Ethiopian Cultural Garden - Cleveland


Cleveland Cultural Garden Park began over 100 years ago, the only park of its kind worldwide, a peace garden demonstrating unity of purpose and showcasing fascinating cultural and ethnic diversity. As the 37th nation, but first from Africa Ethiopia will have a place (garden) representing it's rich history and heritage. And, Menelik Hall Foundation has been the Umbrella required for this project.

‘Lucy’, was found in 1974 in Hadar, Ethiopia by a research team from the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and brought to Cleveland for 5 years of study before being returned to Ethiopia. Since then the CMNH paleoanthropologist department, under the leadership of the Ethiopian Yohannes Haile Selassie has continued to make even more significant discoveries of early hominids. Thus Cleveland’s connection with Ethiopia and the origin of humans is very strong, so there is no more fitting place for the Ethiopian Cultural Garden than right here in this Cultural Garden Park practically a stone’s throw from the Museum of Natural History.

Ethiopian Cultural Garden Project - A MONUMENT FOR THE AGES

Ethiopian Cultural Garden Design Committee with community input has been persistently developing a plan and fund-raising for our garden site. Many options were considered – a large jabena, anbessa, fidel,Tis Abay, statue of Haile-Selassie, Gondar Castle, others. Finally, the choices of the committee were monumental structures representing an Axum Stele and a Lalibela doorway, and a mosaic wall structure representing Ethiopian heritage, history, diversity, art, globalization and the future of humankind viewed from the land where all human life began. Read more about Evolution of the Project Design

There are 3 major structures we are building in this garden.

Project Design: Ethiopian Cultural Garden, painting by Menna Asrat

The largest, and center-piece, will be an Axum stele silhouette, 30 feet tall of solid stone, weighing about 50 tons. ‘Stele’ is a term for the pre-Christian era obelisk-like monument from Ethiopia’s original civilization, with rounded rather than pointed tops, carved of a single piece of granite, classically about 80 feet tall and weighing 160 tons, the tallest monolithic structures in the world, unique to Ethiopia. The stelae came to be iconic representations of the country itself. For example, 1,000 years later, the Orthodox Church incorporated most aspects of the Stele designs into the 11 monolithic churches of Lalibela. We will have a 27 ton replica of one of their doorways as a second structure in the garden.

Lalibela Church doorway

The third structure, which is constructed as first phase of the project and unveiled in a ceremony that took place on August 24, 2019, is a wall structure first suggested by Johnny Thomas. The wall is 13 feet tall, 18 feet wide, designed by Zerihun Yetmgeta, with five panels, similar to his style of painting on connected strips of bamboo, depicting heritage and history of Ethiopia. It is a mosaic with tile panels fabricated by Ernesto Spinelli, our mosaic artist. Italian-Ethiopian, as a young teenager he helped his father, commissioned by Emperor Haile Sellassie, to build the famous church in Kulubi, Ethiopia.

Phase 1: Third Structure Depicting Heritage and History of Ethiopia

The first panel commemorates Dinknesh (Lucy), marking Ethiopia as the birthplace of the Human Race.

The second represents the diversification of humans with 80 ethnic groups in Ethiopia alone, using as a representative the Konso people of southern Ethiopia.

The 3rd panel represents northern Ethiopian stone carving skills in cities of Axum and Lalibela commemorated when our 2 large stone structures are erected.

The 4th panel represents the Emperors of Ethiopia, ‘King of Kings’ from Menelik the First, son of the legendary Queen of Sheba and King Solomon in a continuous line of 225 emperors to Haile Selassie.

The fifth panel represents the modern age of globalization and technology under a watchful ‘Tibeb’, the Eye of Wisdom.

On the back side of the Mosaic Heritage Wall we are utilizing the space for a provocative painting by Artist Zerihun in 1987, inspired by the technology needed for man’s landing on the moon. Titled “When the Sun Gets the Moon” he is indicating environmental devastation with the forests gone, the cities burned up, in the full heat of the Sun in spite of our technology, which we have not utilized to prevent this process.

"When the Sun Gets the Moon" Original Paint by Artist Zerihun

It brings us full cycle, from the origin of humankind in Ethiopia, to great heights of knowledge and achievement, but now to the gloomy possibility of the extinction of life on earth by our own hand. This is a plea from the land of our common heritage that we can have faith in humankind that this outcome does not occur.

First Phase groundbreaking Ceremony took place on September 16, 2018 with the attendance of Ethiopians and friends of Ethiopia. The ceremony started with a prayer, and followed by remark by Carl Robson, Chairman of Design Committee:

"This Cultural Garden Park began over 100 years ago, the only park of its kind worldwide, a peace garden demonstrating unity of purpose and showcasing fascinating cultural and ethnic diversity. As the 37th nation, but first from Africa, we are dedicating this garden in appreciation to Cleveland, Ohio, and the United States, Ohio, and as a Monument for the Ages to Ethiopia, the country we either came from directly, or ultimately, all originated from. The human race originated in Ethiopia. ‘Dinknesh’ in Ethiopia, known generally as Lucy, from 3.2 million years ago, was the first discovery of a series of hominid precursors giving rise to the whole human race. From this, all of us are of Ethiopian origin, a heritage I am claiming today for this groundbreaking event and also extending this dedication from our common homeland to the entire human race." Read full transcript

Phase 1: Ground Breaking Ceremony

Ethiopian Cultural Garden Project Phases

PHASE ONE: Five-paneled historical-cultural mural mosaic – 12 x 18 feet, 5-paneled wall structure of reinforced concrete, upon which Ernesto Spinelli will apply the glass-tile mosaic renditions of Ato Zerihun Yetimgeta’s work , including on the 2nd side, the environmental piece, “When the Sun Gets the Moon”(1987).

PHASE TWO: Axum Stele (obelisk)-inspired ‘gateway arch’ – structural sandstone from Pennsylvania, 60 tons, 30 feet tall.

PHASE THREE: Full-scale replica of a Lalibela Church doorway, same type of sandstone, 27 tons, 12 feet tall.

Stone patio adjoining these 3 structures will be a map of Ethiopia, showing the traditional original provinces of Ethiopia. To be completed after Phases 2 and 3.

Patio map

Landscaping – flowers, bushes, trees as per Heidi O’Neill’s plans, including yellow Coreopsis, related to Meskal flowers of Ethiopia, to be done here and there along the way.

Bronze Plaques will be used here and there for brief titles as amplification or comment relating to the mosaic panels. Donors names will be featured later in a separate area yet to be designated and not to be connected to the monument structures listed here.

Locate Cultural Garden site on map

Event Notifier

Contact us

Menelik Hall Foundation

1060 E. 62nd St.

Cleveland OH 44103


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