Art Criticism & Curatorial Practices in Marginal Contexts (Report & portfolio) – January 2006

REPORT ON THE AICA SEMINAR

As explained in previous correspondence, the internal political unrest in Ethiopia led to this seminar being postponed twice, from April 2-5 to November 2005 and from November 2005 to 26-28 January 2006. These changes of date led to a number of minor changes in the final list of speakers. In spite of this, however, we succeeded in bringing together 15 appreciative colleagues, mainly from Africa (South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Egypt, Ethiopia), with a number from Europe (UK, France, Croatia) and the Middle East (Palestine and Turkey).
Held at the Alliance Ethio-Française, thanks to the help of Lucien Roux, the former director, and Guy Maurette, the current director of this institution, the seminar benefited from good technical and logistical support. In addition to the speakers themselves, an audience averaging around 70 persons (local professors, critics, artists, students …) followed the 2 days events and took a full part in the discussions. Plans are afoot for arranging a webcast of the entire seminar, for AICA’s international website and for publishing an edited version of the proceedings, in two separate English and French language editions.

The three sessions into which the seminar was divided followed closely on each other, due to a problem with the timing of one of the speakers’ flights and a slightly disproportionate amount of speakers for the time available, but this had little noticeable impact on the homogeneity or coherence of the seminar, as a whole.

The first session started at 2.30 p.m. on Thursday, 26 January – only hours after the majority of the foreign participants had landed. This session, which was moderated by Ramon Tio Bellido, was articulated around an analysis of the recent, rather high, visibility of contemporary African art at major international events, such as the Venice Biennale and Documenta.
In his introduction, Tio Bellido recalled the relative nature of the African presence at the Venice Biennale, in comparison to the national contributions of individual participating countries, and in contrast to the clearly visible presence of the African diaspora at the last Documenta, curated by the “Nigerian”, Okwui Enwezor. Tio Bellido drew attention to the mutual responsibilities that had now to be redefined, at a time when globalisation had shown up the evident limitations of identity politics and, above all, when there had been a (re-)distribution of the centres of power and production.
Zoran Eric, in his paper, “Global Games”, gave an analysis of the perceptions attached to such concepts nowadays and pointed out that the conventional “brand labels” were no longer of any use. A new term, “glocal”, had gained popularity, as a means of trying to define the dynamics of the new economic flow patterns. He argued that there was a sameness to much of the discourse about the relationship between the “international” and the “vernacular”, and that it was more important to try and bring out the interconnections between local cultures. To him, it seemed that the same arguments applied to the art as applied to the new theories about economics, in that nowadays curators were globetrotters and tended to produce exhibitions that looked very much alike, thereby imposing a kind of cultural homogenisation on a variety of heterogeneous situations: the harsh reality was that this problematic approach was beginning to pervade everything.
Sajid Rizvi acknowledged the justice of these observations and went on to speak, from his own perspective, about the current situation in Britain – especially, London – and, specifically, about the first of two recent festivals of African arts, Africa 95, which he defined as a political happening. From among all the events and manifestations that had taken place at the time, he singled out for special attention the exhibition, Africa: the Art of a Continent, which had been curated by the artist, Tom Phillips, at the Royal Academy of Arts. This exhibition had been judged a success, especially on account of the fact that it had been visited by a substantial number of representatives of the non-white ethnic communities, many of whom had realised for the first tme that this high-profile public space was not solely dedicated to elitist shows and audiences. The more recent of the two festivals, Africa ’05, had come at a time when the (now) Labour Government was developing a much clearer policy of open public support for initiatives of this nature – as evidenced by the officially sponsored exhibition, The Turks – likewise, at the Royal Academy – which had come at the very moment when the question of Turkey’s admission into the European Community was under debate. Rizvi attributed particular significance to the public profile of Africa-05, which had helped to legitimise the cultural contribution of the African and Caribbean communities, alongside more widely recognised contribution of the Asian communities, with their “cultural icons”.
A couple of questions that needed to be asked were whether the new sense of African “identity” was ubiquitous and, if so, whether it was uniformly helpful.
Andrew Lamprecht developed a very exciting analysis of the situation in South Africa, from the time of the First Johannesburg Biennale (1995) onwards. In his view, South Africa, as a state and a cultural identity, was not “Africa”, in the larger sense of the term, and the major presence of artists from that country at international exhibitions could not be taken as representative of a vision of the continent, as a whole – even if the Guerilla Girls, in their slogan hanging snide the entrance to the Arsenale at the last Venice Biennale had quite wrongly proclaimed that Africa was “not represented”! Naturally, Africa, too, like everyone else, wanted to have its own biennale-style exhibitions nowadays, and Lamprecht went on to outline the plans for an international event in Capetown, which had begun with a large platform for debate and discussion, on the initiative of Julian Jonker and with the participation, among others, of Gilane Tawadros who had done the groundwork of checking up on existing European models and proposing some new possibilities for investigation, within an African context. Lamprecht then talked about the project which would take place in Angola, under the direction of Fernando Alvim, who was trying to set up an event that would not be a biennial, nor a triennial, but a succession of very open projects, running for a full month and including visual arts, dance, music, performance, and so on. This event, which would be held in Luanda, aimed to avoid the usual invasion of tourists and jet-setters from the art world and concentrate, instead, on staying very close to the social and cultural situation of the region, taking a pubic figure such as Nelson Mandela as its model, or preceptor. Moreover, the idea was not to establish a regular event, but to hold it two or three times, perhaps, if it was a success, and then put an end to it. In Lamprecht’s view, this was, possibly, the only way in which projects could develop and grow in Africa, and the only way in which they could be made to conform to the real needs of the moment – in other words, by actuating a state of emergency, rather than institutionalising a consumerist phenomenon that had already existed for may years in Venice and was now being disseminated throughout the world.
The next speaker was Elisabeth Wolde Giorgis, Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, who gave a very dramatic analysis of the current Ethiopian situation and context. After herself spending many years in the United States, acted as a contributor to the review NKA, and worked for the last Documenta, she had decided to start research in the field of “Ethiopian Studies”, now that she was back in her own country. She highlighted the great difficulty with maintaining a “cultural position” in this country, as there were not really the structures for promoting the arts, and, in general, there were very few individuals who were qualified to make a contribution. Although she said she was anxious not to appear arrogant or unpatriotic, she could not help remarking on the deficiencies of the context in which she was now obliged to work, or on the desperation she felt about the general lack of awareness and of commitment which she encountered, on all sides. She remarked that, although there had been recent signs of movement, to the extent that in that people were banding together to examine contemporary issues such as the problems of post-colonialism and the issue of globalisation, nothing concrete ever seemed to emerge from this. This was why she had felt impelled to embark on a study of Ethiopian culture and society, in the hope that It would help her to consolidate the basis for debate. She hoped to be able to publish the proceedings of meetings and encounters and to develop an editorial policy that could contribute to raising the levels of public awareness and critical consciousness among her fellow citizens. Using the metaphor of a bazooka and/or tomahawk, she concluded by stating how difficult it was, to fight for such a goal, when all investments and public funding went only towards preserving historical traditions and traditional forms of culture.

