The Cleveland Cultural Gardens are one of Northeast Ohio’s oldest and most beautiful treasures. Some 33 dedicated gardens, designed and cultivated by distinct cultural or nationality groups, adorn the drive along Martin Luther King Boulevard and East Boulevard in Rockefeller Park. Depicted in the gardens are the poets, philosophers, peacemakers, composers, scientists and others who have contributed to world culture. Also featured in the gardens are symbolic sculptures and replicas of or tributes to sacred monuments in other lands.
It is the first garden representing an African nation over the 100-year period since the Cleveland Cultural Gardens was established. One of the towering features of the Ethiopian Cultural Garden is a five-paneled ceramic mural which details the 5,000-year history of the Ethiopian people.
The right to create the cultural garden came on the heels of a petition from the Ethiopian community in Cleveland that argued that it was expedient to provide them with a site to share their history because of the role Ethiopia has played in medieval times to modern civilization.
According to Cleveland Historical, the cultural garden represents the land of the origins of man and the beginning of modern globalization. This history is what one would encounter on each of the panels they take a peek at in the cultural gardens.
The first panel represents the cradle of humankind. One of the histories embedded in the panel is the hominid fossil dating 3.2 million years old which was found by researchers from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in 1974, according to Tenayistilign.
Another discovery on the panel is another fossil as old as six million years which was found by Dr. Yohannes Haile Sellassie. The panel also contains ancient rock art dating 4000 years which was collected near Dire Dawe.
The second panel shows the diversity within the 86 ethnic groups in Ethiopia. The panel shows the Konso people of South Ethiopia who started farming several thousand years ago.
The third panel represents the ancient civilizations as well as the variety of religions in Ethiopia.
One such civilization is that of the Axumite Empire which erected monolithic stelae 79 feet tall between 200 BC and 1000 AD. There is the Ark of the Covenant brought to Ethiopia by Queen of Sheba’s son with King Solomon. He is acclaimed for introducing Judaism to Ethiopia. The third panel also records the introduction of Christianity by Emperor Ezana in 330 A.D.
Also documented in this panel is the presence of early loyalists of Prophet Mohammed from Mecca who were hosted by the Axum Emperor and subsequently, the introduction of Islam in the Ethiopian culture. Also under this panel are the 11 carvings of orthodox churches by Emperor Lalibela who took inspiration from the Axum Stelae designs.
Another significant moment of history captured on this panel is when Ethiopia witnessed the building of 99 mosques at about 1200 AD to represent the names of Allah in the Quran. It also documents the exodus of Bete Israel to Israel.
The fourth panel glorifies the reign of kings, nation-building and independence. The life of Emperor Menelik I, the son of King Solomon and Queen of Sheba to Haile Sellasie is placed on this panel. The reign of Emperor Menelik II and Empress Taytu is detailed showing their conquest in the war with Italy in the Battle of Adwa, efforts at unifying Ethiopia and resisting European invasion.
Lastly on this panel is the empty throne representing the disruption and an end to the rule of the descendants of Solomon in 1974. The fifth panel has drawings of the imposing eye of wisdom called T’beb. There is also a second eye on this panel which depicts globalization with the drawing of a globe.
Under it is a message that the world must keep knocking on the door of visual arts.