Tag Archives: Addis Ababa

of Women by Women

I am co-curating the Ethiopian Women’s Art Contest with the ongoing art exhibition at the Alle School of Art and Design, Addis Ababa University. The art on display explores the theme of women by women artists. The United States Ambassador to Ethiopia, Ambassador Patricia Haslach, called on all Ethiopian women artists living in Ethiopia, to celebrate their creativity and be recognised for it. Her call got a reverberating response. This exhibition presents prize-winning art alongside submissions from each contestant, totaling one hundred and twenty eight artworks. They reveal a broad range of approaches among a multi-generation group of Ethiopian artists.

These paintings, drawings, photographs, installations, and sculptures utilize social construction of femininity, cultural narratives, spirituality, and aesthetics, taking critical positions through a self-conscious gaze at identity. Sometimes the subjects are dark other times humorous, telling stories of fear, survival, and joy; the results are poetic and insightful, gorgeous and prophetic. Betelhem Jekale’s Rape broaches a subject rarely discussed openly. Her unflinching emphasis on materials employs incriminating items such as a little girl’s stained underwear, focusing our attention on the surface of the artwork, while taking on metaphorical significance. Nebiat Abebe’s Rising is a non-representational celebration of women’s resilience. She explores the physical properties of acrylic paints while giving the viewer philosophical space to ponder.

This contest is a vital addition to the spaces through which women’s voices can be heard. The exhibition presents a cross-section of women’s positions in society, suggesting a time in the future where access to opportunities might be more equitable.

Advertisements

Mihret Kebede

Mihret Kebede.


Mihret Kebede

Mihret Kebede is the only female artist of the four exhibiting in Addis Ababa: the Enigma of the ‘New’ and ‘Modern’. She is also one the steering team for Netsa Art Village in Addis Ababa. She is daring, outspoken, hard working and experimental in her work.

Today November 19th 2013 is the last day of the exhibition Addis Ababa: the Enigma of the ‘New’ and ‘Modern’.

 Please take the opportunity to see it.

Mihret Kebede

Mihret Kebede

How did you go about becoming an artist?

It was there in my family since I was a child, my two elder brothers and my youngest brother used to draw. I was also drawing among them. Now two of my brothers Abraham and Ephrem are shoe model designers in ‘Merkato’ but our elder brother Asmelash, stopped at an early stage and focused on his academic studies. I remember, he used to draw everyone in the family, really nice portraits .But I am the only one who kept doing it until now and took it to a different direction which is the so called art world where Galleries, Studios, Artists, Historians, Critics, Curators, Collectors, Dealers  etc are, after studying at the Alle school of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa university.

Mihret Kebede, installation, Museum of Modern Art, Addis Ababa, 2013

Mihret Kebede, installation, Museum of Modern Art, Addis Ababa, 2013

Who helped you along the way? How?

My family – by not interrupting my interest in art and my brothers who have been taking care of my expenses to practice my arts in the studio and private art training classes until I finished my college studies. But once I graduated from the fine arts school, I immediately refused to take money from anyone in the family because I believe that they have done their part successfully, and I have managed to keep going like that, thanks to God.

Mihret Kebede

Mihret Kebede

What are you working on at the moment

I am working on a project entitled ‘my space your space, your space your space’ to be a walking performance art project on the spaces that Western embassies like France, USA and Britain in Addis are given, and the amount of money they are taking from the people who walk in ‘their space’ requiring visas, just for their foot steps.

Aboard Ethiopian Airlines

Aboard Ethiopian Airlines

Who would you like to engage with your work?

Society, because everything comes out of the society: government, priests, police, children, decision makers, teachers, novelists, terrorists, justice, peace, climate disasters, war etc

Mihret Kebede, installation, Addis Ababa: The Enigma of the 'New' and 'Modern', 2013

Mihret Kebede, installation, Addis Ababa: The Enigma of the ‘New’ and ‘Modern’, 2013

Can you tell me about an artist whose life/work you really like?

Artists Tamrat Gezahagne from Netsa art village

Painting by Tamrat Gezahagne. Netsa Art Village. Photo by Nikki A. Greene.

Painting by Tamrat Gezahagne. Netsa Art Village. Photo by Nikki A. Greene.

 

What would you say in a short text message to an aspiring artist?

Do not spoil what is given to you, cultivate it! Money is just giving you a service, only because it is the only successful thing this world managed to do, believing in one another’s cash notes, and it really works that way.

Image

 

 


Mulugeta Gebrekidan

Artist Mulugeta Gebrekidan tells us a little bit about himself and his art.

Only a few days left to the end of their exhibition at The Modern Art Museum in Addis Ababa. Do visit to see the work of these four discerning artists as they interrogate the city, Addis Ababa.

Mulugeta Gebrekidan

Mulugeta Gebrekidan

How did you go about becoming an artist?

