Light from the Orient / Light on the Orient

01 May 2021 → 31 December 2022
Regional and community funding: Special Research Fund
Research disciplines
  • Humanities
    • Archaeology of Europe, the Mediterranean and the Levant
    • Middle Eastern history
    • Comparative study of religion
exhibitions religion colonialism diversity orientalism
Project description

The title refers to form and content of this exhibition of a unique photocollection of the Ghent professor Franz Cumont (1868-1947), accumulated on his travels and excavations in Turkey, the Lebanon and Syria. Cumont was a specialist of ancient mysterycults like Mithras, Adonis and Syrian Ba’als, popular in the Roman Empire. He traveled extensively and made purchases for musea in Brussels and Mariemont. His archives in Ghent and Rome contain pictures of Palmyra and Dura-Europos, now largely destroyed by ISIS. His letters, postcards, publications and acquired objects show us the Western scientific view on the Orient, Orientalist stereotypes of the “mysterious” East: the influence of colonialism. His  comparatism brought Cumont into conflict with the Catholic government. He left Belgium in 1913. Further themes are the struggle for an independent science of religions, the history of Ghent University and the interactions, ancient and modern, between West and East.