On October 6, Annie Ernaux became the 17th female author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
Millennia ago, another woman stood out for her writing skills. Princess Enheduanna, is the subject of a new exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York.
The exhibition titled She Who Wrote: Enheduanna And Women Of Mesopotamia brings together for the first time a selection of artefacts relating to the life of Enheduanna. The young woman was born more than 4000 years ago, in Mesopotamia.
The daughter of Sargon of Agade, the king who unified Mesopotamia in the middle of the third millennium BC and founded the first empire, she was sent by her father to the city of Ur, in the south of present-day Iraq, to take charge of the temple of Nanna, the moon god.
Enheduanna turned out to be a gifted priestess with poetry talents. Her texts figure among the most beautiful Sumerian literary works. They reflect her devotion to Inanna, goddess of love and war and patroness of Ur. Historians believe that Enheduanna’s writings helped influence generations of Mesopotamians in their perception of Inanna and elevated her from a minor goddess to a supreme deity.
But that’s not the only thing that makes them unique. Enheduanna did not only use her religious hymns to sing the glory of the gods: she also recounted moments of her life. She even used the pronoun “I” in her personal reflections, which is extremely rare for writings of the time.
Her literary work was so influential that her texts were copied and re-copied by amateur scribes on clay tablets for centuries.
“Enheduanna is nothing less than the first known author in history. That she is not better known is something this exhibition hopes to remedy,” outlined Sidney Babcock, one of the curators of the exhibition She Who Wrote: Enheduanna And Women Of Mesopotamia, in a press release.
One might think that Enheduanna’s privileged status was simply a result of her rank.
The exhibition at the Morgan Library and Museum shows, on the contrary, that women enjoyed significant power and influence in Mesopotamian times, regardless of their social class.
“The images of women from this period, presented here for the first time as a group, have often been overlooked. It is time to take a closer look at the extraordinary artistry of these images, as well as the way in which they reflect the contributions of women at the beginning of history,” noted Babcock.
The exhibition She Who Wrote: Enheduanna And Women Of Mesopotamia will run until Feb 19, 2023 at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. – AFP