Unlike most artists I started art a bit late. As a child I used to love soccer a lot and wanted to be a football player when I grew up. But when I was 18, for the first time I saw an artist making a portrait drawing of his friend just in front of me. That was an extraordinary experience for me. The memory of that drawing is still vivid in my mind. Before that, I would always be amazed by the illustrations I could see in school textbooks. On the same day I saw this artist, I started drawing and entered the world of art. Now I can’t imagine my life without being engaged in artistic activities.

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, street performance, Addis Ababa, 2013

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, street performance, Addis Ababa, 2013

Who helped you along the way? How?

It took me two years of preparation to join the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts and Design. Joining the arts school, to my friends and I at that time, was like going to heaven on earth. It was a four-year diploma program where I specialized in painting. During my first year I remember some people told my father that it was not a good idea to study art. One day my father said ‘my son! Is it true that if you become an artist you would have some kind of mental problems eventually?’  I told him that it is not true, and he accepted my word. My father had a strong belief in education. He did everything that he could to send his children to school. He was happy that I didn’t become crazy until he passed away.

 I believe that everybody I communicate with through my art has a positive impact on me to continue making art.

A young visitor viewing Mulugeta Gebrekidan's work at the Modern Art Museum, October 2013

A young visitor viewing Mulugeta Gebrekidan’s work at the Modern Art Museum, October 2013

 What are you working on at the moment?

Because I studied painting, I was working with painting only for a long time. Then in time I started experimenting with different media for more artistic expressions and that led me now to a multimedia approach. My passion for film and photography is growing everyday and taking up most of my time. I sometimes say, I wish I could have a second life on earth and start film-making at the age of 16.  

 

At the moment, I am working on a short film with the two kids Bethlehem and Jerusalem and their family as a continuity of the current photography exhibition.

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, New Home, 2013

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, New Home, 2013

Who would you like to engage with your work?

I like to engage people in my art that inspire me and attract my attention through their life and work.

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Jerry and Betty in School, 2013

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Jerry and Betty in School, 2013

Can you tell me about an artist whose life/work you really like?

If you asked me this question when I was in Arts School I would easily mention some painters’ names from the old masters. Now I like works of many artists in many different ways and it is difficult to mention few names at this time. Since I work with different media and my interest area is expanding everyday, the artists that I admire now are visual artists, Architects, Photographers and Filmmakers. If you are not happy that I didn’t mention any names of artists to you, I can tell you that at the moment I am obsessed with the German filmmaker Werner Herzog, who is an amazing guy. His films are so powerful. I sometimes can’t sleep after watching his films. Whenever I am in need of some inspiration and courage I just go to YouTube and see his interviews. Then I definitely come back to my studio with a lot of energy.

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Jerry and Betty's 'village', 2013

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Jerry and Betty’s ‘village’, 2013

What would you say in a short text message to an aspiring artist?

Do what you love to do! Learn everyday, work hard, take risks and try new things.   

Yes!

Yes!


Addis Ababa: The Enigma of the ‘New’ and ‘Modern’

Exhibition at the Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, October 2013

review by Margaret Nagawa

Many residents of Addis Ababa bemoan the changes in the landscape but are also proud of the good roads that have been built and the railroad now in construction. They boast of a peaceful city with little crime. Addis Ababa is sprawling and in constant flux: a magnet for rural Ethiopians seeking work, and people of many nationalities in the diplomatic missions and business community.

Siddist Kilo, Addis Ababa

Siddist Kilo, Addis Ababa

Can an art exhibition possibly capture the dynamism present in Addis Ababa today?

These artists’ ambitious new projects are both personal and deliberately political. With a focus on the city, Addis Ababa, the exhibition explores the complex relationship between the new changes and the old lifestyles. Employing photography as a medium, the artists present a broad range of intimacy and alienation through portraiture and landscapes. 

At the exhibition opening last week, eager visitors, mainly young university students, were raptly watching Mihret Kebede’s video installation on the outside of the museum. It was a tight squeeze to get through them in order to listen to Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, the curator, give the exhibition opening speech. Upon entering the museum we were greeted by photographic installations of rubble on the floor by Berhanu Ashagre, and a strong smell of fresh paint. This is a group show just like Fana Wogi 2013 curated by Aida Muluneh that was installed in the museum previous to this. However, Fana Wogi is an annual competitive juried exhibition. 

Fana Wogi 2013, Installation view

Fana Wogi 2013, Installation view, curated by Aida Muluneh

In medium and a focus on the city, it is similar to the architecture exhibition Neglected Heritage: Architecture of the First 50 Years of the Capital of Africa that was curated by Fasil Giorgis and Halazi Sewnet at the Alliance Francaise in September 2013.

Neglected Heritage: Architecture of the First 50 Years of the Capital of Africa, Alliance Ethio-Francaise, September 2013

Neglected Heritage: Architecture of the First 50 Years of the Capital of Africa, Alliance Ethio-Francaise, September 2013

As a photography-based exhibition it also stands in contrast to the Tewodros Hagos exhibition at Alliance Ethio-Francaise, which was all paintings exhibiting a masterly of drawing, a restraint with colour, and a keen observation.

