The Wax and Gold of Hairstyles in Ethiopia

Wax and Hairstyle Ethiopia © Goethe-Institut

The exhibition " Wax and Gold of Hairstyle in Ethiopia " about hairstyles in Ethiopia marks the second collaboration of the Goethe-Institut with the Frobenius-Institut since 2019. The exhibition is not the first time that the Goethe-Institut has engaged with photography, documentation and archiving in the thematic context of memory, representation and cultural identity.

The wax and gold of Hairstyles in Ethiopia
The concept for the exhibition grew out of the Baxxe ፤ Home project, for which photographer Maheder Hailesellasie and cultural heritage expert Abel Assefa were invited to the Frobenius Institute for Cultural Anthropological Research in Frankfurt. During their visits in March and May 2019, they had access to the Institute's photographic archives and to artefacts collected by German anthropologists throughout the twentieth century in southern Ethiopia.

Following the exhibition "Baxxe ፤ Home" at the end of 2019, the idea for "The Wax and Gold of Hairstyle in Ethiopia" was born. Photographs of people and their hairstyles documented by German anthropologists during their field trips to southern Ethiopia, especially but not only to areas such as Gedeo, the Konso Mountains and the South Omo region between 1934 and 1971, were selected for the project with the aim of exhibiting them with their original captions to encourage reflection on these expeditions.

The exhibition offers a unique opportunity to critically analyse, with the help of experts, the aims and methods of the expeditions to Ethiopia that took place between the 1930s and the 1970s - a period in German history marked by National Socialism and the NSDAP with its racial ideology, the Second World War and the post-war period. The project is also timely in that it intersects with current discussions in Europe and Africa on topics such as decolonisation.

After the completion of the exhibition in Addis Ababa, the Goethe-Institut, Frobenius Institute and their partners have moved the exhibition to Jinka, Ethiopia, where it is permanently exhibited starting 02 June, 2022. The exhibition is also made accessible online on the "Wax and Gold of Hairstyle in Ethiopia“  website.


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