“Giorgis has assembled the archive of Ethiopian modernism that she brilliantly critiques. With deep personal knowledge, she takes us from magical healing scrolls to miniskirts, from monarchy to socialist tyranny, from Paris to Oklahoma. The details are fascinating and the artists’ works themselves extraordinary, but the real revelation is Giorgis’ understanding of the politico-cultural cross currents that converged in Ethiopia. Her presentation of them with an unflinchingly critical eye does more to celebrate Ethiopia’s singular achievements than any narrowly national story could provide.”
Susan Buck-Morss, author of Hegel, Haiti, and Universal History
“For scholars and students of Ethiopian and African studies, as well as those situated in the emergent field of comparative or alternative modernities, this book makes a landmark contribution. Indeed, Modernist Art in Ethiopia opens up an uncharted scholarly terrain and we ought to welcome it as an important harbinger of a new, critically minded study of Ethiopia.”
Northeast African Studies
“[This] volume places Ethiopia in a rich pan-African context by evoking how the arts, both visual and literary, can elucidate one country’s intellectual, political, and social history.”
Dominique Coulet du Gard, African Studies Review
“A compelling and substantial vision of modernist Ethiopian art not as a single homogenous instantiation, but rather as a series of fascinating twists and turns from different perspectives within a variety of contexts. Overall, this dense analysis of intellectual thought as it relates to Ethiopian modernism stands out as an intellectual artistic contribution in its own right.”
Andrea E. Frohne, International Journal of African Historical Studies
If modernism initially came to Africa through colonial contact, what does Ethiopia’s inimitable historical condition—its independence save for five years under Italian occupation—mean for its own modernist tradition? In Modernist Art in Ethiopia—the first book-length study of the topic—Elizabeth W. Giorgis recognizes that her home country’s supposed singularity, particularly as it pertains to its history from 1900 to the present, cannot be conceived outside the broader colonial legacy. She uses the evolution of modernist art in Ethiopia to open up the intellectual, cultural, and political histories of it in a pan-African context.
Giorgis explores the varied precedents of the country’s political and intellectual history to understand the ways in which the import and range of visual narratives were mediated across different moments, and to reveal the conditions that account for the extraordinary dynamism of the visual arts in Ethiopia. In locating its arguments at the intersection of visual culture and literary and performance studies, Modernist Art in Ethiopia details how innovations in visual art intersected with shifts in philosophical and ideological narratives of modernity. The result is profoundly innovative work—a bold intellectual, cultural, and political history of Ethiopia, with art as its centerpiece.
Elizabeth W. Giorgis is the former director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and the dean of the College of Performing and Visual Art of Addis Ababa University. She is currently associate professor of critical theory and criticism as well as art history at the College of Performing and Visual Art and the Center of African Studies at Addis Ababa University. More info →
Review in the Journal of African History, Vol. 61 No. 1 (March 2020)Download
Review in Northeast African Studies 21, no. 1 (2021)Download
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