“The ancient paintings that are still to be seen in the great monasteries and churches of Ethiopia, and the carvings in wood and stone which have come down to us in the ruins of ancient palaces, bear witness to the fact that the fine arts had attained a comparatively high degree of development even in very early times. Although the major portion of these works of art was destroyed in the wars that broke out from time to time, those that still remain in Lalibela, Gondar, Shoa. Gojjam and elsewhere fill the competent observer with a sense of wonder and admiration. Since these works of art are also closely related to the history of Ethiopia, the young artists of Our country who pursue these fine arts on modern lines can find occasion therein for legitimate pride.
“We have established this institution because We consider it a matter of great importance to revive and develop the fine arts of Our country in a manner which will enable Our artists to combine the historical and traditional art of Ethiopia with the advantages of modern technical developments in the field.
“If Ethiopian paintings and other works of art attain to such a standard that they can be sent out of the country and can hold their own amidst exhibits from other countries they can certainly help in the efforts to make Ethiopia known more widely as a nation fully participating in the spirit and the substance of modern civilisation.
“Our customary support shall always be forthcoming to similar efforts in the fields of music and literature as well.
“A purely materialistic art would be like a tree which is expected to bear fruit without flowering, and to sacrifice grace and beauty for mere utility. Those who learn here should, from the beginning, sedulously avoid this spirit of utilitarianism. Our admiration for the Creator’s handiwork should not be limited to those things which He has provided us with for our daily needs, but should include all that is good and beautiful. It is these tender feelings of deep and silent admiration evoked from our hearts by the beauties of creation that should find adequate expression in the fine arts.
“As We have stated time and again, it is easy to begin, but hard to finish, and We express on this occasion both Our happiness at what We see here today, as well as Our strong hope to see this work which is now begun bearing fruit in the near future.”
July 23, 1958