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FOUNDATIONAL AESTHETICS

View of “Ancient Nubia Now,” 2019–20, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

THE LATE SINGER and composer Hamza El Din (1929–2006) spent many decades touring America with his oud and tar (a kind of tambourine) to introduce American audiences to Nubian music. This indefatigable artist, born in the village of Toshka in Nubia, southern Egypt, had committed himself to preserving the musical heritage of his native land after he witnessed its horrific submersion under the waters of Lake Nasser in the late 1960s in the wake of the construction of the High Dam. The inundation swallowed many Nubian villages and permanently displaced their inhabitants. This draconian act of expropriation was not the first time that Nubia had been sacrificed for the benefit of other nations or international geopolitics. Indeed, the history of Nubia, with the exception of a few short centuries, is a chronicle of annexation, exploitation, and subordination.

Both in their own time and

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