Time was short, so there was limited scope for debate, but everything that had been said so far had served to underline the immense diversity of the African continent. This, in turn, had pointed to the crucial importance of developing a highly differentiated set of options and responses, if any progress were to be made with developing strong policies for the promotion of contemporary art. There was also more than one helpful reminder of the need to take into account the reality and growing importance of a large African diaspora, which added to the difficulty of making an accurate analysis of needs and opportunities.
The session ended at 6.30 p.m. and the speakers went on to the opening of and exhibition of work by the senior Ethiopian artist, Worku Goshu, at the Goethe Institut.

The second session started at 9 am on Friday 27. Moderated by Henry Meyric Hughes, it was devoted to a discussion of the burgeoning of new international events, including the biennials of Cairo, Istanbul, Dakar, Alexandria, Havana and Gwangju, with additional reference to São Paulo and the more recent, itinerant European Biennial, Manifesta.
Henry Meyric Hughes gave a quite lengthy paper, which, however, provided a welcome and very precise analysis of the issues at stake. He outlined some of the principal characteristics of the above-mentioned biennials, how they had evolved, and what were their contents and strategies. By way of example, he referred to the political background to Documenta, from its origins in the aftermath of the Second World War and at the height of the Cold War, and to São Paulo’s brave emphasis on modernity and independence from the neighboring super power, to the north; he suggested that Havana and Alexandria reflected the political orientations of the nonaligned movement; showed how Istanbul had benefited, at the beginning of the 1990s, from the strategic realignments resulting from the break-up of the Soviet Empire; how Gwangju, Dakar and (in passing) Johannesburg, all in their different ways, responded to increasing globalisation, the new economy and issues of post colonialism; and how, finally, within Europe itself, Manifesta had attempted to come to terms with the redistribution of power and cultural values, within a changing political and economic framework. In his extended commentary on Manifesta, he highlighted some of the innovative approaches of this relatively young event and sought to identify particular aspects which might be of potential relevance in a totally different (African, or other) context.

