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Marketing State Policies: the High Dam & the Nubians


غلاف مجلة كروان، العدد 2 – صلاح جاهين – القاهرة: دار التحرير 

One example of how comics have been put at the service of a national discourse,  by official governing bodies throughout the Arab world in order to market state policies and agendas, is the illustration and incorporation of the building of the Aswan Dam or the High Dam into several comics titles and stories during the 60s in Egypt. The building of the Dam was marketed as Nasser’s greatest achievement and a monumental national project attesting to Egypt’s continued modernization and Nation building efforts. However, it is rarely mentioned that the building of the Dam also resulted in the forced migration of thousands of Nubians living is the Governante of Aswan, when the artificial Lake to be built, "Nasser", was about to drown a number of villages in Upper Egypt and the Sudan. The Nubians were resettled away from the fertile lands around the Nile into "New Nuba", a desert area in the area of Kom Umbo. The forced migration meant not only uprooting a community from its centuries old source of livelihood, but it also threatened to annihilate the Nubian culture.

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سمير والسد العالي – تهامي – القاهرة: دار الهلال، 1964

In early 1964 – as the first stage of the Dam’s construction was being completed and the reservoir started filling – the High Dam would be repeatedly and prominently featured on the cover pages of Samir and Karawan. The covers often portrayed the project uncritically, as a national achievement, and as a grassroots project in which every family participated, rarely uncovering that this was a state sponsored top-bottom project, or critically commenting on the very real ensuing suffering and forced migration of the Nubians.

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غلاف مجلة سمير – العدد 449 - تهامي – القاهرة: دار الهلال، 1964

In this November 1964 cover page of Samir, Samir and his sidekick, Tahtah, peddle through the Nile with Ms. Hikmat Abu Zayd, then Minister of Social Affairs, and one of the key Egyptian government politicians who was put in charge of the resettlement of the Nubian families. Samir reassures Ms. Abu Zayd, that the people of Nuba have been resettled to their "new villages", gliding over the agony of an entire people.

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حكمت أبو زيد  -  German Federal Archive

Abu Zayd was the first Egyptian female minister in 1962, and was known, after Nasser's description, as “The Revolution’s Compassionate Heart/ قلب الثورة الرحيم”.