Exhibition "Cultural Research in Northeastern Africa"

 "Cultural Research in Northeastern Africa" © Robert Kretschmer, 1862 Expedition of Duke Ernest of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Fri, 03.04.2015 -
Mon, 04.05.2015

Goethe-Institut Addis Abeba

For over three hundred years, Ethiopia and German-speaking countries enjoyed an unusual relationship built on scholarly and cultural curiosity and affection. German academic research on northeast Africa had its first high-time in the 17th century, starting with the friendship between the young Orientalist Hiob Ludolf (1624-1704) and the Ethiopian scholar Abba Gorgoryos (ca. 1600-1658). When the latter visited Germany in 1652, both started working on a huge history and ethnography of Ethiopia, which became the standard text for generations of researchers to come. Only a few years later, the ruling Prince of Gotha financed an expedition to Ethiopia, which, however, never arrived. However, the interest in Ethiopia, once kindled, continued. The philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) identified Ethiopia with the legendary home of eternal wealth and prosperity, "Shlaraffia", a paradise-like Land of Milk and Honey.
From the 19th century onwards, a steady stream of German-speaking scientists and migrants visited Ethiopia. Ethiopian princes and war-lords invited them to stay at their courts, and used them as contacts to Europe. Some of them stayed all their lives. The first in-depth studies were published, on Ethiopian languages, local legal systems, the ancient church language Ge'ez, the history of Ethiopian rulers, local ethnic groups, followed by seminal studies by great figures of modern social anthropology such as Leo Frobenius (1873-1938) and his successors.
The fact that source material is kept in archives and is easily accessible today allows us to document also the crucial role played by the Ethiopian partners – such as princes and traditional scholars. The exhibition of the Goethe-Institut focuses on the history of cultural research of German-speaking scholars in the Ethiopian region. A number of stories will be told and illustrated by findings so far largely unknown by the general public, with the example of ten biographies of European and African scholars.