British Library launches African Scribes Ethiopia Exhibition

12 Feb 2018

On 5th February, Ambassador Hailemichael was guest speaker at the launch a new display, “African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia,” held at the British Library’s Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. Guests at the reception and private view of the collection included His Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, diplomats, academics and senior staff from the British Library.

The new display, the first of its kind to be held at the British Library devoted entirely to Ethiopian manuscripts, explores the culture of a manuscript tradition which extends back to the early centuries of the Christian era. It highlights the intellectual and artistic achievements of Ethiopian scribes, preservers and guardians of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church’s literary output.

Speaking at the reception, Ambassador Hailemichael Aberra Afework began by quoting Fr. Butros Nimeh of Bethlehem saying: “If we preserve our language, we preserve our history and our existence. Where there is a language, there is a people, a heritage and a civilisation.”

Recognising the vital role being played by the British Library in the preservation and conservation of Ethiopian manuscripts, Ambassador Hailemichael reiterated that manuscripts serve as a reminder of the power of writing that has travelled through time to retell our history.

Ambassador Hailemichael added that preparations are underway in Addis Ababa to hold a week-long international manuscript exhibition and conference titled, “The Written Heritage in the Land of Origins” in October this year. The idea was conceived following the Minister of Culture and Tourism’s official visit to the Library last November.

The Embassy will continue its commitment to working with the British Library in the pursuit of facilitating long-term partnerships with all relevant institutions in Ethiopia, the Ambassador said.

The launch of this magnificent exhibition could not happen without the efforts of Mr. Eyob Derillo, who has shown unparalleled passion and commitment to the preservation and promotion of Ethiopia’s cultural heritage, the Ambassador concluded.

“African Scribes: Manuscript Culture of Ethiopia” is open every day from 6th February and runs until 29 April 2018. For further information, visit the British Library website.

——–

Highlights of the display are:

The Four Gospels

St. Luke the Evangelist accompanied by two disciples. At his feet are two Abyssinian ground hornbills. Lasta, early 17th century (BL Or. 516, f.100v)

The four Gospels are the central religious scriptures of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church which traces its history to the first century AD, when an Ethiopian court official on pilgrimage to Jerusalem was met on his way back by St. Philip who baptised him (Acts of the Apostles 8:26-40).


The Revelation of St. John

St John in the presence of God. Illuminated manuscript with 126 paintings illustrating the life and death of the apostle St. John. Gondar, Ethiopia 1700-1730 (BL Or. 533, f. 3r)

The Revelation of St. John of Ephesus is the last book in the New Testament, traditionally called Abuqalamisis in Ethiopian. This copy was composed at the beginning of the eighteenth century for King ʻlyasu I (r. 1682–1706) and Queen Walatta Giyorgis. This volume is an exceptional example of Ethiopian art containing 126 paintings. This painting was inspired by a series of woodcuts depicting the Apocalypse by the 16th-century German artist Albrecht Dürer.

 

Copper gilt cover of the Life and Acts of St. Takla Haymanot

Front cover of the Life and Acts of St. Takla Haymanot, one of the most revered saints of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. 18th century (BL Or. 728)

This manuscript was copied during the reign of king ‘Iyasu II (r. 1730-55) and, like the majority of Ethiopian manuscripts in the British Library, has retained its original binding. This is the only known example, however, of a copper gilt cover, comprising carvings of figures and of the cross.

 

Latest News

Browse all
In just three weeks, Ethiopia made history with the elevation of women to top government posts: a cabinet reshuffle saw a gender-balanced cabinet with women taking up half the ministerial posts, the first female president and first female supreme court president. These measures are part of Prime Minister Abiy’s latest reforms since taking office and are huge milestones in Ethiopian…
19 Nov 2018
Ethiopia’s three weeks of historic firsts
Alex Lewis, a quadruple amputee whose life changed five years ago when he contracted Strep A with Septicaemia and Toxic Shock Syndrome, which then led to amputation of all his limbs, is embarking on a monumental challenge. Alex is hoping to climb one of Africa’s tallest mountains – Ras Dashen in Ethiopia. For two weeks in January, Alex is going…
13 Nov 2018
Quadruple amputee to scale Ethiopia’s highest mountain
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed paid a working visit to Europe from 30 – 31 October, which saw him in France and Germany. However, the highlight of the visit was on 31 October in Frankfurt, where more than 15,000 Ethiopians from all over Europe braved the cold for the Prime Minister's first address to the Diaspora in Europe.
8 Nov 2018
PM Abiy’s memorable visit to Europe
On 1st November, the Parliament appointed Meaza Ashenafi, one of Ethiopia's most seasoned lawyers and a prominent women rights activist, as the country's first female Supreme Court President. This follows the appointment of the country's first female president and a gender-balanced Cabinet.
5 Nov 2018
First woman to head Supreme Court
In yet another historic move, and just days after PM Abiy named a new gender-balanced Cabinet, Ambassador Sahle-Work Zewde has been appointed as the fourth President of Ethiopia, replacing Dr. Mulatu Teshome. The decision was made by a unanimous vote during a special joint session of Ethiopia's parliament.
25 Oct 2018
Ethiopia elects first female President
On 16th October, more than 200 delegates comprising members of parliament, analystts, investors, the media and others, gathered in London for the UK-Ethiopia Trade and Investment Forum, aimed at boosting bilateral trade between Ethiopia and the United Kingdom.
22 Oct 2018
UK-Ethiopia Trade and Investment Forum affirms Ethiopia is open for Business
The Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund official website www.ethiopiatrustfund.org is now live and taking donations, as of October 22. The Advisory Council urges all interested in advancing freedom, democracy, human rights and good governance, and the EDTF to make their USD$1 contributions.
22 Oct 2018
Ethiopian Diaspora Trust Fund goes live
As part of ongoing reforms taking place in the country, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed named a new Cabinet on 16th October, with half the posts being taken by women – a historic first for Ethiopia, and Africa in general. The cabinet reshuffle saw the number of ministerial positions reduced from 28 to 20.
19 Oct 2018
Women take centre stage in Prime Minister Abiy’s Cabinet reshuffle
Addis Fine Art presented a solo exhibition by Ethiopian Artist, Addis Gezehagn, for the 2018 edition of the 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, which took place between 4th and 7th October at Somerset House, London. [caption id="attachment_4494" align="aligncenter" width="800"] Addis Gezehagn, Floating City X, 2018, Acrylic on Canvas, 146 x 222 cm. Courtesy Addis Fine Art [/caption] The solo exhibition…
15 Oct 2018
Addis Fine Art showcases Ethiopian art at 1-54 Contemporary Art Fair in London
On 2nd October, the Scientific Exploration Society commemorated the 50th anniversary of the exploration of Ethiopia’s Blue Nile River at a special event at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Mr Fekadu Beyene, Head of Diaspora Affairs (Chargé d’Affaires) attended on behalf of the Embassy and was joined by some of the members of the expedition and a number of…
8 Oct 2018
50th anniversary of the first Blue Nile expedition commemorated