The museum as prison and other protective measures in socialist Ethiopia
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In 1974 Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown in a revolution that ended Ethiopia’s long Imperial history and ushered in a military Marxist dictatorship. The challenge of what to do with Ethiopia’s vast royal and religious cultural heritage–of symbolic national and Pan-African significance–immediately presented itself. This article considers the treatment of the Ethiopia’s historic heritages in the wake of the Emperor’s fall, examining both acts of iconoclasm and the proliferation of a cultural heritage bureaucracy in keeping with a putatively socialist political agenda. Focusing specifically on a UNESCO report about the proposed new National Museum, this study explores efforts to recast Ethiopia’s national narrative within a ‘progressive’ framework, and the influence of Leninist attitudes towards ‘imperial’ heritage in the wake of revolution. The latter evidences the impact of Soviet heritage concepts, known in Addis through the circulation of Progress Publisher books from the later 1970s onwards, and through educational sojourns by Ethiopian intellectuals to Soviet cities. Though the revolution was a destructive, iconoclastic process in which many (including the Emperor) lost their lives, it left a curious legacy regarding national cultural heritage, the very definition of which was dramatically expanded to include much more than royal crowns and Orthodox treasures.
Cowcher , K 2020 , ' The museum as prison and other protective measures in socialist Ethiopia ' , International Journal of Heritage Studies , vol. 26 , no. 12 , pp. 1166-1184 . https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2019.1661270
International Journal of Heritage Studies
Copyright © 2019 Kate Cowcher. This work has been made available online in accordance with publisher policies or with permission. Permission for further reuse of this content should be sought from the publisher or the rights holder. This is the author created accepted manuscript following peer review and may differ slightly from the final published version. The final published version of this work is available at https://doi.org/10.1080/13527258.2019.1661270
DescriptionResearch for this study was partially funded by the Centre for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery of Art.
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