Hungarian Researchers in Ethiopia

20/Jun/2015 - 6/Sep/2015
The Museum of Ethnography's African Collection currently houses more than 10,500 artefacts, of which the very first, inventoried in 1847, was a leather shield from the territory of Ethiopia. Since then, the efforts of Hungarians living or conducting research in Ethiopia (also known as Abyssinia) have brought numerous additions to the collection, including the body of material featured in this exhibition: an assemblage of musical instruments collected by noted ethnomusicologist Bálint Sárosi and folk dance researcher György Martin.



The Sárosi-Martin project began when, on the occasion of a visit to Hungary in 1964, Emperor Haile Selassie requested that Hungary send a mission to Ethiopia to assist him in the matter of ethnomusicological studies, given that no such collecting efforts had yet been undertaken in his country. Thus, in 1965, on the recommendation of Zoltán Kodály, ethnomusicologist Bálint Sárosi and folk dance researcher György Martin were sent to fulfil the emperor's request.

In Sárosi's view, the visit to Ethiopia was at least as useful for the Hungarians as it was for their hosts, as it afforded them the opportunity of looking thousands of years back into the history of music and dance. Over the course of six weeks, the two researchers covered a distance of six thousand kilometres, visiting Axum in the north, the province of Kaffa in the south, Lake Tana in the west, and the Somali Peninsula in the east. The pair made recordings on film and reel-to-reel tape, while also taking an enormous quantity of still photographs. Despite the language difficulties and limited time, Sárosi and Martin succeeded in putting together a body of material that today is considered unique both in Hungary, and internationally.

Curator: Krisztina Pálóczy