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A Journey through Aesthetic Realms

Ethiopian Art, Part 1 of 3



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The Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia is a landlocked country located in east-central Africa. With over 116 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the second most populous nation on the African continent. Ethiopia, whose long history involves a mix of cultures and colorful traditional arts, is the world’s second-oldest Christian country. Over thousands of years, Ethiopian architecture has integrated various styles and techniques. The earliest famous example of Christian church architecture is the multi-story tower at Ethiopia’s ancient Sheba Kingdom Site, built before the 8th century BC under the influence of Mediterranean architectural styles. In the 4th century BC, ancient Ethiopian architecture flourished during the Aksumite Kingdom. Throughout the medieval period, especially from the 10th to 12th centuries, Ethiopia’s churches were carved out of solid rock. Harar is a fortified city built in the 13th century famous for its medieval walls and five original gates leading to the city’s five districts. During the end of the Middle Ages, the city emerged as a center of Islamic culture and religion and is now known as “Africa's Mecca.” Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2006, the city of Harar features 82 mosques and 102 shrines embraced by a maze of narrow alleyways and forbidding facades. Another amazing architectural style in Ethiopia features woven houses built by the Dorze tribe. Traditional round thatched houses such as those of the Dorze, are built by weaving the leaves of Ethiopian enset trees or false banana trees over a frame of bent branches. As recent scientific research shows, a house with a round exterior shape has a minimal surface area to lose or gain heat. Winds naturally flow smoothly around the house with little air leakage. By using readily available materials from nature, Ethiopians of earlier times are believed to have built some of the world’s most climate adapting, sustainable, and biodegradable buildings. Now, we would like to showcase the arts and crafts of households in Ethiopian homes.
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