The Impact of European Christian Imagery on Contemporary Orthodox Tewahedo Iconography in Eritrea

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This article addresses the impact of modern European Christian imagery on the visual culture of the Orthodox Tewahedo Church of Eritrea, which has a long history of using illuminated manuscripts, paintings, and crosses as essential elements of worship and prayer. Tewahedo icons are characterized by brown- A nd black-skinned Christian figures and indigenized settings that narrate Evangelical and monastic scripture for devotees. This study highlights the domination of European white imagery in liturgical spheres in Eritrea and assesses the impact on the semiotic composition of locally produced paintings. Further, nuanced codes of race and skin color are analyzed in relation to connotations of good and evil. The semiotic analysis in this article also shows that European influences are more prevalent in religious paintings that depict recognized saints in Catholic Europe, in comparison to images of local monastic saints, whose depiction continues to mirror the visual metaphors and local myths of the Tigrinya people.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)91-110
Number of pages20
JournalNortheast African Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History

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