“Today is a day of joy and celebration – 50 years of the Goethe-Institute, Addis Ababa. Against the background of over 100 years of diplomatic relations between Ethiopia and Germany, the core mission of the Goethe-Institute has remained unchanged: to build bridges between two cultures,” said the German Ambassador Lieselore Cyrus on Wednesday, April 11, at the 50th anniversary celebration.
The Addis Ababa Goethe-Institute was one of the first German organizations to operate in Africa. The drive to bring Goethe to Addis Ababa came from Ethiopians who studied in Germany. In June 1962 Ethiopian Emperor Haileselassie I officially inaugurated the ‘German Cultural Institute’ as it was called at the time, across the Arat Kilo monument after requests from students, was accepted by both the Ethiopian and the German governments. The book the Emperor signed on that occasion remains in the institute’s library collection to this day. Capital learnt that the library has now 4,000 books, videos, CD-ROMs and DVDs and provides Internet access for visitors.
Diplomatic relations between the two countries has a long standing history that began with the signing of a treaty of amity and commerce as early as 1905. Goethe-Institute was founded on the initiative of private individuals who wanted to promote the image of a new, democratic post-war Germany. In the eyes of the Germans, the Goethe-Institute is seen as Germany’s cultural ambassador to 93 countries around the world.
The institute has been a venue for the exchange of cultures and opinions for five decades. “What is the German culture, asked the ambassador? Some accounts would ground German culture in its history on federalism, Prussian discipline and sausage – but what about modern art, electronic music and environmental concerns?”
The ambassador continued in his remark saying that the same applies to Ethiopia: “Given the huge diversity of this country, can we really talk about one Ethiopian culture? Where to start and where to end? With the Orthodox Church and Yared’s sacred music? With the culture of the Konso, Mursi, and Hamar? The role of Muslim culture? Furthermore where do the Rastafarians, Ethiopians from the Diaspora and Afar Sultanates fit in?
In his conclusive remarks he said that exchange about the interrelation of culture and development, the tension between modernity and tradition, will remain a key ingredient in maintaining the vibrant Ethiopian cultures in their various dimensions and regional aspects.
The institution has contributed to a deeper understanding between the peoples of both countries. It has launched and directed many projects concerning the German and Ethiopian history, sociology, culture and language.
Goethe Institute’s first office was located at Arat kilo when it opened in 1962 and stayed there up to 1978. Then moved to Amist Kilo in 1978 and stayed there up to 2005. The institute has been in the new location since 2005. The new building was previously the residence of the Crown Prince Merid Azmach Asfaw Wossen. “We are very happy at our current location. It is filled with a lot of history,” stated Elke Kaschi, Director of the Institute. Goethe’s 50th anniversary is scheduled to be celebrated with programs ranging from classical music by the celebrated Delian-Quartett to a screening of a documentary about the Goethe-institute present and past, a sneak preview of a photo exhibition about architectural history of the “Goethe-buildings” and tunes of Ethio-German jazz.