The Boyadjians
Armenian photographs from the court of the Negus
from 19 June 2007
until 02 September 2007

Bringing together objects, texts, and photographs, this exhibition recalls the singular destiny of an Armenian family, the Boyadjians, who were official photographers to the Negus of Ethiopia, and offers a unique insight into the life of the Armenian community in Ethiopia in the 20th century.

Although it was used in Africa from early on, photography remained essentially an Western tool up until the Second World War, before which very few photographs were taken by Africans. At the same time, large numbers of foreign photographers began working in Ethiopia as of the 1860s, when the soldiers of the British Royal Engineers introduced the medium into the Horn of Africa. Italians such as the architect Giacomo Naretti, plus a certain Hénon, purportedly the author of the oldest portrait of Menelik, made in 1888, also worked as photographers in Ethiopia. However, it was not until 1905 that the first professional photographer set up shop in Addis Ababa.
Born in Armenia, Bedros Boyadjian became one of the photographers of the court of Menelik. He was succeeded by his sons, Haïgaz and Tony. Tony Boyadjian became photographer to the court of Ras Tafari, the future emperor Haile Selassie, at the end of the 1920s. He is responsible for the many official portraits of the ruler.
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