The Ethiopian Cloak

With our current project, we are getting involved in the decolonisation debate that is currently stirring the museum landscape. We are researching the history of an object that came into the collection of Villa Freischütz from Africa. It is a magnificently embroidered coat from Ethiopia. We try to reconstruct the journey of the coat and also ask the question whether it should ultimately return there? The project takes place within the framework of the Euregio Museum Year on the theme of ‘mobility’.

The coat presented in front of the museum
The coat presented in front of Villa Freischütz
Photo: Georg Tappeiner

We focus on a single object in order to develop a stance even as a small museum: What is our position on questions of restitution? What is our responsibility for the collection ‘that is there’? What priorities do we set in our museum work? What do we want to show, how and with whom?

Framed photographs of Enea Navarini presented in the museum
Most likely, Enea Navarini brought the coat with him to Italy, a general who took part in the Abyssinian War.
Photo: Georg Tappeiner

We will present the – preliminary – results of our ‘research trip’ for discussion in an exhibition from 4 September to 6 November 2021, accompanied by a podcast.

The coat
The lembd belonged probably to a high-ranking warrior. The shoulders were formerly covered with lion skin.
Photo: Georg Tappeiner

2 thoughts on “The Ethiopian Cloak

  • Thank you very much for your welcome feedback. You are absolutely right, and we apologise for this wording, which does not do justice to the historical facts. We had discussed this within the project, and decided on the previous wording to emphasise that it was colonial rule as understood by the Italian occupiers. We have taken your comment as an opportunity to change the wording now.

  • Just noting that Ethiopia is not a former colony of Italy. Although Italy did occupy the country for 5 years it lost the war and never succeeded in making Ethiopia its colony. Ethiopia along with Liberia are the only African countries not to have been colonized. So in order to be correct, and of respect to all the Ethiopians who fought the Italians, the wording needs to be rephrased in your text.

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