Remember in February, during the democracy uprising in Egypt, when Zahi Hawass (a National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence) doubled down on Egypt’s then-President Hosni Mubarak? Hawass argued passionately and very publicly that Mubarak needed to remain in power for the good of the Egyptian people.
Today, meet New & Improved Zahi, who is attempting what we’re calling The Big Pivot — a change in direction so radical, and made so quickly, that it’s a miracle he isn’t wearing a neck brace to treat whiplash.
Perhaps the best part of his extreme makeover (see below) is the challenge that New Zahi effectively poses to the National Geographic Society.
By Steven Viney
Monday, April 25, 2011 - 14:54
News about Zahi Hawass — a clothing line, an arrest, cash rewards for the safe return of antiquities — changes daily. But before he was pinned for a shady real estate deal, Egypt’s minister of antiquities had been focusing on celebrating the revolution that has stirred up so much trouble for him by curating a 25 January exhibition.
The exhibition will feature the work of several Egyptian contemporary artists in various media in order to reflect their views on the recent revolution. The art will be accompanied by a collection of photographs showing Tahrir Square and various revolution demonstrations, and will travel the globe as Hawass’ Tutankhamen and the Pharaohs exhibition did.
“For 5,000 years Egypt was ruled, until 25 January, by a pharaoh,” Hawass told Al-Masry Al-Youm. “It is a huge change in our history, and this exhibit will present the world with the new Egypt.” …
Though still in its embryonic stages, the exhibition is intended to start in Cairo, and travel through at least 10 European countries.
“I have already received many letters from countries — including Italy, Belgium and Spain — who are very interested to host this exhibition,” said Hawass. “It confirms my belief that the face of Egypt is changing, and people are interested to see it.”
The Tutankhamen and the Pharaohs exhibition stands in stark contrast to the subject material of the 25 January exhibition — a fact that Hawass is very excited about.
“Egypt has finally broken free from the prejudice that modern Egypt is the same as ancient Egypt. When people think of Egypt now, they will no longer only be thinking about camels and pyramids. Instead they will think about democracy, freedom and how the Egyptian people really feel – so for me it was obvious that the next exhibition should show it to them.” …
“This revolution is now just as important to Egyptian history as Tutankhamen. Tahrir square is now extremely iconic of modern times in Egyptian history. To not include it would be a very poor recording of history on my part.”
Again: The democracy uprising is “as important to Egyptian history as Tutankhamen.” This from King Tut’s PR guy.
What do you make of that, John Fahey? Quite a statement, don’t you think?
Why doesn’t National Geographic — long gripped by Pharoah Phever — follow Zahi’s lead, and unleash its ample resources to cover “democracy, freedom and how the Egyptian people really feel”?
Imagine: We launch a huge Society-wide Democracy & Freedom tentpole that incorporates Zahi’s new exhibition, which we could bring to National Geographic headquarters in Washington, DC. Publish a special issue of National Geographic magazine about democracy uprisings across the Middle East and North Africa. Produce a major, hi-def, multi-part documentary series — sort of like Great Migrations, but interesting this time. You know, so people will actually watch the show and buy the companion coffee table book.
To make it easy for you, John, we’ve already cut the trailer.
This could be huge, John. This could be the moment that National Geographic turns the corner. This could be your Big Pivot to establish a NGS legacy that will make you, your children, and your grandchildren proud.
Otherwise, you may well be remembered as the guy who put National Geographic’s good name on air freshener and bedroom furniture… who used our Society to embolden thugs and dictators… and who sold our Society’s brand equity to Rupert Murdoch, who continues to trash our reputation by producing shows that make us all cringe.
You’re a better man than that.
Is it time for your Big Pivot?