Mona Sherif-Nelson, a native-born Nubian-Egyptian of the Faadicha tribe, has spent years educating the public on Nubian heritage and culture. Nubia was an ancient civilization that spanned the Nile River for 1,000 miles from modern-day Aswan, Egypt, to Khartoum, Sudan. Nelson emigrated from Abu Simbel, a village in the Nubian region near the Egypt-Sudan border, to Cairo at a young age. Growing up there, she noticed that Egyptians were unfamiliar with Nubians, so she knew early on that she would teach others about Nubia all her life. \n\nIn 1991 Nelson moved to Los Angeles from Egypt with her husband, Michael, and their young son. When she arrived, she found the African American community was talking about Nubia but had little information about it. Worried that the tenets of the culture, including the language and heritage, might be forgotten by future generations, Nelson and her husband cofounded the [Nubian Foundation for Preserving a Cultural Heritage] in 1998. Through the foundation, she works to provide the public with opportunities to learn about Nubia through education and the arts. The organization maintains and spreads awareness of Nubia by preserving its cultural artifacts digitally and physically; financially supporting Nubian artists, individuals, and organizations through donations, commissions, and grants; and making Nubian arts and culture accessible to diverse populations globally.\n\nI sat down with Sherif-Nelson to talk about how she keeps her Nubian culture present in her life and through her work. \n\n**Shannon Iriarte: Why is it important for you to maintain connections with your Nubian heritage?**\n\n**Mona Sherif-Nelson:** I think if there is wisdom in keeping memories or keeping information about your heritage–if there is wisdom behind that–it would be the way this information grounds you. It feeds a certain kind of feeling or a certain kind of pride.\n\nWhen I was younger, I grew up in a certain Nubian way while living in Cairo. I absolutely did my best to cut that out in order to be able to fit in. I had to shave as much as I could away from myself so I would be able to fit in. I didn’t want to be different from my peers in school or the neighbors. I didn’t want to be different, and I was completely different. The way I looked, how skinny, how tall, how dark, my hair, my way of walking. Until this day, the way I walk in Egypt, people don’t think of me as Egyptian. I hated that when I was young because I wanted to be somebody, and nobody knew what Nubia was. I wanted to belong to something, and Nubia was not it. It was very difficult when I was younger to accept being Nubian as a way of feeling good, feeling grounded, and feeling proud.\n\n\n : https://nubianfoundation.org/ **SI: You have so much appreciation for your Nubian heritage. How do you foster that appreciation through your work at the Nubian Foundation?**\n\n**MSN**: Well, one of the things that was important was my father. He was a historian, a Nubia lover. He was very actively involved in keeping Nubia alive through songs and plays. He wrote plays. He did paintings. My upbringing was determined so much by my father. It was the generation where they were really hanging on to all that magic of being Nubian, even though we lived in Cairo, hanging onto Nubia because it represented everything he knew and everything he was missing—the land and the smell—everything about Nubia. It was very important for them to bring it out.\n\nThe Nubian Foundation is the ability to create enough interest that I would have the chance to mimic a certain kind of memory, mimic it in ways that you would get people involved in singing or imagining. It would give people a chance to get a glimpse of what it is to savor and enjoy something. It may be a way to understand Nubia and give it a chance to stay on the horizon. **SI: What do you hope people take away from their experience with the Nubian Foundation?**\n\n**MSN**: I created the foundation to stir curiosity about Nubia, because when I came to America, I felt like people thought that they knew what Nubia was. They had no curiosity to try to dig and find out what this word was all about.\n\nI have no idea if this was just because of the word Nubia—it was shiny enough and kind of satisfied what they thought it meant—or because there was any other information in front of them to stir this curiosity. This is what the foundation came to do. It is just to stir curiosity, and then people would ask, they would listen, and they would actually come to see the foundation. We would display Michael’s work, and then I would do a short talk about Nubian ancient history. It tells them: “Here I am, I’m standing in front of you. I’m Nubian. You can ask me anything you want to about the culture. The picture is telling you something. Tell me so I can fill in the gaps.”\n\nIt was amazing how people had lots of interest and curiosity. It absolutely created what was the goal of the foundation. Absolutely, the target was accomplished. People took this information and tried to figure out more information. It did its job.