This talk is drawn from a larger research project on art and visual culture in the Ethiopian revolution, one that stresses the centrality of images in the downfall of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 and in the construction of a "popular," putatively Marxist-Leninist revolution that followed. Artists were immediately called upon to develop a new typology of images: blatant and blaring graphic design that affronted Ethiopia's Imperial tradition of veiled modes of communication.
Close examination of works that seem easy to dismiss as straightforward propaganda, however, reveals slippages in translation from the greater communist sphere, ideological inconsistencies and a creeping sense of apathy amongst those who had once fought for radical change. Rather than simply "demystify" the revolution, Ethiopia's revolutionary graphic art provides a rich chronicle of shifting allegiances and growing anxieties in the midst of domestic turmoil, on the final frontier of the Cold War in Africa.
Kate Cowcher is Lecturer in Art History at the University of St. Andrews. She was previously Postdoctoral Fellow in Modern and Contemporary Art at the University of Maryland's Center for Art and Knowledge at the Phillips Collection. She completed her doctoral thesis at Stanford University in 2017. It explored art and visual culture in the Ethiopian Revolution (1974-1991). Her research has been supported by a Graduate Fellowship from Stanford University and the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) at the National Gallery, Washington D.C.
Kate's broader research interests include modern and contemporary art in Africa and the Diaspora, African socialism, legacies of the Cold War in African visual culture, cultural exchange between Africa and Soviet/post-Soviet Russia, African cinema, artist collectives and the post-colonial city.
Part of the History of Art Research Seminar Series 2018/19.