulting history of cultural exchange and religious diversity is illustrated through objects in Room 66, which reflect the faiths and identities which coexisted in Egypt and Ethiopia. Objects from towns, monasteries and settlements range from decorated textiles and architectural elements to sculpture and ceramics. It's time for our next #MuseumOfTheFuture gallery. This is Room 65, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Sudan, Egypt and Nubia. Ancient Nubia, the Nile Valley upstream of the First Cataract, now straddles the border between Egypt and Sudan. Rich and vibrant cultures developed in this region at the same time as Pharaonic Egypt. Among them was the earliest sub-Saharan urban culture in Africa, which was based at Kerma.
These cultures traded extensively with Egypt and for two brief periods Nubian kingdoms dominated their northern neighbour.
The objects on display in Room 65 illustrate these indigenous pagan, Christian and Islamic cultures and the interaction between Nubia and Egypt. This is our next gallery space in the #MuseumOfTheFuture series. It's Room 64, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery of Early Egypt. Rapid advances in the technology and social organisation of Egypt during the 5th millennium BC produced a material culture of increasing sophistication. Further innovations followed in about 3100 BC when the separate Predynastic peoples of Upper and Lower Egypt were united under a single ruler. The resulting increase in wealth and strong central control led to dramatic achievements in architecture, writing and fine goods, culminating in the building of the Great Pyramids of Giza in around 2600 BC.
Objects on display in Room 64 illustrate the cultural, technological and political development of early civilisation in Egypt throughout this period. In this picture you can see Gebelein Man, a mummy who was naturally preserved in the desert sands, and who used to have the unofficial nickname of Ginger (although the Museum doesn't use this name). In the background you can see an interactive virtual autopsy of the mummy which was installed in the newly refurbished gallery last year. It's Toulouse-Lautrec's 150th birthday! Here's his poster for a Parisian cabaret 
#history #art #artist #Paris Although this gilded cartonnage mask of a mummy conveys vitality and alertness, the features are more bland and idealised than those of other masks. The eyes, ears, nose, mouth and chin are highly stylised and not fully integrated into the face. The collar, the wig and the necklace with an ankh (‘life’) pendant, are attributes showing that the deceased has entered the afterlife and been assimilated with the gods. A winged scarab beetle on the top and images of gods on the back also emphasise the funerary character of the mask.

The use of gold was connected to the belief that the sun god Re, with whom the mummy hoped to be united, had flesh of pure gold. The back of the wig is decorated in many colours, with a row of deities, a ba and falcon with outstretched wings and seven short columns of near-unintelligible hieroglyphs.

See this cartonnage mask in our exhibition #8mummies – now extended until 19 April 2015.
#MummyMonday #mummies
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