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The Ethiopian Aesthetic

Even as a fairly interested traveller and reader – and with a degree in Afrcan history – I had very little sense of the Ethiopian Aesthetic – even though its at a least as distinctive, if not as myriad and sympathetic of renaissance ecclesiastic art:


Mostly – well traditionally pretty much entirely – its biblical and liturgical scenes: bible study for the illiterate…


Not all are as beautifully done as Debre Berhan Church, but this is the general idea…

good old final dinner

The good old Final Dinner. Look for the one-eyed Judas.  Symbols of eveil (and just about anything is consistent across monasteries, churches  hundreds of miles  (and hundreds of years) apart…


more one-eyed baddies drowning post the parting of the red sea…


about 40% of the wallspace in any given church was not biblical as i understood it – scenes of saints and their deeds, and from the Ethiopian Orthodox bible with its extra books. This is St George (sans the dragon in this pic).


for eg Saint Kiddus who tamed Lions and Leopards…


across various media too…


Early Lake Tana monastery graffiti


The same style – and elements, see St George in the rainbow – pervade later non-ecclesiastical scenes. This is the Battle of Adwa where the Ethiopian army under Menelik II defeated the Italians in 1896…

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