Literature, Archaeology, Gender

During that evening, back in Khartoum, Husna offered us two books.

The first one we decided to read contained three short stories by Tayeb Salih: The doum tree of Wad Hamid, A handful of dates, and The wedding of Zein.

A local community seen from within is one of the innumerable points that can be granted to Salih’s insurpassable mastery of narration.
A local community seen from without and from a future standpoint is what we try to master in our archaeological narrations.
So, is there a complementary relation between literature and archaeology?

Some years earlier with Ustaza Ema in Khartoum we were reading and translating between Greek, Arabic, and English the introduction of Sid Ahmed Ali Bilal for his translation of “Askitiki” (Ascesis: The saviours of God) of the Greek author Nikos Kazantzakis.
This is a book of discovering paths to the inner self; is this not a personal archaeology!?!

And if we chose the archaeology of a person?
Can the interaction with the local women offer points meaningful for our past?

The lifecycles of women encompass several social roles in the family that have often been invisible in the archaeological record or ignored by the archaeologists.

The relationship between daughter and mother is usually very strong. It is often the mother who teaches the daughter how to manage her tasks and duties – performing the house cores, working in the fields, looking after the animals, caring for family and neighbours, and so on. And the daughter helps her mother from an early age. One of the main activities of young girls is to look after their siblings, so the role of being a sister is also important.

As the girl grows up she will turn into a woman, and womanhood is more often than not connected to being married and starting a new core family as a wife and mother.

The circle has returned to its beginning, but let us not forget the grandmother – the “matriarch” of the family – who through her experience and memory remains always the most traditional story teller.

The family is at the end of the story the heart of all human communities, and this is especially true in the case of Sudan, as we get to know it either in reality or through literature…

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