The African 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.
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 Surafel Wondemu, Elizabeth Giorgis and Dagmawi Woubshet with Salah M Hassan, followed by a musical performance by Ethiopian musicians Alemayehu Eshete and Bethlehem Bekele.
On Saturday, October 12, there will be a screening of the highly acclaimed film Difret, which is based on a true story of a lawyer defending a 14-year-old rape victim who killed her attacker in a rural Ethiopian village. A second concert by Alemayehu Eshete and his band will follow.
Currently, the institute has commissioned leading Ethiopian scholars Elizabeth W Giorgis (Addis Ababa University), Surafel Wondemu (Addis Ababa University) and Dagmawi Woubshet (University of Pennsylvania) 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.