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Art and Design in Jet Age Ethiopia

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The impact of the jet age on Ethiopia's artists in the 1960s

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Art and Design in Jet Age Ethiopia

Kate Cowcher

Note - This event will take place online via Zoom. All registrants will be sent links to the session shortly before the event.

In 1962 Ethiopian Airlines was the first airline on the African continent to purchase Boeing 720B jets. Jet travel revolutionised both global connectivity and perceptions of space, time and a country's position in the world. The continent's leading carrier soon advertised a historic, timeless Ethiopia, accessible on an unprecedented scale via cutting-edge technologies.

This lecture will share preliminary research on the impact of the jet age on Ethiopia's artists in the 1960s, specifically focusing on the country's pioneer industrial designer, Tadesse Gizaw.

Trained at New York's Pratt Institute, Tadesse established the department of Industrial Design at the School of Fine Arts in Addis Ababa. He advocated for design education as critical to 'self-sufficiency, change and progress' (1967). He believed that the preservation of his country's historic traditions was dependent upon harnessing and developing new technologies.

Alongside practical objects, like an ergonomic Amharic typewriter, he also produced abstract metalwork sculptures that explored the potential of what could be made visible. In the vibrant decade best known as the 'Addis Spring', Tadesse's visions were democratic and futuristic, and reflective of the creativity that the jet age inspired.

Kate Cowcher is a Lecturer in Art History at the University of St Andrews and is a historian of art from Africa, with a particular focus on Ethiopia, and on modern and contemporary practices.


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Organiser The Anglo-Ethiopian Society

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The Anglo-Ethiopian Society was formed in 1948. The object of The Society is to advance public education and knowledge concerning Ethiopia.

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