The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

Conference - Friday 6th November 2009

8th International Conference on the History of Ethiopian Art

Given by -

Reviewed by - Anne Parsons


The International Conferences on the History of Ethiopian Art and Architecture are planned as tri-annual events. The first one took place in London in 1986 with successive ones located in various European countries. Every third conference is hosted in Addis Ababa and from November 6 to 8 this eighth international gathering returned to the capital of Ethiopia with some 50 or so delegates coming from Ethiopia, Europe (Austria, France, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK) and North America to congregate at the Goethe Institute.

That the art conference is much smaller in scale than ICES 17 is undoubtedly a great advantage. The main lecture hall of the Goethe Institute was large enough to accommodate all the delegates in a single sitting without need for parallel sessions. The garden and cafeteria were used for coffee/tea breaks and for lunch and the setting was very suitable. Participants had space and time to meet and chat. Some small displays (Ethiopian beads and contemporary paintings) in the main hall provided added interest as did a lunchtime visit into town to the workshops of two contemporary painters.

Although architecture featured in only a small number of papers the topic was nonetheless well served by Victor Fernandez and Laverle Berry. Victor Fernandez has recently conducted several archaeological surveys at Azzezo and his presentation covered pre-Gondarine architecture in the lake Tana region. Laverle Berry then spoke specifically about the castle of Susinios at Danqaz. Sadly, Paul Henze could not attend due to ill health but his paper on the church of Maryam Nazre, partly covering architectural elements, was read in his absence.

There were a number of papers broadly about painters/paintings in Ethiopian art and included Jacques Mercier on the restoration of a 15th century icon from Hayq, Leah Niederstadt on the marriage paintings produced in Aksum, and John Mellors on the painters of Adiet, Aksum. Veronika Six discussed the various images found in scrolls and this dovetailed nicely with Ian Campbell's paper on Christian iconometry as preserved in talismanic art. The history of Ethiopian crosses was discussed by Suzanne Ziegler and the significance of the church drum by Mitiku Gebrehiwott.

It is impossible to list everything here, but overall the papers were diverse and very interesting. However, in a couple of cases I was surprised to find that the research did not appear to be new and that I had heard the presentation before at another conference.

The organising committee and the staff of the Goethe Institute are to be thanked for their work for making the three days a very successful and enjoyable time for all who attended.

First Published in News File Spring 2010

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