About the Project

The clothes that people wear tell a story of who they are or what they want or pretend to be. This is the case for a person who wears the clothes of a group in society that he or she belongs to and then the wearer has a certain freedom to choose variations within unwritten rules and schemes. In the case of uniforms there are more formal rules that show exactly the place of the wearer within a hierarchy, and on whose behalf he or she exercises authority. The costumes of ecclesiastical dignitaries and of royalty and high officials are examples of such ‘costumes of authority’ and contain a vocabulary in which each element has a meaning. For the outsider they may look impressive in the first place, for their precious fabrics and elaborate decorations, but the insider knows that each garment and attribute carries a message about the place in the hierarchy of the one who wears them and the kind of authority he or she represents.

In this project we analyse the costumes that were worn by clergy and members of the royal family in the kingdom of Makuria, one of the Christian kingdoms in Nubia between the 6th and the 14th century, in order to learn more about relations of power between Church and State, in combination with texts that contain information about this topic.

Costumes can be ´read´ as a form of non-verbal communication and the royal and religious costumes of Nubia not only show on whose behalf the wearer was excercising authority, but also show a clear influence from Byzantine dress.The aim of the project is to shed light on the relationship between worldly and religious authorities in Christian Nubia, to see to what extent Nubian rulers were inspired by Byzantium in their outfit and whether this reflected their ambition to be seen as head of Church and State.