European Spaces of Culture


Stations of Culture - Stations of Dialogue
Addis Guzo Dance Group at Tibeb Online & Tibeb Be Adebabay. Phjoto:Bemnet Fekadu

Ethiopia’s rich cultural tradition and openness to undertake cultural dialogue with external actors contrasts with a shrinking space for civil society and rising financial challenges in the country that render increasingly difficult freedom of speech and artistic expression. With the country embarking on an ambitious National Dialogue process within a post-conflict setting featuring a rise in local and global tensions, the appetite for frank dialogue is palpable throughout the country.

Through the medium of the arts, the project Stations of Culture - Stations of Dialogue nurtures dialogue with the purpose of building social cohesion and peace in times of reduced space for civic society and creative expression. By curating engaging cultural experiences on sites along the first Addis Abeba - Djibouti train line and related sites across Ethiopia (and possibly Djibouti), the project creates innovative platforms for cultural exchange, artistic expression and open dialogue for a period of six weeks between March and April 2025. Despite the current inoperable state of the first Ethiopia-Djibouti line that was constructed over 100 years ago with strong European involvement, the hubs and spaces across the iconic line remain active to this day.

Co-creating dialogue for peace along the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway line

Stations for Culture - Stations for Dialogue therefore provides free platforms for cultural exchange, coproduction, and artistic expression along the line for Ethiopian and European cultural practitioners. The close co-development and delivery of the project by European institutions of culture, their key partners from the Ethiopian cultural sector and the respective administrative bodies across the project sites is an important element of the project and assures the relevance and impact of the featured cultural experiences and open platforms for dialogue.

Based on the principles of intercultural exchange, innovation, and local ownership, the specific activities of the project will be the result of a co-creation process initiated by Ethiopian artists, which will later incorporate a European component. A call for proposals will invite Ethiopian artists to submit innovative project proposals related to dialogue as a means of fostering peace. Approximately 10 projects will be selected from the received applications, and from the selected projects, connections will be made to European counterparts for a co-creation process.

Alignment with UN Sustainable Development Goals

Building social cohesion and peace within times featuring reduced spaces for civic society and creative expression is the primary focus of the project, i.e. SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.

On a secondary level, the project advocates for the reduction of inequalities and makes provisions for women, youth and underrepresented members of the Ethiopian cultural communities to find platforms for expression and exchange. The primary and secondary SDGs for the project are supported by the model of delivery of the project, which seeks transparent & new ways of delivering cross cultural programming + cultural relations that can build lasting networks & roadmaps for cross-cultural cooperation:

  • SDG 4: the project will strengthen the artistic skills of Ethiopian youth and adults through their association with European artists and their introduction to innovative skills.
  • SDG 5: the inclusion of female artists and the address of sensitive topics related to gender equality will indeed raise awareness about this SDG.
  • SDG 10: the proposed train-related sites span among several religious (Christian and Muslim) and ethnic zones in Ethiopia, thus promoting the social inclusion of different groups. It will also contribute to knowledge sharing between EU Member States and Ethiopia through the transfer of skills.
  • SDG 11: the project will encourage accessibility of vulnerable groups to active train stations and train-related sites, promoting its use among the population.
  • SDG 13: the whole project will raise awareness in Ethiopia on its railways, which are in turn one of the most sustainable means of transport available to mitigate climate change.
  • SDG 16: the introduction of EU values will raise awareness for more inclusive and participatory decision making in the country. In addition, by relating the project to the National Dialogue, it will help promote such a key element for peace in Ethiopia.

  • European Spaces of Culture
  • Co-creation
  • Public art