Egypt’s Wearable Heritage

by Jolanda Bos

Jolanda Bos is an archaeologist who has been travelling to Egypt for over 25 years. From the 1990s onwards she has worked in different excavations in the Egyptian deserts. She brings her archaeologists eye to an accessable yet scholarly study of Egypts’ contemporary yet still traditional and artisanal culture.

This beautifully glossy book with its abundance of full page photographs and large textural close ups demonstrates both a visual and personal approach to an eclectic overview of items of adornment and everyday attire. It seems on initial impression to be a series of beautiful snapshots yet the text is at the same time personal, well researched and informative. Jolanda laments that everyday items – beads, veils, baskets, coin jewellery, hairstyles as signifiers of identity are often lost in history because they have been seen to be too humble to be recorded.

Jolanda’s personal and professional experiences with tribal peoples are aimed here at inspiring the reader rather than being a dry reference work. She meanders from her archealogical work, to personal memories and experiences, to historial overviews. She touches on creative processes, the materials used, the manner of wearing and the traditions and beliefs bound within these customs. She peels back layers beyond the visible surface of individual items. This approach is of the mind and eye of both a poet and an archaeologist. The book is truely a well written and immersive experience.

The work and recording of Bedouin veils in particular appealed to me. These important cultural items have been sold as mere trinkets in the past to tourists and their rich symbolism and importance has not been widely appreciated.

A visual feast which underlines the relations between cultural identity, history and the lifestyles of tribal peoples. I very much connected with her passion and of what it means to be an observer of the inevitable changes of modernity. It is an experiential journey as well as a reference book.

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