Montréal, April 10, 2018 - The Queens of Egypt exhibition, produced by Pointe-à-Callière in partnership with Turin's Museo Egizio, gives visitors a rare opportunity to fully comprehend the grandeur of Egyptian civilization and its women of power during the New Kingdom. The exhibition delves into the world of the Great Royal Wives, sisters, and daughters of the pharaohs, presenting a captivating picture of these queens and illustrating the diverse and important roles they played in Egyptian society. Their incredible lives unfold during an immersive tour that features over 350 rare, precious, and symbolic objects from this period.
"Throughout history, women's stories have so often been obscured, but these Egyptian women of power played an important role in society. I hope that the tribute we pay to the queens of Egypt in this exhibition, and the exceptional quality of the objects presented, will remind visitors of how instrumental this society's contributions were. Ancient Egypt gave us ingenious irrigation canals; master artisans; incredible architecture in their temples, palaces, and villages; elegance in body care; and strong, intelligent women of power who had a great appreciation for beauty and meaning. We have so much to learn from their immense legacy," notes Pointe-à-Callière's executive director, Francine Lelièvre.
The splendour and mystery of Ancient Egypt
The first part of the exhibition takes visitors through settings where one might have encountered the pharaoh and his queens during the New Kingdom period, some 3,500 years ago. Here, on the banks of the Nile, in the world of the living, are the city of Thebes and the great temples of Karnak and Luxor. Visitors take in the temple of the formidable war goddess Sekhmet, learn the rules of life in the palace of the pharaoh and queen, and admire the elegance of the harem - a place of beauty, culture, and education.
In the second part, visitors travel to the world of the dead - the Theban necropolises on the Nile's west bank. They visit the famous village of Deir el-Medina, where artisans spent their lives building the royal tombs and objects to accompany the deceased in the afterlife. Tools, everyday objects, and vases are displayed here, along with other objects that reveal the deep reverence this village held for Queen Ahmose-Nefertari. Visitors will also discover the writing and tools of scribes, papyruses, and the meaning of hieroglyphs.
Set deep in the Valley of the Queens, the exhibition's final scene will undoubtedly leave a deep impression. Superb items from the royal tomb of Ramasses II's favourite wife, Nefertari, are displayed, recreating the ambiance of the actual tomb discovered in 1904 by Ernesto Schiaparelli, former director of Turin's Museo Egizio.
A multisensory voyage to the Valley of the Queens
A testament to the history of the New Kingdom, Nefertari's granite coffin, shattered by looters, dominates the funerary chamber's evocation. But the looters overlooked or left behind many objects - items that are among the exhibition's most precious and remarkable artifacts. As visitors cross the threshold of her tomb, they will come to grasp, and perhaps be moved by, the scope of the power and grandeur of this "most beautiful of queens."
Also in the Valley of the Queens, the stone coffin of a Great Royal Wife is displayed in all its glory, a prelude to the discovery of Ancient Egypt's fascinating burial rituals. The tools and materials needed to transform the body, a hook, flint knife, and resin, funerary jars, and a papyrus excerpt of The Book of the Dead illustrate the ritual of mummification. A mummy, resting on a transparent surface, forms the heart of this installation and bears magical amulets woven into the linen strips to protect the deceased. This section also features objects that accompany the deceased in the afterlife: amulets, canopic jars, and shabtis. Just as impressive, a dozen painted coffins of breathtaking beauty explain ritual funerary practices and their role in achieving eternal life.
The harem: for women only
The Egyptian harem, a royal institution reserved exclusively for women and children, is wonderfully recreated in the exhibition. Here, the queen, noblewomen, and the pharaoh's concubines ruled; men were there to serve them. Visitors will be completely enveloped in the ambiance of this place that celebrates beauty.
An interactive space also gives visitors a chance to experience lavish perfumes and beauty objects in Nefertiti's harem. The harem was a place of culture and education, but it was also an ideal environment in which to hatch a plot. The harem conspiracy papyrus, dating back 3,200 years, helps reveal the secrets of this captivating world and tells the story of an elaborate plan by one of Ramasses III's wives, Tiye, to murder him.
Ubisoft: using technology to teach history
To give visitors a complete immersive experience, Pointe-à-Callière partnered with Ubisoft Montréal and the team of Assassin's Creed Origins, the most recent edition of this video game franchise, which takes place in Ancient Egypt. Exclusive and custom-tailored videos and soundtracks from the game's Discovery Tour enhance the exhibition.
Be it scenes from the sumptuous palace, seat of the pharaoh's power, the western desert, the houses, streets, and artisans of village life, or the daily lives of women of power, these careful and accurate visual portrayals of life in Egypt at this time are also highly informative about the themes developed in Queens of Egypt, such as the mummification ritual, the work of scribes, and the writing of hieroglyphs.
"A collaboration with Pointe-à-Callière Museum for this unique exhibition was natural for us. Like Assassin's Creed Origins, Queens of Egypt proposes a highly immersive experience in the heart of Ancient Egypt. With the research data already collected for the game, we knew we had the content to accentuate the immersive experience of the visit. I think this partnership clearly demonstrates the many possibilities the medium of video games has to offer when applied to other spheres than entertainment," declared M. Jean Guesdon, Creative Director of the Assassin's Creed brand at Ubisoft Montréal.
Queens of Egypt was produced by Pointe-à-Callière in partnership with Turin's Museo Egizio. In addition to Museo Egizio, Pointe-à-Callière warmly thanks the Rijksmuseum Van Oudheden in Leiden, the Royal Museums of Art and History in Brussels, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, the Royal Ontario Museum, and the Anthropology Museum at the University of Winnipeg for the loan of objects in the exhibition.
Queens of Egypt is presented by Desjardins: "Desjardins is extremely proud to support an exhibition that both pays tribute to the incredible stories of Egyptian women and contributes to enriching the education and culture of thousands of young people. The 350 objects on display give us a chance to meet the queens of Ancient Egypt and learn about the social and political roles they played. It's an exhibition to admire, discover, and learn," notes Claude Chapdelaine, president of the Ouest de Montréal Regional Council and board member of the Mouvement Desjardins.
Queens of Egypt is also presented in partnership with Ubisoft Montréal and with the support of Air Canada Cargo, Tourisme Montréal, InterContinental Montreal, the Italian Institute of Culture, Four O'Clock, Épices de Cru, La Presse, the ministère de la Culture et des Communications, and the ministère des Relations internationales et de la Francophonie.
Pointe-à-Callière is subsidized by the city of Montréal.