Displacement – Narrating Nubia: The Social Lives of Heritage


Displacement of the Nubians

The following is an abridged report written by one of the collaborators for Earth Odysseys: Nubia, and a sample of guided student responses.

Yasmin’s Report

In 1965, Egyptian Nubians were displaced from their land and homes due to the building of the Aswan Dam. The dam would benefit Egypt by generating electricity, taming the destructive floods of the Nile and making it more predictable. With all this in mind, I understand why the dam was important and why it had to be built. However, this does not make the pain and loss felt by the Nubians any less important. Nubians didn’t have a choice about staying in their homeland or what the move would look like: instead the government decided this with little input from the community.  The Egyptian Nubians lost everything and most importantly they lost their ancestral homeland. Their villages were submerged in the waters of Lake Nasser. They didn’t just lose homes, farms, and palm trees, but they also lost everything that mattered to them as a place. They lost things that were intangible. With the building of the dam, old Nubia was lost and Nubians were changed forever. Yet, from this pain comes a lot of possibility!

Student Responses and Mentor Feedback

I think that the government did the wrong thing because they forced them to move.I would of felt really sad if that happened to me. I have never been forced to get out of my home.  But I think i would know how it felt. Because i had to move out of my homeland when the war was happing. And some of my family members died there. So it was very sad that i had to move out of my home land.

What I think Yasmin means by out of pain came possibilities, it that the people were hurt, but it gave them drive to learn more about their heritage, and teach other about it. I think it’s great that they want to learn more about it, that all that pain had some good aspects, but I still don’t think it was right to do what the government did.

I think Nubians being driven off their own homes for the benefit of others was unfair and makes me a mixture of enraged and melancholic. The government is inconsiderate, cruel, semi-selfish if a dam is worth more than several people’s homes. Homes hold extreme significance, especially to the owners as it holds memories, achievements, and provides shelter and comfort. Then having that special haven being destroyed I think would make the Nubians feel horrible and depressed. However with this great tragedy the sadness turned into determination as the Nubians demonstrated…

Farrah (Nubia Odyssey Codirector and Mentor)
Your point about the government being “inconsiderate, cruel, and semi-selfish” by building the dam on Nubian lands is well-taken. It was certainly an interesting time in Egyptian history. On the one hand, they were free from British colonial rule and trying to deal with decades of policies that harmed their society. Creating something like this to, theoretically, finally help Egyptians was probably a radical move and a popular one. But it also leads to the question: who was considered Egyptian (and who wasn’t)? Because clearly the Nubians were not included in the Egyptian government’s post-colonial revolution.

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