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Nubian kohl story


Right before the building of the Aswan High Dam in the 1960’s, large parts of the Nubian population were relocated. This was done because their houses and villages would eventually be permanently flooded by the waters of the Nile after the dam was closed. With this massive displacement of the Nubian population also came the logical trend to get rid of all things you do not need anymore when you move. So, in the
process of this so-called modernization, many Nubians sold their original – and often traditional – belongings.


One category of objects that was abandoned en mass were traditionally produced kohl containers. Some of which are presented on this page. Most of them are made of leather pillows with beadwork decoration and cowry shell amulets. Inside the leather pillow, a glass bottle is sewn as a receptor compartment for the kohl. they also tell a powerful story of a people that has been displaced and as a result of this, discarded much of their cultural heritage. But the Nubians have over the years also restored their value again. At present these heritage objects are placed in museums in Egypt again as highly valued objects, telling the story of Nubian history. To me it is an example of how objects loose value, how they get discarded and may attain different or new values over the years. So nowadays, when you visit the Nubian Museum in Aswan, you will find kohl containers there as prized objects of Nubian tradition, where they were discarded not more than a few decennia before.

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