ADDIS ABABA – The UN Hub Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai featured an exhibition showcasing the significance and ongoing refurbishment plans of the iconic Africa Hall in Ethiopia’s capital city Addis Ababa.
Titled ‘Africa Hall, at the Origin of the UN in Africa with a Look to the Future,’ the exhibition highlights Africa Hall as a historical landmark, as well as the permanent headquarters of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA).
Africa Hall is a momentous edifice in the continent’s history, donated to the UN by former Ethiopian ruler Emperor Haile Selassie, with a vision of attracting the organization to Africa and uniting African nations.
The Hall was inaugurated in 1961 as the permanent seat of ECA and has hosted a number of important meetings in the history of Pan-Africanism, including the liberation of Africa from colonialism.
The charter of the Organization of African Unity – now the African Union – was signed at Africa Hall in 1963 between 36 heads of African states.
It is an important heritage site and a source of great family pride, explained Marcello Mezzedimi, grandson of Arturo Mezzedimi, the Italian architect who designed the building.
“My grandfather was 37 at the time of the project and traveled to New York and Geneva to study assembly halls and develop ideas for Africa Hall,” he said.
“His diary from our family archives charts the original design intent, its progression, and by studying these original images and drawings we can ensure that the renovation of this heritage site remains true to its values and vision.”
The cost of the ongoing renovation project supported by the Government of Ethiopia, African Union, and the UN, is estimated at $57 million, with completion due in 2024.
The project aims to restore, modernize and enhance the significance of the historical architecture, according to the ECA.
The building houses important artworks, including Total Liberation of Africa, the most famous work of Ethiopian artist Afewerk Tekle.
A 150-sqm stained glass panel symbolizes the past, present and future of Africa.
Antonio Baio, Project Manager of Africa Hall at UNECA, said “the Africa Hall exhibition is an important snapshot in the cultural and historical heritage of the continent.”
“By bringing it to Expo 2020 Dubai, we are showcasing to the world that we are not only involved in humanitarian and development activities, but [also] preserving crucial stories and values associated with our assets and people of the world,” Baio said.
After completion, there will be a permanent exhibition at the visitor center, promoting the stories of the African continent.
The Africa Hall, at the Origin of the UN in Africa with a Look to the Future exhibition, was at the UNHub at Expo 2020 Dubai until last Thursday, March 17, 2022.