I have chosen Berlin’s Egyptian Museum as a special place for women because of the pressures around body image we women are experiencing today. We are bombarded with images of thin youth and told this is how we are supposed to be.
This is also internalised, and we are supposed to want to be like this too. So as a feminist who is growing steadily older, I realise that I might be somewhat a minority in absolutely loving every minute of it. So what do we do? Well, we need some new role models.
In majestic Berlin there is one of the most amazing museums in the world. Amongst its treasures is a shrine to Nefertiti. She was an Egyptian queen who lived more than 3000 years ago. The room contains Nefertiti’s very famous bust, as well as lots of other works from the workshop of Thutmose. More about those later.
As you enter the room it really feels like a shrine. The lights are dimmed and people move quietly, with reverence. As you see the bust, two things happen: firstly you are surprised at how small it is, and secondly you are moved by its beauty. Nefertiti’s beauty. Her bust is as fresh as the day it was made. She was clearly a remarkably beautiful women, the kind you would feel compelled to look at in awe. Audrey Hepburn had something of the same kind of beauty, ethereal and timeless. Nefertiti looks ahead, dignified and poised, as if she were cut from a fashion magazine.
As I mentioned above, there are other sculptures in the room. Many of them are also of Nefertiti. There are little sculptures of her in different poses and details of her body, carefully preserving her likeness for thousands of years. And here’s the surprise – they show her as a real woman. Nefertiti is aging, putting on weight, bearing the marks of childbirth, her face lined. And still breathtakingly beautiful.
The sculptures, made over the course of many years, reveal a woman who is living. She is experiencing things, responding to her environment, and it is plain to see that the Nefertiti who modelled for Thutmose was real.
Now that’s a role model for me – she looks as if she is in love with life. She looks comfortable in her skin, with her changing, ageing self. I find myself returning to the bust in the middle of the room, seeing Nefertiti as a woman and not just an icon. She embodies Ancient Egypt, beauty and youth. Nefertiti also embodies a vision of the Goddess, with wisdom and tranquility emanating from her enigmatic smile. But now, she is also firstly a woman. And I have met her.
So if my love for living and growing older ever wavers, I will look to Nefertiti for support. Beauty is indeed timeless.
Vild Prestegard is an anthropologist, holistic therapist, Reiki master and public speaker based in Norway. She is a regular blogger for Cycle Harmony. You’re welcome to contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions and comments.
Image provided by the author. Image source: smb.museum.