About the reactions to the 'Kemet' exhibition 

There has been commotion in the (social) media about the exhibition Kemet. Egypt in hip-hop, jazz, soul & funk. In response, we provide additional explanations below about the content, background and aims of the exhibition.

The museum has worked long and carefully on this exhibition with many external advisers, and fully endorses its content. The museum welcomes respectful dialogue on the cultural heritage of Egypt and Nubia. However, the museum also receives comments via social media that are racist or offensive in nature. These are not tolerated by the museum as the museum is emphatically against any form of racism and discrimination. Comments on the museum’s social media that are offensive or racist will be removed. Finally, we cordially invite everyone to visit the exhibition and form their own opinions.

Background to the ‘Kemet’ exhibition at the Leiden National Museum of Antiquities

The aim of this exhibition is twofold:

1) to show and understand the depiction of ancient Egypt and the messages in music by black artists, and 2) to show what scientific, Egyptological research can tell us about ancient Egypt and Nubia.

1) Kemet. Egypt in hip-hop, jazz, soul & funk explores music by black artists whose work refers to ancient Egypt and Nubia: music videos, record album covers, photographs and contemporary artworks. This music often reflects on experiences of black people in the West and tells stories about the African diaspora and pre-colonial Africa, including ancient Egypt as part of the African continent. The exhibition explains why ancient Egypt is important to these artists and musicians and from which cultural and intellectual movements the music emerged. Their artistic tradition in connection with ancient Egypt has not been studied before as thoroughly. The music offers relevant perspectives on how ancient Egypt has traditionally been depicted and studied in the West.

Reactions on social media show that misconceptions arise when the content of the exhibition is taken out of context, for example about the sculpture of musician Nas. The exhibition explains that this is not a replica of Tutankhamun’s mask but a contemporary artwork made in 2019 by an artist based on the cover of a 1999 record album by the musician.

2) Kemet. Egypt in hip-hop, jazz, soul & funk showcases ancient Egyptian and Nubian objects to illustrate what archaeological and Egyptological research tells us about ancient Egyptian and Nubian cultures. Through the objects, elements in the music are interpreted, illustrated and sometimes contrasted. Current public and academic discussions are discussed, for example on the skin colours of the ancient Egyptians. The exhibition discusses how ancient Egypt has been studied from Eurocentric and Afrocentric perspectives. Afrocentrism looks at history and society from a pan-African point of view and the perspective of black African diaspora communities. You can sometimes see and hear this in the music in the exhibition. The music, for instance, reveals biases in historiography and counters anti-black racism. This is important to the museum.

Contemporary Egyptian perspectives on ancient Egypt are also important to the museum and are regularly featured in exhibitions and events at the museum. It is currently part of an art exhibition at the museum. In addition, the discussion on cultural appropriation and the meaning of ancient Egypt for contemporary Egyptians is a small part of the Kemet exhibition.

  • You can read more about the exhibition on the exhibition page Kemet and anyone with questions can contact .