The University of Chicago News Office
Nov. 13, 2002 Press Contact: William Harms
(773) 702-8356

High school students give ancient Egypt a Hip-Hop perspective at the Oriental Institute

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photos by Wendy Ennes

Additional Contact:
Wendy Ennes
Oriental Institute Education Office


High school students from Kenwood Academy have given their own take on the culture of ancient Egypt in murals that will be displayed officially for the first time Monday, November 18 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. during an opening at the University of Chicago’s Oriental Institute, 1155 E. 58th St.

The murals were painted by students involved in an after school program called the University of Hip-Hop. Earlier this year, the students learned about the environment, history, geography, language and art of ancient Egypt in ten sessions led by staff, faculty, and graduate students at the Oriental Institute.

The students then created a series of colorful murals exploring ancient Egyptian motifs from a contemporary urban perspective. Ancient Egypt was selected as the theme due to the richness of its artistic tradition, and its fame as the oldest civilization in Africa.

The results of the collaboration are a forty-eight-foot-long mural of the Nile Valley dominated by the pharaoh done in hip-hop style, and four smaller portable murals that feature hieroglyphs and other Egyptian motifs. The murals, along with photographs of the student artists at work creating the mural, will be exhibited at the Oriental Institute through March 2, 2003.

The University of Hip-Hop (Healthy Independent People Helping Other People) is a Chicago Public Schools-sponsored group, organized by the Southwest Youth Collaborative, that explores modern urban culture, especially arts, music, and their fusion. It offers citywide after-school programs involving artists and students who work on rapping, break-dancing, emceeing, deejaying, and graffiti art.

The murals are the students’ interpretive expression of what they learned in the Oriental Institute workshops.

“We were delighted by our collaboration with the after-school program,” said Karen Wilson, Director of the Oriental Institute Museum. “Their interpretation of Egyptian images respected the ancient heritage, but also provided us all a fresh perspective on the culture.”

The program was coordinated by Wendy Ennes, Teacher Services and Family Program Coordinator at the Oriental Institute, and Lavie Raven, Kenwood Academy social studies teacher and Minister of Education of the University of Hip-Hop.

Ennes said, “It was exciting to see the students taking what they learned at the Oriental Institute and developing their own contemporary interpretation of ancient Egyptian culture. We had no idea what the result would be, nor how well hip-hop culture could mesh with ancient Egypt.”

After the presentation at the Oriental Institute, the forty-eight-foot mural will be mounted on the exterior of Kenwood Academy. The smaller, portable murals will be exhibited in neighborhood elementary schools during the academic year.

The collaboration of the Kenwood Academy chapter of the University of Hip-Hop and the University of Chicago was funded by the generous support of the Regent’s Park/University of Chicago Fine Arts Partnership.

The Oriental Institute is one of the world’s premier research centers devoted to the study of the languages, history and culture of the ancient Near East.
Last modified at 01:55 PM CST on Friday, September 12, 2003.

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