He then gave the floor to Meskerem Assegued, Director of the Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis-Ababa, and co-organiser of the seminar. Assegued started, by drawing attention to the dramatic developments in information technology in the past few years, which had transformed ordinary individuals’ ability to access an almost limitless quantity of up-to-date information. As an example of this, she cited the wide (and comprehensive) range of responses that anyone with a computer could elicit from Google, at the flick of a button, in answer to ’simple’ requests for information, such as “What is art?”, “Where does art take place?”, “Who makes and promotes contemporary art?”, and so on. She speculated as to whether this had not led to very deep changes in behaviour, and whether, in fact, what counted more now was not the way in which someone dressed, spoke, moved, etc., when they came to presenting their work to a selection committee, such as the one she had served on for the last Dakar Biennale (“Dak’Art”). The ways in which the criteria for evaluating a work had changed were closely linked to the redistribution of the centres where art was produced and had led to the introduction of new factors, in matters of criticism and evaluation. These might, in turn, be said to form a part of the changes to art itself or, at the least, to the importance attributed to art, given that any support, technique or concept might now be considered as ’art’. In her view, this led to a broadening out of the definition of what art could be and was a welcome development, in that it might be considered to spell the end of modernist imperialism, in relation to the long-established structures for the production and promotion of contemporary art. Most importantly, she considered that it was now possible, at last, to overcome the dominance of theory and rationality and concentrate, instead, on the essential, behavioural aspects of contemporary art. She was in no doubt that we were now very close to accepting that everything might legitimately be considered an art work and that the viewer might usefully start by asking him or herself whether they should not also be categorised, in this way!
Niilofur Farrukh, President of the very new AICA Pakistan Section, was the next speaker. She started by reminding her audience of the changes that had come about, In the wake of post-colonialism and globalisation and focused, in particular, on three points of intersection, which she defined as “strategies for survival and development”; the need for “unorthodox methodologies”; and a “spotlight on primary influences”, which would reveal how “art is showcased” today.
She then showed examples of the work of Pakistani artists, Jamal Shah and Shazia Sikander. Jamal Shah’s paintings could be looked at, as a kind of strongly vernacular iconography, but one which incorporated a high level of political understanding and required an exact knowledge of certain local myths and rules that were the targets of the artist’s attacks. The digital animations of Shazia Sikander also spoke dealt with feminist problems in Pakistan – in her case, with reference to traditional miniature painting. In both cases, Farrukh insisted in the fact that it was necessary to be very cautious, in dealing with the “complicity of cultural layers” that were used in contemporary Pakistani art. She went on to remind listeners of that country’s recent history, and of the way in which art had gained increasing prominence in the post-modernist area; without succumbing to the repressive policies and human rights abuses that had undoubtedly gained the upper hand, from time to time. It came as no surprise, she said, to note the crucial influence on contemporary art of the ever-increasing number of TV channels and, now, the internet, but she questioned whether this apparent gain in openness might not lead to an increasing ghettoisation of the artistic economy and created additional difficulties for artists who refused to take part in this. All in all a whole range of powerful processes were now in play.
At this point, Henry Meyric Hughes informed the audience that he had with him the papers written by two colleagues, Ahu Antmen and Khaled Hafez, who had originally been invited to this event, but who had been prevented from attending by the unavoidable change of dates. He said that he had intended reading out both papers, but that time did not permit this; instead, copies of the papers had been distributed to all participants and their texts would be included in the Proceedings, when these came to be published. He next gave the floor to Bassam El-Baroni, an art critic and curator from Alexandria, who planned to speak about the two biennials in his country – in Alexandria and Cairo – and about his own experience with other contemporary art projects and events in Egypt.
El-Baroni started his talk with an account of the overall situation in Egypt, where he witnessed how the two established biennales were rapidly losing both weight and influence. He considered this might be due, in part, to a wider regional, or global, cause, since the need for formal, or official involvement in such events had almost been overcome elsewhere, and nothing suggested that the directors of the few official museums and art centres in the country were taking the lead in searching for new developments abroad. The relative isolation of the Egyptian scene had led to the growth in private initiatives and independent responses, which could scarcely be qualified as “underground”, but that could only count on their own resources and the occasional subsidy, In order to survive. El-Baroni went on to talk about the space he himself had founded, the ACAF/ Alexandria Contemporary Arts Forum, which he qualified as “dedicated to the dissemination of contemporary visual culture”. This new space had rapidly gained a visibility and proved that it met a need, on the basis of its collaboration with local artists, the College of Fine Arts and a solid internet network. It had amply demonstrated that there was no lack of promising young artists In Egypt – merely a sad lack of appropriate structures and of the right kind of official involvement. (This amounted to a kind of leitmotif, that cropped up on a number of other occasions, in the contirbutions of other participants).

