Listen to the article
The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is currently hosting an exhibition titled “Africa & Byzantium,” which offers an in-depth exploration of the Byzantine Empire’s influence on the Christian communities in Egypt, Tunisia and Ethiopia over a span of a thousand years. This exhibition, which runs from Sunday November 19 until next March, features a collection of 200 ancient and medieval artifacts, including mosaics, paintings, jewelry, ceramics and manuscripts dating from the 4th to the 15th century.
Renowned as one of the world’s richest museums, the Met has assembled these artifacts, gems of cultural heritage, from various collections across Africa, Asia and Europe. This week, a preview was presented to a select group of journalists in collaboration with museum partners, including the governments of Egypt and Tunisia and Egypt’s Saint Catherine of Sinai, the world’s oldest Coptic Orthodox monastery.
The Africa & Byzantium exhibition is a comprehensive display of artistic, religious, literary and archaeological treasures. It illustrates the profound impact of the Byzantine Empire, originating from its capital Constantinople (formerly Byzantium and now Istanbul), on the spread of Christianity in the Horn of Africa between the 4th and 7th centuries.
Max Hollein, the CEO of the Met, emphasized the exhibition’s significance, stating it “brings new focus and scholarship to an understudied field, expanding our knowledge of Byzantine and Early Christian Art within an expansive worldview.” The exhibit allows visitors an unprecedented opportunity to view a range of artifacts, including painted manuscripts, textiles, marble mosaics, carved ivories from Nubia, gold jewelry from Egypt and wall paintings, many of which are being displayed for the first time in the United States. This collection elucidates the connections between diverse cultural and multi-faith communities extending from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. It showcases a fusion of Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Christian and Jewish traditions, as noted by the Met.
Hayet Guettat Guermazi, the Tunisian Cultural Affairs Minister, spoke to AFP about the exhibition, highlighting the significance of the artifacts in showcasing Tunisia’s “rich cultural heritage that is the result of a mix of different civilizations that have occupied the Mediterranean” and its “local African foundation.” Archbishop Damianos of Saint Catherine of Sinai commended the exhibition for its representation of the universal values of Byzantium. He remarked that it “provides us with the opportunity to recall the universality of Byzantium, which is a proposal for freedom, unity, reconciliation, respect and peace, the peace that is so needed in our world today.”