“The wish to accomplish my ideas and this projects has driven me for quite a while.” — 5in10 with Ahmed Adam
Ahmed Adam is Assistant Professor in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Khartoum and currently a fellow of the research program Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices. He is also the Director of the Red Sea and Suakin Project and leads a project that wants to establish a museum in Khartoum. Adam was a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2012) and a Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Exeter (2011-2013). His research centers on archaeology in Sudan and on the preservation of archaeological sites and their objects. He has published extensively on this subject in journals like Adumantu Journal, Bulletin of Sudanese Studies and Adab Journal.
What was intriguing to you when you were a child? What is it that you always wanted to know about the world?
I remember that when I was a child I really liked adventures. I was curious about everything in the world. My oldest brother said to me that the only things I could think of was how big the world and how far the sky was. I was also interested in religion and other things but, from an early age on, I was mostly fascinated by the idea of a global world. I constantly read about faraway places, drew world maps, explored cultural differences, and made imaginary airline timetables.
How would you explain your current research to a stranger in an elevator (“elevator pitch”)?
My current research focuses on Sudanese objects in German collections, which I study by using systematic scientific principles such as theoretical and applied museology. I investigate different collections owned by the Berlin museums, which are among the most important museums in terms of Sudanese heritage. I examine in what research fields they specialize and how they present and display those objects.
Berlin played a crucial role in Sudanese history, since it has collected a great amount of Sudanese objects that are so important for my project. The collections in the Berlin museums, however, were not created in a fully systematic way.
My research questions are: What is the basis for the cooperation between German museums and Sudan and what are their mutual benefits? How were objects obtained and is there a possibility of recoupment or retrieval in the favour of Sudanese museums? What is the current situation of Sudanese archaeological objects in the Berlin museums? What role do the different collections play in research and with regard to Berlin tourism?
Which stations of your academic journey were extremely formative to you?
I was particularly influenced by the years I spent at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter, UK, and as a Visiting Scholar at the Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge. And of course my fellowship from the Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices program gave me a rich insight into strong academic work and helped forming my research ideas. I am very grateful for the assistance during the set-up of this project.
How is it to do research in Germany?
For me Germany is the best place to do archaeological and ethnographic research and research in museums, which I do with my studies on Sudanese heritage material in the Berlin collections. The wish to accomplish my ideas and this projects has driven me for quite a while. I learned more and more about the richness of the archaeological and ethnographic material in Berlin that could constitute a significant museum collection on its own. I was approached by curators asking if I could preserve the material. Means of the project development and implementation are now being sought. The Forum Transregionale Studien and the Art Histories and Aesthetic Practices program made possible to visit German museums, to attend workshops and conferences and to collect material from the largest archive relating to Sudan. Together with the efforts and the support of various institutions like Art and Visual History and the Institute of Archaeology, my project will hopefully be brought about.
If you had one wish, what would you wish for the further development of your subject?
I enjoy my time in Germany and the benefits of the fellowship. I was able to collect rare material from huge museums and libraries in Germany including some rare historical photographs from Sudan. And a lot of these materials are still unpublished and therefore unknown. I visited many museums, discussed a lot with curators and examined the different fields of research done in the museums and the ways in which objects are displayed. Workshops, conferences and field trips broadened my knowledge about curriculums and advanced scientific methods. Interdisciplinary seminars and lectures I participated in benefited me in preparation of some of the subjects for my students in Sudan. I am going to write some journal articles and I also came up with new ideas and projects, all this due to fruitful discussions. I hope to complete my research in all German cities that collect Sudanese materials and to return to Germany to do more research and to attend more seminars and conferences.