This session came to an end with the last speaker at 12.30 p.m., and it was decided to postpone discussion of some of the issues raised until later in the afternoon.

The third session started at 2 p.m. and was moderated by Stephen Wright. This session had set the objective of examining a number of projects organised by curators in Africa, to see how successful they had been, not only at covering a wide spectrum of events and methodological approaches, but at reaching a sizeable public and increasing the audience for contemporary art.
At the outset, Stephen Wright ironically questioned the meaning of the title that had been proposed, In an effort to establish who might be knocking at whose door – only to ascertain, with a heavy heart, that the supposed door might remain closed or need to be “reframed”. He recalled that we all lived in “divided times”, which had been fashioned by “universally dominant geopolitical wills”. Art, in order to survive, had to be made artificially scarce, and the fact of its scarcity needed to be subjected to “attentive scrutiny”. The (re-)distribution of art, as previous sessions had shown, tended to favour the increased presence of African art at venues such as Venice and Kassel, but had also tended, paradoxically, to reinforce its marginalisation in situations such as these, which were integrated into tightly controlled circuits. Wright coined the term exhibition envy, to describe the phenomenon of creating an artificial scarcity and found its logical counterpart in the hacker, whose role, in the context of contemporary art, was to “liberate knowledge from an economy of scarcity” and interfere with abstract productions inside the dominant “vectors” of society today. Even if spoken English appeared to be one of the leading vectors, to judge from the comments of a number of artists from developing countries, what seemed to govern the subjective envy of non-participants was the fact that scarcity outstripped supply, and this meant that they all ended up, “knocking at the same door”.

The next speaker was Mutheu Mbondo, who outlined the activities of the Kuona Trust in Kenya. To the extent that the Trust’s activities had been developed in response to the lack of pubic aid for art and culture in Kenya, they seemed perfectly attuned to those of the so-called ’hacker’, that Stephen Wright had described. The Kuona Trust tried to contribute to the promotion of contemporary art, by organising seminars, classes, education and the circulation of art works. Through its various activities, the Trust, whose headquarters was in Nairobi, also had a wide-ranging impact on a number of other countries in Africa, starting with it immediate neighbours. The going was tough, of course, and many difficulties lay in the path, but this policy gave sufficient measurable results, for it to be worth pursuing, and reinforced, at a local level.
Next, Sacha Craddock spoke about what she described as the amazing experience of ASP/ Arts School Palestine, which was an attempt to call art into existence in a country where there had been nothing of this kind, before. Based in London, with an administrative board both there and in Ramallah, the ASP tried to connect the diaspora to the population that was left behind in Gaza and in the territories in between, by utilising the new possibilities offered by the Internet. Among the many examples of the uses to which this tool could be put, Craddock cited the exchanges that had really occurred, when a young Palestinian worked with an artist in Israel and was able, in the process, to demonstrate the feasibility of developing new kinds of long-distance relationship, in compliance with the SPA’s aims. Whatever the situation and the difficulties caused by censorship, and whatever the occasional misunderstandings created by this project in London, the speaker, as founder and director of the project, remained convinced of its necessity and importance. By way of an open conclusion, she then went on to outline the programme which had been set up for the following year, which included an exchange of residencies planned for Palestinian artists in the UK and for British artists in Palestine, and the organisation of an exhibition at Arnolfini, in Bristol, in addition to workshops, round-tables and exhibitions in Bethlehem and Gaza.
After listening to this specific project that very openly paraded its political intentions, Stephen Wright gave the floor to Ahmed Zekaria, a senior curator at the Addis-Ababa University Museum, who chose to address the public on current efforts to give contemporary meaning and continuity to the traditional practices of the Harari basket-makers. Zekania acknowledged that he was addressing a topic that deviated somewhat from the set theme of the seminar, but gave an interesting account of the history of Harari basketry, with its distinctive range of curiously shaped, brightly coloured objects and pointed to the interest of a number of western specialists, who had analysed the richness of their patterns and techniques. He said that nowadays, these baskets were made under the supervision of the organisation for Ethiopian Cultural Heritage, under the auspices of the World Bank. Quite apart from the potential profitability of these baskets, Zekaria maintained that it would shortly become perfectly acceptable for artisanal work of this quality to become eligible for inclusion in some of the major international art biennales.
Close to Ahmed Zekaria, in his business-like and promotional concerns, Albert Chimedza went on to make a presentation of the activities of the Mbira Center in Harare, Zimbabwe. He said that the sole purpose of this Centre, that he himself had established, was to protect and defend the existence of a rare musical instrument, the mbira, which was only known, and played, within Zimbabwe itself. The activities of the Centre – like those of the previous speaker – focused on a combined pursuit of economic and cultural goals. It produced instruments for sale, organised and recorded concerts and distributed its own CDs and DVDs, worldwide. At the last Venice Biennale, it had also given the opportunity to a Zimbabwean artist to film a rhythmically articulated video, to the accompaniment of a mbira soundtrack.

