Medieval Ethiopia: A Colloquium March 10-11, 2017

“Medieval Ethiopia: A Colloquium”

Friday, March 10th and Saturday, March 11th marked a milestone event for the efforts being made in establishing an Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto.

The event kicked off on Friday at St. Michael’s College with a wonderful lecture from Father Columba Stewart, executive director of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. In his lecture, Father Stewart chronicled the initial phases of the Ethiopian Manuscript Microfilm Library (EMML), the challenges it faced through the years since its inception, the accomplishments it made and most importantly, the individuals behind it that made it all possible.

The following day, one hour lectures were delivered from four highly distinguished individuals. The first lecture titled “The Riches of the Ethiopian Archive: Lives, Literature, and Legends” was delivered by Wendy Belcher from Princeton University. The following lecture was titled “Monasticism in Medieval Ethiopia:Holy Men, Scribes, and Scholars” and was delivered by Gianfrancesco Lusini from the University of Naples. After a lunch break, Samantha Kelly from Rutgers University delivered a lecture titled “The Ethiopians of Renaissance Europe.” The last lecture of the day was given by Habtamu Tegegne, also from Rutgers University and his lecture was titled “Ethiopia’s Culture of Forgery, Problem of Document Deletion and Strategies of Preservation”.

The lectures were followed by two roundtable discussions, one on “Teaching Ge’ez” and another on “The Literature of Ethiopia, Medieval and Modern.” All those in attendance were captivated by the rich, fascinating and substantive lectures and dialogues that took place throughout the day. The intellectual feast came to an end with an Ethiopian feast accompanied with coffee as per usual with Ethiopian instrumentals playing in the backdrop. Those attending the dinner were also accompanied by two paintings donated by Artist Getachew Fantu and Yared Nigussu, which will be auctioned to support the establishment of an Ethiopian Studies. We were also pleasantly surprised by a $30,000 anonymous matching donation, which we are immensely grateful for.

Professor Michael Gervers donated $50,000.

The efforts began when Professor Michael Gervers made a generous donation of $50,000 and gave a call to the Ethiopian community in Toronto and beyond to match his donation and join efforts in making an Ethiopian Studies Program at U of T a reality. This happened on September 26, 2015, where Gervers was a Guest of Honour at the Bikila Award dinner. Fast forward, we are now in the month of March of 2017 and quite a lot has been accomplished.

The Weeknd also donated $50,000.

With generous donations from the Ethiopian community, U of T and The Weeknd, an introductory course in Ge’ez is now being offered. There is raised awareness about an Ethiopian Studies program in the works at U of T within the Ethiopian community, at U of T and the general public. As a result, there is a great display of interest amongst individuals and communities (in addition to the Ethiopian community) to join the existing efforts at various capacities. And the event that took place just this past week strongly demonstrated that.

Students writing in Geez.

The event would have not been possible without the instrumental role played by Suzanne Akbari, director of the Centre for Medieval Studies at U of T.

We are grateful to the University of Toronto, Italian Cultural Institute, Society of Friends of Ethiopian Studies, and members of the community for sponsoring the event as well as to all those who came out and took part in the two day event.

It is with the sustained engagement and interest of individuals, families and communities that we can realize our goal of establishing a long standing, prominent Ethiopian Studies program at the University of Toronto.

Therefore, we kindly ask you all for your continued support and thank you for partaking in the tremendous effort of preserving the rich history, literature and culture passed down from out great ancestors.

For further information or to donate online, select

Ethiopic Language and Culture Endowment

Previous Articles

Establishment of Ethiopic Studies and culture at U of T

The First Ethiopic Studies Public Forum

Created By
Bikila Award


Created with images by A.Davey - "Ancient Blocks With Sabaean Inscriptions, Yeha, Ethiopia"

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