Egypt prides itself as the first center of civilization on the African continent from 5000 B.C. The country is located along the coast of the Nile River in the northeast of Africa. Egypt was the site of one of the most powerful and longest-lasting civilization in the ancient world. This great ancient state highly utilized various art forms in revealing their deep-rooted philosophies of life. These philosophies were embedded in their strict and compact religious beliefs paramount amongst them was the belief in life after death. Owing to this, the people practiced a death cult where art was the main vehicle that was used.
Egyptian art was made purposely to serve the dead. For the ancient Egyptians, death was not an end but the transition from the land of the living (physical world) to the land of the dead (spiritual/metaphysical world). The Egyptians believed that when they died, their souls (Ka) would continue to live in another world but inside the same bodies. Therefore to ensure a successful journey to the land of the dead and the afterlife, the deceased had to be physically preserved along with earthly possessions and other reminders of daily activities.
To achieve this philosophy, the ancient Egyptians carefully treated their dead bodies called mummies and embalmed them to protect them from decaying. Works of art were meant to accompany the deceased into eternity. Thus, Egyptian art is an art of permanence that is why Egyptian art is popularly referred to as ‘Art for Eternity’. Fine linen strips woven were used in wrapping deceased bodies. Sometimes, the likenesses of missing corpses were carved from imperishable or durable materials like granite, gold and gems to replace them. After wrapping the body of the deceased (mummy) with the linen material, it was painted in bright colours and laid in tombs. These architectural structures known as pyramids were constructed with heavy stones. This assisted in prolonging their lifespan for eternity. Egyptian tombs were built to assure a blissful afterlife for the deceased, and the paintings, sculptures and other objects in them had an eternal purpose.
The interiors of these pyramids were lavishly decorated with series of paintings that depicted the journey of the dead to the metaphysical world. Other themes for the painting included people hunting and feasting. Funerary texts which were believed to preserve the dead person’s name and petitions for his wellbeing by the gods were also written in hieroglyphics. This graphic art recounted the good deeds of the deceased including his titles and honours gained during his lifetime.
Thus, the ideologies of the Egyptians regarding the afterlife which is part of their philosophy was made evident through the artistic creations-paintings, sculpture, architecture and textiles. This should inform scholars today of the indispensable role art can play in societal progression and sustainable development. Modern scholars must not dissuade art as silent in philosophy because of their picturesque nature. Rather, they must endeavor to explore on how to implement artistic creations in relaying philosophies or deep thoughts as the cardinal example of the ancient Egyptians illustrates.