Ethiopia at the Crossroads

Ethiopian cross carved from a single piece of wood. The Walters Art Museum; Gift of Nancy and Robert Nooter, 1997

Through March 3, 2024
The Walters Art Museum
Baltimore, Maryland

Nearly two millennia of Ethiopian art is currently on display at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Titled Ethiopia at the Crossroads, the exhibition examines an array of Ethiopian cultural and artistic traditions from their fourth-century origins to the present day. Through more than 225 diverse objects, it illuminates Ethiopia’s notable history and the country’s rich engagement with surrounding cultures and faiths.

An early adopter of both Christianity and Islam, and the historic home of a sizable Jewish community, Ethiopia developed distinctive artistic traditions that often emerged from and expressed one of the three Abrahamic faiths. Accordingly, the exhibit explores the country’s immense artistic and religious diversity, but also the ways in which Ethiopian artists and communities encountered and exchanged ideas with other cultures. Specifically, it traces the creation and movement of materials, artifacts, and styles into and out of East Africa. Integrated throughout the exhibit are works by contemporary Ethiopian artists, who often engage with historical artworks.

On display is this hand cross, meant to be carried by a priest and used for blessings. It was carved from a single piece of wood in the 18th or 19th century. Human figures, which double as the handles in similar crosses, are variously identified as Christ or Adam.

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Ethiopia at the Crossroads is the first exhibition of its kind in the United States. A collaborative effort of three museums, the exhibit will also be on view later in 2024 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Massachusetts (April 14–July 7) and the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio (August 18–November 10).

Related reading in Bible History Daily:

The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela

DNA Suggests Early Jewish Links with Africa

Video: Traditions Regarding a Great Going Forth from North-East Africa

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