Theo Eshetu: The Return of the Axum Obelisk

daadgalerie, Berlin, Germany
01 Feb 2014 - 15 Mar 2014

To coincide with the Berlin International Film Festival the daadgalerie presents Eshetu’s most comprehensive video installation to date, “The Return of the Axum Obelisk” (2009), for the first time in Germany.

Since the 1980s Anglo-Ethiopian artist Theo Eshetu, resident in Rome and Berlin, has created films and installations that combine the formal language of experimental film – rapid cutting and a rhythmical flow of images – with anthropological themes such as the meaning and representability of rituals, symbols and myths. Eshetu’s work points to a complex network of diverse cultures, forms of cultural hybridity, and the collision of opposites.

The video installation “The Return of the Axum Obelisk” (2009) intensifies experimental film’s search to combine form and content. Across 15 monitors Eshetu shows the return of the “Roman” Axum Obelisk to Ethiopia more than 70 years after Mussolini had it shipped to Italy as spoils of war. Building on his own film documentation of this extraordinary incident of restitution, Eshetu has created an elaborate work whose compositional complexity is a small-scale honouring of the technical feat of engineering involved in reinstating the towering obelisk. The high point of the installation comes when the images on all 15 monitors merge into one as the final segment of the obelisk is put into place and the Italian and Ethiopian workers congratulate one another. At the same time Eshetu also addresses the theme through traditional Ethiopian painting, using filmed modern reenactments of the origin myth of the story of the Queen of Sheba who reigned over the region surrounding Axum – to present the obelisk’s reinstallation as a “ritual ceremony of transformation.”


Opening: January 31st 2014, 7 – 9pm

Theo Eshetu in conversation with Koyo Kouoh & Bonaventure S.B. Ndikung, Wednesday, 5 February 2014, 7pm.






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