On the mountain where I live there is a monument. I like this monument. It stands straight and tall and points to the sky. It is not affected by the wind that has bent the surrounding trees and grass. The tall person said that it reminds him of an obelisk, which was an important monument in ancient Egypt and symbolized the sun god Ra. He said that obelisks were decorated with writing telling of the great achievements of the person who had erected it and helped to ensure that the name of the person was never forgotten.
De translated the Russian inscription and told me that the monument commemorates a battle that took place between Georgian workers and soldiers of the Russian Czar’s army in December 1905. Nine Georgian workers were killed. It does not say why they were fighting nor does it list the names of those who died.
The tall person said that it would have been better if the monument listed the names of the people who died because they would be remembered. He said that names are very important.
He told me that the ancient Egyptians believed that the spirit could live after death, but only if some remembrance – a name, a statue, or body – of the deceased remained in the land of the living. If those things were erased the person could not live after death. Egypt wasn’t alone in this belief. The destruction of images and erasing of names in the Roman world was called “damnatio memoriae.” Romans saw it as a punishment worse than execution: the fate of being forgotten.
I was surprised to hear that “Damnatio memoriae” is still practised today. The tall person told me that in April this year a Cairo court ordered that images of the ousted Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, as well as his name, be removed from all “public squares, streets, libraries and other public institutions around the country.”
Hmm, there are no monuments or statues of Bassa – will my name be remembered when I am gone?