Support Ethiopic Studies and Culture At University of Toronto

Dear members of the Ethiopian Community,

We are presented with a tremendous opportunity to create an Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto. Through a generous donation of $50,000 from Dr. Michael Gervers, Professor of History, University of Toronto, and through a generous matching donation of $50,000 from the University of Toronto, and through a matching donation of another $50,000, which we, as a community, must raise, we are poised to establish a foundation to create an Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto.

Professor Michael Gervers on one of his reaserch trips in Ethiopia.
"These images, currently amounting to over 100,000, have been catalogued so that students and researchers can easily access them via the internet."
"Many of our youth, now and in the future, who will be attending university will be able to learn about their history, cultures and languages in a scholarly environment, alongside other great world civilizations."

Why do we need an Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto?

We want to disseminate to the larger world, through research and education, the unique contributions of the Ethiopian cultural heritage in art, literature and languages. This program expands the enormous efforts over three decades by Dr. Gervers and his colleagues in digitally imaging the contents of numerous ancient manuscripts and books, as well as extensively documenting the skills and techniques used in the construction of rock-carved churches and buildings. In addition, it will catalogue manuscript and book making, a knowledge now lost to the rest of the world due to modernization, to the already extensive collection in the University of Toronto libraries. These images, currently amounting to over 100,000, have been catalogued so that students and researchers can easily access them via the internet.

"The recognition of our stories as being worthy of scholarly endeavour by a world-renowned institution will have a significant impact on our collective self-image as we establish ourselves and search for our identity in the diaspora."

Currently, the lack of resources and knowledge for adequately preserving cultural materials in Ethiopia means our cultural and historical heritage is disappearing at an alarming rate. The Ethiopian studies program at the University of Toronto will play a vital role in teaching Ethiopia’s heritage to consecutive generations of students, in supporting digitization efforts, and to the dissemination of source material to the research community within and outside the University.

Professor Suzanne Akbari

The Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, the preeminent medieval studies program in the world, enthusiastically supports the establishment of an Ethiopian Studies program.

The Centre's historical focus on Europe during the thousand year period from the fall of Rome to the Fall of Constantinople (approx. 500-1500) includes the study of linkages across the wider region - in particular, the eastern Mediterranean and the trade routes extending to the south.

The history and culture of Ethiopia make up a key element within medieval studies, particularly in connection with the development of early Christianity and its relationship to Jewish and Muslim communities in the wider region. In terms of its eloquent literature, complex history, and exquisite art, medieval Ethiopia is increasingly recognized as essential to our study of the multicultural pre-modern world.

The study of Ge'ez language, in particular, has the potential to transform our understanding of that period: training the next generation to read medieval manuscripts written in Ge'ez will enrich our knowledge of Ethiopic culture, and will enable new interpretations of the intertwined histories of the region.

This interdisciplinary department is concerned with studying the archaeology, history, religion, thought, art and architecture, as well as the languages of the ancient and present Near and Middle Eastern regions. 📌

Professor Timothy Harrison

The University of Toronto's renowned Department in Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations (NMC) also enthusiastically supports the establishment of an Ethiopian Studies program.

For over 175 years, the University of Toronto has made the great civilizations of the Middle East and North Africa-their rich traditions and extraordinary contributions to human knowledge-an important focus of its research, teaching and intellectual inquiry.

NMC has a proud reputation as the preeminent program of its kind in Canada, unique in offering advanced interdisciplinary study of the cultures and peoples of this region, ranging from anthropology and archaeology to history and language, both ancient and modern. Indeed, the first academic appointments at UofT were to teach Semitic languages, including Arabic, Hebrew and Syriac.

The study of Africa, in particular the cultures of the Nile Valley watershed, has formed an integral part of this academic commitment and focus. Ethiopia's rich intellectual tradition and ancient literate culture, as preserved through the Ge'ez language, is both critically important to this academic endeavor, and offers the opportunity for greater understanding of the formative development of modern Ethiopia and East Africa. 📌

This extraordinary support from the University of Toronto community and with the extensive source material already acquired by the University's libraries, with more to still be added, the University of Toronto is poised to become the first and preeminent centre for Ethiopian studies in North America. The impact of this on our community can not be underestimated. Many of our youth, now and in the future, who will be attending university will be able to learn about their history, cultures and languages in a scholarly environment, alongside other great world civilizations. The recognition of our stories as being worthy of scholarly endeavour by a world-renowned institution will have a significant impact on our collective self-image as we establish ourselves and search for our identity in the diaspora.

How can we realize our goal?

In order to establish the foundation, we, as the Ethiopian community, are required to match the donations of Dr. Gervers and the University of Toronto by the end of 2015. That means, WE MUST RAISE A MINIMUM of $50,000 by the end of 2015 if we are to create and sustain a foundation to support an Ethiopian studies program. Although the end of the calendar year is near, this is an unprecedented opportunity, an opportunity we can not miss. If we can raise $50,000, that will translate to $150,000 when added to Dr. Gervers' and the University of Toronto's donations.

During and after the Public Forum we raised more than $25,000 plus a canvas painting valued at $3,800 to $4,500 donated by award winning and internationally recognized artist, Yared Nigussu from Vancouver. A very generous donation of $10,000 was made by an anonymous donor.

It is a good start and one which will encourage growing interest in the field.

Please give generously. We Can Do It.

Created By
Bikila Award and U of T
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