Battle of Adwa Collage

Solomon Belachew and Bottom - Unidentified artistTop 1970 - Bottom 1968

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian National Museum of African Art
Washington, DC, United States

Solomon Belachew
1919–2002, b. Gojjam area, Amhara Region, Ethiopia
Worked in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Battle of Adwa
Oil on canvas
Gift of Miriam and Michael Dow, 2003-19-1

Unidentified artist
Battle of Adwa
Oil on canvas
Gift of Joseph and Patricia Brumit, 2004-7-60

Dateline: March 1, 1896. An African army wins its most resounding and lasting victory against colonialism.

As morning rose to noon that day, Ethiopian forces under Emperor Menelik II defeated an invading Italian army at the Battle of Adwa. In so doing, they prevented the imposition of colonial rule. Adwa became a ringing symbol of resistance to colonial oppression across Africa and its diaspora.
Solomon Belachew—an artist renowned for depicting religious scenes—captured the ferocity of battle in his painting through the use of opposing diagonal lines, suggesting action between the two opposing sides, and his depiction of blood-spattered and decapitated Italian soldiers.
Consistent with artistic conventions governing Ethiopian religious painting, the unidentified artist of the second version of the scene depicts the righteous Ethiopians as full-faced figures, while the forces of evil (the Italians, in this case) are shown largely in profile. Because the Battle of Adwa fell on March 1, St. George’s Day, the popular saint is depicted astride a horse and ready for battle as he descends from the sky.
Paintings of the Battle of Adwa remain popular diplomatic gifts that the Ethiopian government has presented to visiting dignitaries and foreign diplomats stationed in the country. The message seems clear: “we remain unbowed.”


  • Title: Battle of Adwa Collage
  • Creator: Solomon Belachew, Bottom - Unidentified artist
  • Date Created: Top 1970 - Bottom 1968
  • Location Created: Ethiopia

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