27 January 2010

Ancient Egypt in Georgia: Tama-Re

The always-excellent BLDGBLOG profiles Tama-Re, an ancient Egyptian theme city built by cult leader Dwight York in Georgia:
The Urban Dictionary's description of Tama-Re is amazing; it reads like every race-based fear of the white U.S. middle class summed up in one surreal location.
    When York and his Nuwaubians moved there and began erecting pyramids and obelisks there was much curiosity about the group. However trouble started when the citizens became aware of the fact that York was an ex-Black Panther and a convicted felon and statutory rapist who was preaching the gospel that whites were mutants and were inferior to blacks. There is also a foam rubber alien on display in the compound that causes problems with public relations. Officials have had problems with the Nuwaubians failing to comply with zoning and building permits that coincide with what they have created. The Nuwaubians feel that this is a racist attack.

It's hard to top a "foam rubber alien," but the fear-factor nonetheless gets ratcheted up a notch:
    Many children from upper middle class cities have left college to live in poverty at the cult's compound, Tama Re. This has caused a lot of turmoil in the lives of many families who can't accept the fact that their sons and daughters have left them to follow an alien messiah. Throughout the grounds speakers everywhere emit the humming sound of Egyptian chants 24 hours a day. Inside one of the pyramids you can buy books and clothes as well as a Dr. York doll. The people who live on the land dwell in a trailer park full of double-wides. York claims his people are Moors who traveled by foot from Africa to what is currently Georgia before the continental drift. The only problem with this "indisputable" fact is that the moors were Muslims who existed way after the birth of Christ which was only approximately 2000 years ago.
Ergo, there was no way in plate tectonics that they could have walked all the way to Georgia.

In June 2005, after the compound's governmental seizure, financial forfeiture, and ensuing sale for $1.1 million, outright demolition began. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported at the time, the local sheriff was on the scene, "speaking with relish as he watched crews tear through the series of obelisks, statues, arches and buildings. Many of the dozens of structures were weathered and in disrepair. He said very few of the Egyptian structures or objects were worth salvaging. 'It feels good to tear down the SOB myself,' he said. 'By the middle of next week, there will be nothing but a couple of pyramids.'"
Nuwabia is another permutation of the idea that lost tribes of 'Moors' or Egyptians settled America, first promoted more than a century ago by Noble Drew Ali of the Moorish Science Temple and more recently popularized in the writings of Hakim Bey/Peter Lamborn Wilson, where the concept of 'Moor' is used in a more esoteric, metaphorical sense of persecuted 'other' condemned to wander and live on the margins of the Babylon that is American society. All combined, of course, with that uniquely American strain of Egyptomania found in a wild range of characters from Joseph Smith of the Mormon Church to Sun Ra's extra-solar odysseys.

One of the best and worst things about America is that people have treated it as a blank slate to build their own versions of the past - or their galleries of how the past ought to have been.

No comments:

Post a Comment