Also from Zimbabwe, Doreen Sibanda, Director of the National Gallery in Harare, gave an open and instructive analysis of the paradoxical situation in which this institution found itself today. When it had been created, some fifty years ago, it had been mainly dedicated to traditional Western art and a range of ethnological arts and crafts. Since then, largely under the influence of the previous director, the works that had been added to the collection had largely conformed to the western pictorial tradition, even though many of them had been produced by indigenous artists. It was necessary now to question the acceptance of various forms of avant-gardism that were the product of indigenous artists, but no more representative of truly creative endeavour than the products of western origin that they sought to replace. Above all, it was necessary to ask who the newest forms of art were for, in terms both of the public and of the individual consumer. Sibanda noted that there was no real interest in this art amongst the local elites, as if they too, were openly embarrassed by items such as these, that were too closely attached to local and traditional, obsolete, forms. Whichever way one looked at it, it seemed as if this new art was trapped in the globalist movement that prevailed throughout the world today, including, of course, all the benefits and added value that culture could provide, when it had to respond to current demands for the standard “yardsticks of success”.
The final contribution to this part of this session came from Storm Janse van Rensburg, the former curator of the KwaZulu Natal Society of Arts/ KZNSA, in Durban. Before outlining the activities of this centre, he reminded his listeners of the deep changes that democracy had brought about in South Africa, and how these had not only affected the visual arts, but led to the creation of two editions of the Johannesburg Biennale, which, in turn, had introduced audiences to new international work and encouraged artists to adopt a variety of new trends and means of expression. The new appeal to artists of video, photography and new media, in general, corresponded to an increase in what he called “marginalised practices” and open resistance to the institutions. However, this had not, in any way, precluded a rapid growth in the institutional infrastructure and an increasing growth in public state support – as demonstrated by the creation of a new Directorate for Visual Arts. Janse van Rensburg described Durban as a distinctive city, and his former institution as something of an anomaly, within the general context of the infrastructure for contemporary art in South Africa. This was a city without a great number of arts centres and institutions, and without a tradition of supporting new initiatives in the field of contemporary art. For this reason, perhaps, the KZNSA had come to occupy a rather special, and remarkable, position. Founded in 1905, on the model of other European galleries of the period, it had represented a prominent force in the visual arts sector until the mid-1970’s. In 1995, the association which had founded and owned the gallery decided to move into a better building and to open up its space to non-local artists. In 2000 a decision had been taken to introduce the phrase “contemporary art” into the association’s mission statement, and this had represented a further important step in the KZNSA’s development, leading to the creation of a brand-new programme of “Young Artists Projects”, in 2002. This programme, which was dedicated to artists working more especially in the new media, was dedicated to stimulating the production of new work that had never been exhibited before. Each show was accompanied by a public seminar, in the series dubbed “Critical Voices”, which, of itself, had become a major feature of the gallery’s activities. Whilst the KZNSA was not the only example of its kind in South Africa, it was one of the first to be established, and had maintained its pioneering role throughout its existence. It had consistently succeeded in attaining its objectives and was now very representative of the diversity and good infrastructure that characterised the vissul art scene in South Africa today.

