A Solo Exhibition of the artwork of Eyob Mergia
Gallery Opening Friday February 12th, 7-9pm
At Augustana’s Eide/Dalrymple Gallery
The works will be on display from February 12th until March 11th.
This show includes a collection of works done in the period from 2002 to 2010, based on conceptual elements of Axum.
Wisdom of Axum, 2010
AXUM: HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Axum was a city, the capital of a kingdom and the center of a civilization. From four hundred years before Christ until nearly six hundred years after the fall of Rome, the area that is now Ethiopia was ruled from the city of Axum, the capital and crown of the Kingdom of Axum. At the height of its power, Axum was a force to be reckoned with both on land and at sea and was one of the four kingdoms of the world. Both Roman and Byzantine accounts attest to Axum’s influence in trade and commerce. The legendary Queen of Sheba reigned in the region eight or nine centuries earlier; her historic journey to King Solomon’s court in 980 BC, with 700 camels loaded with gold, ivory and other gifts, is well documented in the Old Testament. Her bathing pool and substantial remains of her palace can still be found in Axum.
The Axum civilization was one of the first to adopt Christianity (in the early 4th century), but the obelisks pre-date the Christian period. Perceived as the cradle of Ethiopian civilization and once the gateway between Africa and Asia, Axum was a thriving trading centre when Jesus was preaching in Palestine. Ships from Egypt, India and other countries in the orient stopped off there to load up with gold, ivory, incense, spices, hides as well as live animals such as elephants and monkeys.
Part of its success in commerce was due to its unique location—on the Red Sea between the African continent and the Arabian Peninsula; it was well-positioned to take advantage of trade routes. At this crossroads between cultures and continents it drew elements from its South Arabian as well as North African neighbors. The Axumite civilization developed its own form of writing, called Ge’ez, which is still used to write several languages, including Amharic and Tigrinya, two of the languages spoken in modern-day Ethiopia. Another lasting and significant contribution of the Axumite period is its distinctive architecture, echoes of which can still be seen today.
AXUM: THE STELAE
One of the enduring architectural remnants of the Axumite period are the stone monuments known alternately as obelisks or stelae. They are thought to have been erected to mark burial sites, as monuments to the dead, but they have come to be the symbols of the Axumite civilization. These obelisks vary a great deal in size and are found throughout the region, but the largest and most well-known stele, the Obelisk of Axum, is nearly eighty feet tall.
AXUM: THE OBELISK of AXUM
In 1937, in the aftermath of Fascist Italy’s brief conquest of Ethiopia, one of the stelae now known as the Obelisk of Axum was carried in pieces to Rome by Mussolini in 1937, as spoils of war. For decades it was a source of contention between the two countries—various Ethiopian leaders called for its return, and various Italian leaders cited technical difficulties and high costs of transport as obstacles. Finally in April 2005 the Obelisk was returned, again in pieces, to the city of Axum - 68 years after it was looted by Italian fascists.
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