Kate Cowcher

Theme: New Cities – New Locations

Hyphenated Modernisms as Prelude to Revolution in Ethiopia

Addis Ababa in the 1960s was a changing city. Buildings rose, creative institutions flourished and opportunities to study abroad created a generation of cosmopolitan Ethiopians. An era of excitement, the “Addis Spring” of the 1960s also unleashed tensions about art’s purpose in a modernising society. As two critics wrote, this was the age of the “hyphenated Ethiopian,” whose international interests jarred with domestic realities, who “learned to see with unseeing eyes” to avoid confronting such. Gebre Kristos Desta challenged this “hyphenated” existence, insisting that art must reveal, not conceal inequalities. This was an era of energy and anxiety over representation, politics and visibility, one that ended in revolution.

Kate Cowcher is Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art History at the University of Maryland’s Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collections. She completed her doctorate at Stanford University in 2017 on art in the Ethiopian revolution. In 2018 she will begin a position as Lecturer in Art History at the University of St. Andrews. Her current book project explores on art, modernism and revolution in Ethiopia.