Tewodros Hagos, Alliance Ethio-Francaise, Addis Ababa, 2013

Tewodros Hagos, Alliance Ethio-Francaise, Addis Ababa, 2013

 

In its interrogation of the city it is similar to Elias Sime’s ongoing exhibition Tightrope of monumental city maps made out of computer  motherboards that he collected over 13 years, but it does not surpass his focused repurposing, recycling and reusing. Tightrope is curated by Meskerem Assegued and installed at four cultural centers in Addis Ababa: The British Council, Goethe Institute, Italian Cultural Institute and the Alliance Ethio-Francaise.

Elias Sime, Tightrope, Addis Ababa, October 2013

Elias Sime, Tightrope, Addis Ababa, October 2013. Photo by Brent Wolff

This exhibition of photography and installation could be found in any major art metropolis. It does not pander to the commercial, rather it is a statement, both political and academic. With a catalogue pointedly made for an external audience, it is clear that the curator intends for these artists to be noticed beyond Addis, and to possibly enter a broader art canon.

Michael Tsegaye deals with memory in his Future Memories as he photographs new skyscrapers juxtaposed against mud and wattle houses, that until recently housed the majority of Addis Ababa’s inhabitants. His other series Chasms of the Soul — a Shattered Witness is of portraits of deceased whose graves were demolished to make way for road construction. It is beautiful, hypnotic, yet chilling.

Michael Tsegaye, Chasms of the Soul --- a Shattered Witness, 2013

Michael Tsegaye, Chasms of the Soul — a Shattered Witness, 2013

Mulugeta Gebrekidan addresses social reality by pointing out the inequalities in the city residents. As he walked the city photographing the dramatic changes through construction, he met a couple of schoolgirls who were curious about his photography. He developed a friendship with them and their family, gaining entry and thereby documenting their lives for over a year. After their house was razed to make way for a development, their two families and many others, stayed on the land, making makeshift houses out of plastic sheeting. This bleak existence is located between the opulent Sheraton hotel and the palace. The faces of these two girls, unfazed by the camera, are arresting and a testament to survival despite all odds.

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Eyerus and Bethlehem, Installation view, Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, October 2013

Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Eyerus and Bethlehem, Installation view, Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, October 2013

Mihret Kebede, the only woman in this exhibition, explores narratives of exclusion. She sees an entanglement of development, identity and art. She explores these ideas through a billboard advertising nothing, rather a portrait of a man and a simple statement of his name. Since with power and money anyone can say whatever they want on a billboard, she problematizes this by seeking the powerful and wealthy to support her idea of saying something that does not need a billboard to be uttered: a name.  In the exhibition, her installation traverses the past present and future, where identities were more fixed and predictable but are now more fluid and uncertain. She employs small size billboards in the middle of a highway, with halfway zebra crossings, and dying plants in the middle. The billboards thrive while the plants underneath them suffocate. At the opening night, one viewer crossed ‘the road’ and in the process broke one the ‘curbs’. Helen Zeru and myself were discussing this action: was the viewer moved to use the street? Does art have an inherent sanctity unknown to this viewer? Was the artwork so successful at communicating that he felt moved to engage with it in a very direct way?

Mihret Kebede, installation view, Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa,October 2013

Mihret Kebede, installation view, Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa,October 2013

Finally, Berhanu Ashagre in his exploration of place, displacement and notions of the becoming attempted to capture the concrete in the rubble at construction sites, as well as the ephemeral in the sounds of development and the thoughts of the people in the city. He exhibits these in the floor photographic installations, which my friend Marieke who I went with to the exhibition found extremely captivating.

Berhanu Ashagre, installation view, Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa, October 2013

Berhanu Ashagre, installation view, Modern Art Museum: Gebre Kristos Desta Center, Addis Ababa, October 2013

The wall texts are all in English. Since Ethiopia’s national language is Amharic, it would be useful, and only right, to have parallel texts in Amharic in order to have the possibility of meaningful discussions with a broad range of exhibition visitors. As Konjit Seyoum lamented during the artists and curators talk at the Goethe Institute, Addis Ababa, it is a second dispossession of the already dispossessed. 

Working in the overlapping shadows of development and poverty, these artists look for the unspoken, that which is not addressed in policy and talk of progress. Through collaborative processes, they find it in the rubble and the alienated of the city.


Ermias Mazengia RIP

The artist community in Addis Ababa mourns the death of Ermias Mazengia, 36, who passed away and was buried in Kotebe yesterday, September 11th, 2013. May his soul rest in peace.

Ermias Mazengia, Untitled, 2011, Acrylics on canvas. Collection: Brent Wolff

Ermias Mazengia, Untitled, 2011, Acrylics on canvas. Collection: Brent Wolff


The Last Ride

A slice of Ethiopian History. The last ruler of the 3,000 year monarch, Emperor Haile Selassie was ousted in 1974 and taken from his palace in a blue beetle car. Addis Abeba is a city where Volkswagen Beetles are ubiquitous. They have made it into the repertoire of car games our children play – Punch Buggy.

The Last Ride, 2012, acrylic and cotton on canvas, 60cm x 60cm

The Last Ride, 2012, acrylic and cotton on canvas, 60cm x 60cm