East Africa

Ethiopia Arts

The architecture of the so-called “paleoetiopic” period (last centuries before Christ-VII century AD) is characterized by massive constructions whose function has not yet been clarified (religious, civil or funeral), springs on a high podium (approx. 5 m) of limestone blocks with access steps. According to a2zgov, nothing remains of the elevated walls, built with the typically Ethiopian technique (documented by the decoration of the stele) which alternated masonry bands with horizontal wooden crosspieces (only the “South Arabian temple” of Yehà, from the 5th century AD, yes it is preserved because it is entirely in masonry). Ruins of buildings from this period, which can be grouped into three basic types by plan, orientation and arrangement of the entrances, are found in Aksum, Debarwa, Tokhondà, Adulis, Agulà, Qohaitò etc. In the field of figurative sculpture rare are the statuettes in the round (small sphinxes, seated human figures, animals in stone and bronze), more common are the bas-reliefs (lion and lioness carved on the rock at Aksum); rich architectural sculpture (columns, capitals, friezes, obelisks). In the so-called medieval period (6th-16th centuries) a purely Ethiopian Christian art developed. Following the Muslim expansion, the political and cultural center moved from Aksum towards the S, first in the Lasta then in the Sawa. The most characteristic forms of the architecture of this period are the monolithic underground churches of Lasta, with round arches, barrel vaults, small domes, stucco and fresco decorations (churches of Muslim expansion the political and cultural center moved from Aksum towards the S, first in the Lasta then in the Sawa. The most characteristic forms of the architecture of this period are the monolithic underground churches of Lasta, with round arches, barrel vaults, small domes, stucco and fresco decorations (churches of Muslim expansion the political and cultural center moved from Aksum towards the S, first in the Lasta then in the Sawa. The most characteristic forms of the architecture of this period are the monolithic underground churches of Lasta, with round arches, barrel vaults, small domes, stucco and fresco decorations (churches of Lalibela, see Amhara). Rectangular masonry churches with walls in alternating bands of stone and wood also date back to the same period (church of the convent of Debra Damo nell’Agamè, ca. VI-X century). A third type is represented by the churches, also rectangular and in masonry but without alternating bands, of northern Ethiopia (new church of Syon in Aksum; Endà Giyorgìs in Feremena; church of Asmara). As regards the sculpture of the medieval period, only bas-reliefs are preserved, especially on stone (facade of Maryàm in Lalibela; Deposition and nine saints in the church of Golgotà; Evangelists of the tabernacle in the crypt of Sellassiè, also in Lalibela), but also on wood, such as the 33 panels with zoomorphic and geometric decorations of the coffered ceiling in the antivestibolo by Debra Damo. The pictorial production, which begins in the Christian era, includes both ornamental paintings and large figurations of sacred subjects, mostly in fresco. The icons painted in tempera on wood are rare, while in the field of wall painting the technique of tempera on canvas glued to the walls should be remembered. Later, but very refined, is the tradition of the miniature. The most ancient manuscripts (14th century) reflect the Asian influence (Syrian-Mesopotamian-Armenian) in the iconography and the Coptic one in the ornamentation. Ethiopian is instead the style and, after the century. XV, also types and environments. Good level reached the ceramics, the goldsmithing and metalworking (crowns, liturgical objects, portable crosses, bindings, etc.), minted coins. The “modern” period of Ethiopian art, which begins in the century. XVI, corresponds to the progressive decline and penetration, albeit in restricted areas and periods, of European influence (especially Portuguese in the second half of the sixteenth century and in the early seventeenth century through the Jesuits). The invasions of the Galla, coming from S, determined a new movement of the capital towards N, to Gondar. The constructions of this period (the probably Portuguese castles of Gondar are characteristic) are mostly of foreign execution and have European or European-Eastern characters (two-storey church of Martùla Maryàm in Goggiam). The European influence became decisive from the end of the century. XIX; after 1936 the major cities received master plans by Italian architects. The damage suffered by the artistic heritage during the last world war was very serious.

Ethiopia Arts