Exhibitions of Ethiopian Manuscripts Prompt Questions About Repatriation


Christ, the Virgin Mary, Michael, Gabriel and the Twelve Apostles appear before Saint Takla Haymanot at Easter. From the 18th century Life and Acts of St. Takla Haymanot (image via and courtesy of the British Library)

Exhibitions at British cultural institutions have lately underscored the artistic output of Ethiopian scribes, and in the process, have also renewed questions around whether museums that have benefitted from acts of imperialism and colonialism should now return looted objects.

A recent display at the British Library, African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia put the institution’s impressive collection of Ethiopic manuscripts on display. Online, the library has also highlighted efforts to digitize these ancient works and make them accessible to the public. Exhibitions at the British Library and other cultural institutions within Britain have worked to underscore the artistic output of Ethiopian scribes and the literature connected to the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church. In the process, these special exhibitions have also renewed questions of provenance and the issue of whether museums that have benefitted from acts of imperialism and colonialism should now return looted objects — even centuries after the fact.

There is no doubt that the newly digitized manuscripts made searchable within the British Library’s online manuscripts database add to our knowledge of Ethiopia and its rich religious heritage. African Christianity has an ancient history that is infrequently emphasized in western scholarship; however, Ethiopia’s embrace of Christianity developed during the period known as Roman Late Antiquity. Late in the reign of Constantine (r. 306–337 CE), the urban center of the Aksumite Kingdom, Auxoume (now known as Aksum), converted to the faith. By 357 CE, Christianity was noticeably widespread throughout what is now modern Ethiopia — although early Christian writers often incorrectly referred to the area as “India.” Well into the medieval period, Ethiopian scribes at churches and monasteries worked diligently to copy biblical and religious texts. Many manuscripts also concerned other subjects, such as magic and incantation spells.

An Ethiopian amulet scroll, one with a protective cylindrical case, from the 18th century (image courtesy of and via the British Library)

In the last few years, the British Library has sought to digitize and conserve their Ethiopian manuscripts as part of its “Heritage Made Digital” program. In 2016, the Four-Year Business Plan released by the library emphasized a number of objectives for this major manuscript digitization effort, which aims to increase, expand, and digitally deliver international accessibility to thousands of Indian printed books, 19th-century British newspapers, and Ethiopic manuscripts.


The business of Ethiopian ART

The business of Ethiopian ART

The business of Ethiopian ART

A forum dubbed ‘Media and the arts’ was conducted on May 1, during the exhibition of Tesfahun Kibru collection. The discussion that gathered journalists and artists focused on how the media can support the art as a business.

The event that saw opinions from artists and journalists also lights up how the art industry can be supported by the media in promoting its values. Seyoum Ayalew president of the Ethiopian Painters and Sculptors Association said that a policy should be ratified in order to support the art. ‘If we have a policy that guides us in the right direction, why can’t the art sector boom?’ questions Seyoum.

‘Art has a powerful influence to change society and with we can change many things that are happening around’ Seyoum added.

He also said that previously art pieces were used as a collateral for loans but they are not anymore. “Art pieces that hang in some banks were used as a collateral, but now it will be a joke if you go with your art pieces to the bank for loan.’

Gossa G. Oda who is an art lover and founder of Netsa Art Village said that the government should help the sector by giving a space for artists. ‘The government should allocate plots all over the country for artists to express their feeling freely. This will help the art to be more dynamic’ he said.

Alemayehu Seifesellasie who was a long time journalist at the Reporter and The sub Saharan Informer shared his views on how to report art stories. He said that the media is not that much interested in covering art events happening in the country. “The sad reality is, locally, the art is neglected, it is not given the coverage it deserves” he said.

Teguest Yilma Managing Editor of Capital Newspaper, in her opening speech said that art is multi-million dollar industry around the world. ‘Globally the arts and culture sector is worth billions of dollars. It is a sector, if correctly invested in, has the potential to become a huge driver of the economy; just like tourism’ she said. Read more >>

Music Studios Crescendo in the City



It has been five months since Habtu Abraha, in his late thirties, started a band at a music studio he owns close to Mesquel Flower Hotel, along Gabon Street. Having lived for a quarter of a century in the United Kingdom (UK), he used to work with his brothers that have a band of their own there. He came to Ethiopia to continue his musical career… Read more >>

Britsh museum offers Ethiopia to return looted treasures on long-term loan

UK offers to return Ethiopian loot on loan

UK offers to return Ethiopian loot on loan

The UK’s Victoria and Albert Museum has offered to return on loan treasures to Ethiopia seized by British troops 150 years ago, including an ornate crown, a royal wedding dress and a gold chalice.

The overture came as some of the objects go on display until June 2019 at the museum in London to mark the anniversary of the Maqdala battle in 1868.

Historians say 15 elephants and 200 mules were needed to cart away all the loot from Maqdala, Emperor Tewodros II’s northern citadel capital.

Ethiopia lodged a formal request in 2008 at various British institutions for the return of the treasures worth millions of dollars taken from Maqdala.

V&A director Tristram Hunt has reiterated that the items would remain the property of the museum but said they could be sent back home on “long-term loan”.

Read more at BBC

Ethiopian artist talks past, present, future of Ethiopia

Ethiopian photographer talks past, present, future of Ethiopia

Ethiopian photographer talks past, present, future of Ethiopia
Aida Muluneh talks to the audience about her early years, discovery of photography and the meaning of her work in Matthews Hall on Friday.
Anna Poznyak | Senior Photographer

Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno” inspired the photo that brought Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh to the forefront of the photography world.

The photo features a model staring straight at the camera, arms folded around herself. Her skin is painted completely white barring a vertical line of black dots down the center of her body and hands dyed blood-red.

“I come from a very orthodox religion, you know,” Muluneh said. “It’s basically the notion that you die and either go to heaven or hell. And my main thing was that the inferno’s actually, we’re living inside of it. So for me you don’t have to die to find the inferno. You can find it within yourself, you can find paradise within yourself.”

Read more at purdueexponent.org

US Embassy Kicks Off Film Competition


The U.S. Embassy is excited to announce this year’s video competition under the theme “Our Ethiopia.” The video challenge is part of the U.S. Embassy’s ongoing efforts to highlight the importance of tolerance and diversity through open and constructive communication.

In a globalized world, tolerance is important for creating a society in which people feel valued and respected, and in which there is room for every person, each with their own ideas and dreams. This video challenge is intended to promote these values.

Open to all Ethiopians, the video challenge asks filmmakers to create a video of up to three minutes about the strength in Ethiopia’s diversity, the challenges it faces, and what everyone can do to support tolerance and mutual respect.

The first place winner will receive a prize valued at ETB 80,000; the second place winner will receive a prize valued at ETB 50,000; and the third place winner will receive a prize valued at ETB 30,000.

The deadline for submission of videos is midnight on February 18, 2018. Interested contestants can submit their video either by uploading to YouTube or sending to the U.S. Embassy, Public Affairs Section (OurEthiopia Video Challenge), P.O. Box 1014 in a CD or DVD. The video submission can be uploaded in any format accepted by YouTube and after uploading the hashtagged video, send a link to your video submission to AddisVideochallenge@state.gov

All videos must be done in the Amharic language with English sub-titles. The Embassy reserves the right to reject any video that discriminates against any religious, ethnic, or cultural values or any gender or persons with disability.

You can find the details of the competition through the link: https://et.usembassy.gov/ourethiopia-video-challenge-guideline/ .

Source: U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia

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