NUBIAN GLORY: Images of ancient Sudan.
Religion is an African invention. All belief systems, for the sake of our souls, seek to facilitate a personal and collective conversation between humanity and the ultimate divinity. Spirituality is the means by which the phenomenon of naturalism and the spirit is embraced. Our belief and faith is the glue that we humans use to bond us to the divine spirit and one to another. Come with me on a photographic journey along the Nile River into the ancient land of Kush, looking at the evidence left behind, that speaks to the divine dreams of African Naturalism.
Question and Answers with Chester Higgins Jr.
Q: What got you interested in the topic of Nubian civilization? What evoked your passion for this subject?
CH: After photography, my passion is Egyptology. On my first visit to Egypt in 1973, I saw the ancient monuments of the pyramids, gigantic temples and exquisite tombs and marveled at their existence. I wondered about the technology it took to make them and why they were made. All travelers to Egypt come away from their encounters with these monuments to an ancient faith with curiosity. The study of Egyptology or any ancient civilization is an ongoing work in progress.
After working in Egypt for a couple of decades, I began to look farther South, up the Nile from whence it comes out of Ethiopia — looking at the ancient antiquity sites along its banks in Sudan and Ethiopia.
Q: What types of challenges have you encountered in your work to document these civilizations?
CH: These sites enjoy the protection of their national governments. In order to make dramatic exterior images at sunrise and sunset, usually outside the normal visiting hours, it is necessary to seek permission from the antiquity bureaucracies.
Q: How do you get permission to shoot photos in these areas of
CH: In order to secure permission, I have to make a proposal to the antiquity authorities detailing what sites I want to shoot, time of day or night, and giving my overall reason. Once accepted and approved, I pay the requisite fee for this access. Then I have to mount a shooting expedition consisting of a guide, sometimes a government minder, a driver and a four-wheel drive vehicle.
Getting permission can take time. You can do this alone. I have found that its best to employ a local facilitator who has the experience of working with antiquity departments to carry out these protracted negotiations. Often times this process can take weeks or more than a month. I’ve found that it is best to start the process for access to the sites long before you arrive.
Q: What is the environment like in Sudan?
CH: Working in the desert heat is usually most bearable during the months between November and March, so I plan my trips accordingly. In addition, since nighttime shots are important to me, I try to plan my work between full moons. For my nighttime work, a moonless sky is ideal.
Q: What are the synergies between the Schatten Gallery "Nubian
Dreams" exhibition of your photos and the nearby Carlos Museum "Lost
Kingdom" exhibition of Nubian artifacts?
CH: Seeing the many pieces in the Lost Kingdom exhibit enables me to witness and appreciate artifacts found underground, made from stone, glass and metal, by Nubians representing themselves and their beliefs. Seeing my photographs made in the Nubian Desert enables the viewer to gain visual context of the place through remnants left behind above ground.
Q: Is there anything in particular that you recommend visitors
consider and/or be open to when they visit the Schatten exhibition?
CH: To me, these images capture the imagination of the ancient people. Here we see the human mind focused on issues of divinity and the sacred life. We see religious metaphors; we see what these ancient people constructed to their faith, believing in a God greater than themselves, with unlimited powers including the power of life and death.