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Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism

Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism

Elizabeth W. Giorgis received her Ph.D. in the History of Art and Visual Studies from Cornell University in 2010 and her Masters in Museum Studies from New York University in 2004. She served as the Director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, the Dean of the College of Performing and Visual Art, and the director of the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center at Addis Ababa University. She is the author of several publications and a member of the editorial board for Transition Magazine, Northeast African Studies Journal (NEAS), ARTmargins and Critical African Studies, and the Ethiopian Journal of Social Science and Humanities (EJOSSAH). She is also an advisory editorial board member for the Journal for Critical African Studies (JCAS), Callaloo Art, and contributing editor for Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (CSSAAME).

She is a recipient of several fellowships including The Ali Mazrui Senior Fellowship for Global African Studies at The Africa Institute, a Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Brown University, a Visiting Professor at the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, and a fellow at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center Resident Fellows Program in Italy. Her book, "Modernist Art in Ethiopia" (2019, Ohio University Press), stands as the first comprehensive monographic study of Ethiopian visual modernism, situated within a broader social and intellectual context. Shortlisted for the African Studies Association UK Fage and Oliver Prize and a finalist for the African Studies Association Best Book Prize, it ultimately secured the African Studies Association’s 2020 Bethwell A. Ogbot Book Prize for the best book on East African Studies.

She served as a faculty member for MAHASSA (Modern Art Histories in and across Africa, South and Southeast Asia), a Getty foundation grant, held in Hong Kong in August 2019 and in Dhaka, Bangladesh in February 2020. In January 2019, she served as convener for the first African Humanities Initiative called “Africa as Concept: Decolonization, Emancipation and Freedom” which was sponsored by the Mellon Foundation and the Consortium of the Humanities, Centers and Institutes (CHCI).

She has curated several exhibitions at the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, more recently, the works of Danish Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson. She has also participated in several international conferences and public lectures.


Her recent research focused on the representation of Ethiopian women in the wider politics of exclusion which was completed as a manuscript in September 2023.

She is currently working on an exhibition with the Sharjah Art Foundation, “Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery,” which is about the Ethiopian art form of “telsem” that interweaves symbols, drawings and texts imbued with spiritual and philosophical significance. She argues that is part of the modernist canon but as an art form that is excluded from the modernist narrative. The exhibition is scheduled to take place at the Sharjah Art Museum in February 2024.


  • "The Sharjah Art Biennale at Kalba: The Works of Ibrahim Mahama, Doris Salcedo and Nari Ward," NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, Duke University Press, November 2023.
  • "The Poetries of Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin and Debebe Seifou," Transition, Harvard University, Indiana University Press, January 2023.
  • "Monumental Bodies: The Work of Dawit Abebe," NKA Journal of Contemporary African Art, Duke University Press, September 2022.
  • "Unheard Voices: Contestations Over Representation," (London: School of Oriental and African Studies), 2020.
  • "Skunder Boghossian: The Man and the Artist," Callaloo Art, Johns Hopkins University Press, July 2019.
  • "The Art of Skunder Boghossian," A catalogue of Sotheby’s London, London, September 2018.
  • "World of Malls: Architecture of Consumption," Andres Lepik and Vera Simone Bader, Hatje Cantz, Vienna, January 2017.
  • "Ethiopia and the Non-Aligned Movement," for the catalogue of “The Travelling Communique,” an exhibition of the Non-Aligned Movement held in Belgrade in 2014, Spector Books, January 2017.
  • "Time Sensitive Activity: The Works of Olafur Eliasson," a catalogue for the exhibition held for Olafur Eliasson at the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, March 2016.
  • "Aurality, Visuality and Digitality: Ethiopian Modernism, A Subaltern Perspective," edited by Elizabeth Giorgis in a Special Issue on Engaging the Image of Art, Culture and Philosophy: Particular Perspectives on Ethiopian Modernity and Modernism, North East African Studies Journal, Michigan State University Press, September 2013.
  • "Charting Ethiopian Modernity and Modernism," Edited by Dagmawi Woubshet, Salamisha Tillet and Elizabeth Giorgis: in a special issue on “Ethiopian Literature, Art and Culture,” Callaloo Journal of the African Diaspora, March 2010, Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Modernist Art in Ethiopia (Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2019).