The End of the Beginning

The End of the Beginning
Oil on canvas
122.5 x 170 cm. (48 x 67 in.)
National Museum of African Art, museum purchase, 91-18-2

This image depicts the burning of Axum and Lalibela, two historically significant sites in Ethiopia. Here, the artist-seer prefigures the Ethiopian revolution of 1974 and illustrates the overturning of church and imperial hegemony in modern Ethiopia. The white bird in the center, poised as a phoenix, is witness to and survivor of the destruction, while the spirit figure on the right represents the past hoping to escape the violent present. Skunder has deconstructed spatial order to convey a sense of collision and shock, a metaphor for revolution and change.