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Explore Ancient Nubian Art At The St. Louis Art Museum

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Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
The new exhibit at the St. Louis Art Museum features travertine sculptures from the Napatan Period (about 700-300 B.C.).

The St. Louis Art Museum’s newest exhibition offers new ways of understanding Nubia’s history and contemporary relevance.

“Nubia: Treasures of Ancient Africa” comes to St. Louis from the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which mounted a slightly bigger version of the exhibition in 2019 and 2020. The museum’s collection includes ancient African jewelry, pottery, sculptures and metalwork that span numerous contemporary national borders and 2,000 years of history (between 1800 B.C. to the middle part of the fourth century).

As curator Denise Doxey described it Monday on St. Louis on the Air, the Nubia region encompassed what is today the land from the southernmost part of Egypt to the northern part of Sudan. Doxey is the curator of Ancient Egyptian, Nubian and Near Eastern Art at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

“They were doing fabulous pottery — some of the finest pottery you’ll ever see, as well as jewelry,” she said. “They made exquisite jewelry throughout their history.”

The exhibit also features stone vessels, decorative art items and funerary figurines referred to as “ushabtis.” Ushabtis were also used in ancient Egyptian funerary practices.

Doxey said that much of the collection will look familiar to fans of ancient Egpytian art.

“Because Egypt had previously been in control of most of Nubia — and then Nubia conquered Egypt — there was a great deal of entanglement, interconnection, shared ideas and intermarriage. The Napatan art, particularly early Napatan art, in many cases looks a lot like Egyptian art,” she said. “People have trouble telling them apart. … But there are also objects that are completely, nothing like you would see in Egypt.”

Related Event
What: Nubia: Treasures of Ancient Africa
When: April 18-Aug. 22
Where: One Fine Arts Drive, Forest Park, St. Louis 63110

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Emily is the senior producer for "St. Louis on the Air" at St. Louis Public Radio.

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