Elizabeth Giorgis & Berhanu Ashagrie

Elizabeth Giorgis 

Elizabeth Giorgis is Associate Professor of Art History, Criticism and Theory in the College of Performing and Visual Art and the Center for African Studies at Addis Ababa University. She is also the Director of the Modern Art Museum Gebre Kristos Desta Center at Addis Ababa University. She served as Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Art and as Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies of Addis Ababa University. She is the editor and author of several publications.

She has curated several exhibitions at the Modern Art Museum, Gebre Kristos Desta Center, more recently an exhibition of Julie Mehretu’s work titled “Julie, the Addis Show,” the exhibition “Addis Ababa the Enigma of the New and the Modern that showcased four artists who engaged the changing cityscape of Addis Ababa, and the exhibition “Time Sensitive Activity” by the Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. She has also participated in several international conferences and public lectures, more recently at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Her book Modernist Art in Ethiopia, which is the first comprehensive monographic study of Ethiopian visual modernism within a broader social and intellectual history is currently in press and is expected to be released in Fall/Winter 2018. 


Berhanu Ashagrie 

Berhanu Ashagrie is an Ethiopian Visual Artist, and an Assistant Professor at Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design. He has also worked as a Director of the school nearly for four years, until April 2016. Berhanu has studied his main education in Ethiopia and Europe and currently, he is working as a researcher at the Vienna Academy of Fine Arts on a project funded by Peek.
Berhanu has actively been engaged in various cultural, educational and professional activities in local and international platforms, on which he managed to initiate, organize, participate and contribute in different international conferences, workshops, festivals, biennales; like Video_Brasil ‘Southern Panoramas’ - Sao Paulo, Bamako Biennale ‘Telling Time’ – Bamako, European Forum Alpbach Seminar ‘Inequality’ - Alpbach, Future Memories International Conference ‘Art, Public Space and the Culture of Memory’ - Addis Ababa, Institute of Spatial Experiments ‘Acting Archives’ – Berlin and Addis Ababa, International Conference ‘Sounds of Change and Urban Transformations’ - Addis Ababa, 1st Tbilisi Triennial - ‘Offside Effect’ – Georgia, ‘You’re here is Our Here’ - Studio Olafur Eliasson – Berlin, 1st Former West Congress, Utrecht.
As a visual artist, Berhanu has mainly been focused on issues that come along with the idea and activities of change/ development/transformation /modernization on urban spaces/places and the human conditions in it. He is very much interested on process-based creative production activities that generate open-ended possibilities to interact, engage, discuss, react and imagine; beyond the everyday. He realized various individual and collective artistic projects inside and outside studio environment. Multidisciplinary creative outcomes of his projects have reputedly been shown internationally in Ethiopia, Germany, Netherlands, Georgia, Italy, Austria, Greece, Spain and England. 

In Conversation: Art Architecture and Urbanism in the Myths and Realities of Addis Ababa’s Ruin and Production of Space

By Elizabeth Giorgis & Berhanu Ashagrie

Conceptualizing resilience as both a theoretical category and a framework of analysis, we explore a range of critical positions and cultural practices to examine how we think about the urban in African cities. By reflecting on the debates of southern urbanism and the dialectical link between subjection and authority in the political and social urban realities of the south, we attempt to examine the multiple truths of African urbanism to potentially produce possibilities for new models of aesthetic education and cultural critique. Particularly focusing on the city of Addis Ababa, we first examine the increasingly contested geographical and conceptual terrain that frames the contemporary ideological and political discourse of the genesis and evolution of the city. By combining strong anti-establishment rhetoric with potent demands for identity politics, marginal groups have conveyed the historical experiences of oppression by claiming Addis Ababa as an encounter that the hegemons of the past unduly appropriated. Such dissent is exacerbated by the realities that shape the tension between authoritarian led urbanization projects of the last decade which has unrelentingly paralleled urbanization with modernization in cruelly conclusive and inhuman ways.

Furthermore, the significant material and political inequalities in the urban space where the structure of urbanization fails to emerge from marginal locations has complicated matters in social relations and encounters. Dispossessed from their social fabric, millions of people are displaced to slum-like establishments. In this regard, Addis Ababa’s urbanization project has dismantled the body and its identity. Our body is now experienced and lived from the point of view of the new urban space where the virtual city makes the real world. A point to be taken then is imperative to resist such forms of dehumanizing urbanization projects. And it is in this regard that in the past few years, artists and architects are thinking productively about Addis Ababa’s urbanity and the urban space by critically engaging in artistic interventions that use resilience as a form of resistance.

This double-feature keynote explores the voices of artists and architects who are not only interrogating the challenges of their environment but who are emerging as resilient interventionists who envision a better collective by struggling for the rights and justice of urban citizens. 



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