Sharjah's Africa Institute to delve into Ethiopia's rich history with new cultural programme

The inaugural scholarly and cultural season includes lectures, performances, film screenings and exhibitions

'The Distant Gaze: Return of A Departure' (2017) by Aida Muluneh, who will have an exhibition at The Africa Institute as part of the research centre's inaugural cultural season. Courtesy of Aida Mulunehand The Africa Institute 
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The Africa Institute, a Sharjah think tank focused on research and documentation of the people and cultures of Africa, has announced details for its first scholarly and cultural season.

The aim of this initiative is to shed light on the complex histories within Africa and to discuss its contemporary issues. The programme for these seasons will include scholarly, cultural and artistic activities from a specific country in Africa or from African diaspora communities across the globe.

Its inaugural season, which will span the academic year 2019-2020, is themed Ethiopia: Modern Nation/Ancient Roots, covering the country’s ancient and postcolonial history, as well as the current challenges and conditions faced by its citizens today. It will kick off with a two-day programme at the institute's Africa Hall in Sharjah on Friday, 11 October, with lectures and performances.

The Africa Hall in Sharjah. The Africa Institute will be built by David Adjaye in the parking lot adjacent to it, opening in 2021. Courtesy Sharjah Art Foundation

Such an initiative continues the long history of Sharjah’s interest in Africa. In December 1976, the Ruler of Sharjah, Sheikh Sultan Al Qasimi, hosted the Arab-African Symposium at the Africa Hall, which was opened in the same year. Now, the hall, which functions as an auditorium and performance venue, is part of the institute.

A major lecture titled On Ethiopian History will be presented by Elizabeth Giorgis and Surafel Wondemu from Addis Ababa University and Dagmawi Woubshet from University of Pennsylvania with Salah Hassan, followed by a musical performance by Ethiopian musicians Alemayehu Eshete and Bethlehem Bekele.

'Water Life: Knowing the way Tomorrow' by Aida Muluneh (2018). Courtesy of the artist and The Africa Institute 

Currently, the institute has commissioned leading scholars Giorgis, Wondemu and Woubshet to develop a detailed programme for the season, which will run through to May 2020.

So far, a two-part interdisciplinary scholarly conference titled Ethiopia: Modern Nation/Ancient Roots – a collaboration between The Africa Institute and Addis Ababa University’s College of Performing and Visual Art and the Institute of Ethiopian Studies – has been confirmed for March 2020 in Sharjah. The conference will then travel to Addis Ababa in May 2020.

There will also be a film festival, theatrical and musical performances, as well as an exhibition by contemporary Ethiopian artist Aida Muluneh. Details and dates for the season's programme will be released later this year.

For more information on The Africa Institute, visit