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Ethiopiques The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary devotes almost two-thirds of a page to the word seat. A king sits, a disease sits, a company sits. The complexity of the word's meaning shows its importance. While today sitting resembles a casually trivial everyday circumstance, the activity used to be associated with wealth and power. Think, for example, of the throne, seat of the only powerful person. Technically, a backrest is not an essential part of a seat. Stools, footstools, and benches, on the surface, probably serve the purpose of sitting just as well as the more elaborate pieces in this exhibition. The absence of back and armrests, however, suggests a lower social status in the sitter and not, as one might pragmatically think, a stronger spine than in those who ostentatiously enjoy a backrest. On the contrary, power allows a sitter to surround himself with selectively designed wood, textile and leather, while the less well-heeled have to make do with multifunctional objects such as a stool. The pieces presented in the exhibition testify to that very power. They originated from a long tradition in south-west Ethiopia around Jimma in the Oromia region, which today, with over 25 million inhabitants, makes up the largest population group in the country. Not only coffee found its origin in this civilization. Surrounded by red earth and centuries-old forests, the Ethiopians brought the art of woodcarving to those heights about 80 years ago, which can be admired in the exhibition Ethiopiques. All exhibits are made from a single piece of wood. The very hard, though light, golden-brown wood (Olea europaea or Waddessa tree) grows in the region and provides shade for the coffee tree. The throne carvings made from it are complex works. Their tripartite feet and diagonal and horizontal patterns give the individual pieces dynamism and individuality, making them appear both light and dignified. Team: Lukas Amacher, Valentin Diem, Julia Mauser

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