Ersin Hussein (Lecturer in Ancient History in the dept. of History, Heritage, and Classics) writes this week’s blog post about the 2021 Being Human Festival. Together with Ken Griffin and Hannah Sweetapple (The Egypt Centre’s Collections Access Manager and Education Officer respectively) she designed and led a day of activities on Saturday 13th November as part of this year’s festival. Being Human is unique as a festival of the humanities and is run by the School of Advanced Study, University of London, in partnership with the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the British Academy. This year events are taking place both in-person and online between 11th – 20th November. For information about the full programme, please visit the Being Human website: www.beinghumanfestival.org. The festival can be found @BeingHumanFest on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook and the hashtag is #BeingHuman2021.
‘Renewal’ is the theme of this year’s Being Human festival and the lotus flower, one of the most enduring symbols from ancient Egypt associated with rebirth and new beginnings, was the inspiration for the two workshops that I hosted with Ken Griffin and Hannah Sweetapple at the Egypt Centre. Our aim was to bring people together in a relaxing space to connect, to reflect, and to look forward in a positive way. With the reopening of the Egypt Centre in September and the start of the new academic year that saw the return to of students to campus, it seemed like more than an appropriate way to mark the moment and look forward to new beginnings after a challenging 18 months.
On Saturday 13th November, we ran two workshops to do this. The morning event was for families and colouring in pictures of lotus flowers and making lotus flower origami were the main activities. The afternoon one included wreath making using a vibrant array of artificial flowers, foliage, and accessories. Hannah and I led the arts and crafts activities throughout the day. Origami flower making proved incredibly fiddly but was rewarding…the results were not too bad either!
Designing and creating wreaths was equally fun and gently inspired conversation about the past year, connecting with others through learning and crafting activities, and discussion of future plans. The range of materials available for attendees to choose from allowed purposefully represented the four seasons of the year to coincide with the festival’s focus on renewal. If the pictures of the complete wreaths are anything to go by, it seems that Christmas was the most popular theme of the day!
Ken oversaw object handling sessions that accompanied both workshops. Artefacts that featured lotus flowers were showcased and it was notable how prominently they featured in Egyptian material culture in a wide range of contexts, such as faience beads and vessels, a wooden lotus flower, a cornice from a coffin, fragments of wall plaster, and painted plaster from a tomb relief. To learn more about the lotus flower and take a closer look at some of the objects housed by the Egypt Centre, visit the following trail that was created for the event New Beginnings: The Hope of the Lotus Flower: https://egyptcentre.abasetcollections.com/Trails/Details/27?trail=Lotus_Flower
All in all, it was a wonderful day of getting creative and learning something new, be it about the ancient world or learning how to craft! More than that, we thoroughly enjoyed getting together with well-known friends and making new connections too.
Another event that focuses on the ancient world features in this year’s Swansea programme for the festival. On 17th November, Ian Goh will lead an online cook-along entitled ‘A Pretty Pickle: A Roman’s Country Recipes for Preserves’. To find out more and register (there is still time!) click here: https://www.swansea.ac.uk/cultural-institute/events/being-human-2021/#bbq=on