SOAS University of London

Brunei Gallery, SOAS University of London


The Indigenous and the Foreign:
Art and Architecture of 17th-Century Ethiopia
19 July - 17 September 2004

In the rural plateaux of northern Ethiopia, one can still find scattered ruins of monumental buildings alien to the country's ancient architectural tradition. This little-known and rarely studied architectural heritage bears silent witness to a fascinating if equivocal cultural encounter that took place in the 16th-17th centuries between Orthodox Ethiopians and Catholic Europeans. The Indigenous and the Foreign explores the enduring impact of the encounter on the religious, political and artistic life of Christian Ethiopia, one not readily acknowledged, not least because the public conversion of the early 17th-century King Susenyos to Catholicism resulted in a bloody civil war enveloped in religious intolerance.

Included are photographs showing the surviving architecture of a number of religious and stately buildings of early 17th-century Ethiopia, a period when a mission of Jesuits from Goa, in Western India, was most active at the Ethiopian Christian Emperor's Court. This important heritage, known as pre-Gondarine, is scarcely known outside of Ethiopia.

The photographs will be accompanied by a number of illustrated Ethiopian manuscripts and texts from the period, kindly lent by The British Library and the SOAS Archives, with further examples of art from Private Collections.

A symposium entitled"Cross-Cultural Encounters: Portugal and Ethiopia in the 16th and 17th Centuries" will take place on 19 July 2004 in the Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS.
A publication accompanying the exhibition, The Indigenous and the Foreign in Christian Ethiopian Art: Portuguese-Ethiopian Contacts in the 16th and 17th Centuries, edited by Manuel João Ramos and Isabel Boavida and published by Ashgate, will be launched at the opening of the exhibition.

Exhibition Curatorial team and contributors: Tania Tribe (SOAS), Manuel João Ramos Hervé Pennec

, Isabel Boavida, and Edwin Johnson.

The exhibition has been kindly supported by the Spanish Embassy Cultural Office, London; the Portuguese Embassy, London; Gulbenkian Foundation, Portugal; the Oriente Foundation, Portugal and The Instituto Camões,

, Portugal.

Further information can be found on the Secção Profissional de Estudos do Património website