The Ethiopian Cultural Garden, the 37th in the parade of Cleveland Cultural Gardens, and the first representing an African country, has been a labor of love for a dedicated group of Ethiopianists, including RPCV Herb Resnick, (Harar, 1962-64). Committee members have noted of this elder statesman that he has been a pivotal member of the committee and the project would not have come to a completion point without his tireless dedication. As a result of Herb’s connections, the Peace Corps played an important part of the garden and will be recognized on the dedication plaque. Herb welcomed COVID-19 evacuated RPCV Chase Goldston (Laaloo, Jimma Zone, 2019-2020) to the fold, representing both ends (Ethi I and G-20) of the Peace Corps Ethiopia spectrum.
Herb would be the first to say that it takes a village and would share the accolades to fellow Ethiopian Cultural Garden committee members who served under the umbrella of the Menelik Hall Foundation, a charitable 501(c)(3) organization, incorporated in 1987 in the State of Ohio, and dedicated to support projects primarily for, but not limited to, Ethiopia and Ethiopians.
The Ethiopian Cultural Garden project is being developed in three phases. Phase One – a large mosaic mural of Ethiopian history – is completed and was dedicated on One World Day, August 24, 2019 with Ethiopian Ambassador Fitsum Arega as its invited guest. It is the only such monument to Ethiopia on this scale outside of the country itself. The committee worked tirelessly over a seven-year period to raise the necessary $75,000 funds with an additional $24,000 needed to fully complete Phase One. Phases Two and Three necessitate raising an additional $250,000.
The Ethiopian artist, Zerihun Yetmgeta, designed the 5-panel mural depicting 5,000 years of history. Cleveland’s Ethio-American artist mosaic artist Ernesto Spinelli constructed the mural.
Phase 1: Mosaic of Ethiopian History
- Panel 1, The Cradle of Humankind: Lucy’ found in 1974 in the Hadar region of Ethiopia by Dr. Donald Johanson of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. Since then, Dr.Yohannes Haile-Selassie, now the museum’s paleoanthropologist, has made several more equally stunning hominid finds in Hadar. Also depicted are ancient cave paintings from Dire Dawa that are 4,000 years old.
- Panel 2, The Southern Peoples and All Other Ethnic Groups: Typified here by the Konso, who developed terraced farming, antedating the Axum Empire itself. There are an amazingly diversified 77 linguistic groups in Ethiopia, descended from one ‘Afro-Asiatic’ tribe of 3500 years ago somewhere just to the north of Ethiopia, which was the origin of the Omotic, Cushitic and also the Semitic languages, subsequently spreading across the Red Sea to the Arabian Peninsula.
- Panel 3, The Early Civilizations of Axum and Lalibela: ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS (in the North): AKSUM, 200 BC to 1,000 AD. Iconic, monolithic stelae 79 feet tall, 160 tons. LALIBELA, 11 monolithic Orthodox churches, 1200 AD. Stone carving excellence of both groups.
- Panel 4, The Succession of Emperors: Allegedly unbroken succession from Menelik I (Solomon and Sheba’s son) through Haile Selassie. the ‘fabulous four’, Tewodros, Yohannes, Menelik II (with Empress Taytu), and Haile Selassie, all of whom were involved in and ultimately successful in preserving Ethiopian independence from colonialism. Particularly, the Battle of Adwa in 1896, Ethiopian defeat of the Italians, under Menelik and Taytu, was emblematic for all Africans and other subjugated peoples around the globe.
- Panel 5, The Modern Period: Increasing knowledge, science, and hopefully the wisdom that should accompany this knowledge. TIBEB ‘The Eye of Wisdom.’ “Today’s flowers, tomorrow’s seeds.” Second ‘eye’ is ‘globe’ of globalization, the Moon indicating the technology it took to travel there. But we must continue knocking on the Door of the Visual Arts.
Back Panel: “When the Sun Gets the Moon”. This painting by Zerihun Yetmgeta from 1987 carries an environmental message; even though humans developed technology to land on the moon, on Earth we see forests destroyed, cities overcrowded and polluted, and the Earth over-heating from the unmitigated rays of the Sun. He says, “Despite modern technology, the earth is being devastated”. This painting takes us full circle: from the dawn of humankind, great ethnic diversification, national unity and independence under Emperors, to heights of technology by an overpopulated humankind in this age where everything has a global effect, and now to the unthinkable possibility of “collapse of our civilization and the extinction of much of the natural world,” (Richard Attenborough). This painting is a plea from Ethiopia, where the human race originated, for us to do much better if we hope to avert this eventuality.
Plantings in the landscape design, by our landscape architect Heidi O’Neill, will represent the color and diversity of Ethiopian flora. Our thanks and appreciation to Ethiopian contemporary artist Zerihun Yetmgeta of Addis Ababa for concept design, sketches and painting of the history mural.
Ethiopian Cultural Garden Project Phases
PHASE ONE: Five-paneled historical-cultural mural mosaic – 12 x 18 feet, 5-paneled wall structure of reinforced concrete, upon which Ernesto Spinelli will apply the glass-tile mosaic renditions of Zerihun Yetimgeta’s work, including on the 2nd side, the environmental piece, “When the Sun Gets the Moon”(1987).
PHASE TWO: Axum Stele (obelisk)-inspired ‘gateway arch’ – structural sandstone from Pennsylvania, 60 tons, 30 feet tall.
PHASE THREE: Full-scale replica of a Lalibela Church doorway, same type of sandstone, 27 tons, 12 feet tall.
A stone patio depicting a map of Ethiopia and showing the traditional original provinces of Ethiopia will connect the three phases.