The third and final session lasted until quite late, owing to the unusual numbers of speakers – Albert Chimedza’s talk having been moved from the first session in the third. There was no time for discussion at that point, so it was decided to set aside an hour for this, in the course of the visit to the Fine Arts School, planned for the afternoon of the following day.
At the conclusion of the two days’ discussion, the prominent architect and cultural commentator, Fassil Giorgis, gave a short summing-up, in which he underlined the importance of the various contributions that had been made, which, he considered, had clearly demonstrated that the major issues relating to contemporary art were not strictly geographical, but rooted, more likely, in the diversity of definitions, contents and criteria used by each of the speakers. As a practising architect, he did not want to betray any gaps in his knowledge of contemporary art, but he felt strongly confirmed in his belief in the capital Importance of giving people the opportunity to express themselves. He stated very clearly that this was what seemed to him to be an absolute priority and – since this was Ethiopia – this also underlined the very high priority that needed to be given to art education. The lacks that felt had been identified could, doubtless, be partly resolved by setting up a programme of exhibitions and events, but the most urgent questions needed to be addressed at the level of the schools, How could art critics, curators and researchers contribute to meeting the needs that had been identified? By what means? With which methods and structures ? These were, of course, some of the main problems to be addressed, and it was too much to hope for an immediate answer to them, even though exposing some of the problems might eventually assist with devising some of the solutions.

On Saturday 28 January, the participants in the seminar were first invited to visit the private gallery, Asni, situated on one of the hills facing the extraordinary district housing many of the foreign Embassies, which had received lavish offers of land, in exchange for building countless numbers of bridges, to get there.
This visit was very much appreciated. The works on view afforded an opportunity to find out more about contemporary Ethiopian art and served to underline the importance of individual initiatives, in a city where public investment in the artistic infrastructure was low, and the outcome uncertain.
A visit to the National Museum was, of course, mandatory, not only out of deference to the reputed mother of us all, Lucy (surrounded by all the diamonds in every sky), but also to enable us to have a fairly quick look at the survey of local painting, from the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth. – Few surprises here, however, in that most of the work wore a rather academic, westernised air!

Then came the last planned meeting at the Fine Arts School, where the Director and his colleagues, as well as a large number of students, were lined up to greet the visitors. In the big hall, designed like an open square surmounted by a sunny glass roof, a large number of canvasses had been displayed, showing the work of former students over the previous couple of decades. Before there was a chance even to enter into a discussion of the works, a debate opened up about the School itself, its problematic infra-structure (no public money), its declared aim of selecting a majority of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the inclusion, albeit limited, of female students.
Then came the debate on the art works, as the students were naturally very intrigued to know what kind of evaluation such a disparate, but representative, bunch of professionals would give. This group were responsible enough to state their belief that too many of the works were clearly in thrall to the norms of the kind of academic realism that characterised Soviet-Russian art school teaching and had prevailed throughout the period of Ethiopia’s close alliance with the Soviet Union, up until quite a recent date in the country’s history. This seemed a pity, as there was nothing much to argue with, with regard to the actual quality of the painting itself. The discussion then switched to a consideration of the persistence of the students’ (or their teachers’) preoccupation with the classic techniques of painting on canvas and to the question of the extent to which they might have access to the latest media, such as broadcasting, computers and the internet, not merely for creative purposes, but as valuable sources of information. The teaching staff seemed sincere in their commitment to making such items available to their students, if this could be arranged, but pointed out that there was always the difficult question of cost, when it came, not only to purchasing new equipment, but to maintaining it. A considerable portion of the discussion also focused on the School’s entry requirements, with its acceptance rate of approximately one applicant out of fifty, its methods of evaluation and its examination procedures, as well as of the future employment prospects for its graduates.

This extremely lively and interesting meeting only had to be brought to a close when the participants in the seminar were taken off by bus to a restaurant offering authentic Ethiopian cuisine, as a happy conclusion to their brief stay. It only remains to be said, in addition, that the Director of the British council and his Italian wife laid on a most enjoyable dinner party for the participants at their home, to which they also invited a number of their important contacts in the cultural field; and that our partner, Meskerem Assegued and her husband also offered us generous hospitality in their private house and garden, in which all the available spaces were taken up by outstanding examples of contemporary Ethiopian art and crafts. On the last, free day at the end of our stay, those participants who were able to either went to visit some of the museums in the city or set off into the countryside, to visit a pilgrimage church and a couple of neolithic and prehistoric sites. But all that is another story!