I was at Laphto Mall Art Gallery last weekend. It was in the afternoon, around 3 p.m. The gallery was almost empty with only very few visitors coming in and out every now and then. Despite the noise of visiting children, the gallery was spacious and therefore convenient enough to move around and calmly view all the works on display. Unfortunately, there was no one at the gallery to guide visitors who came to see the works of art, except for a lady who was there to sell and guard the works on display. Overall, more than 30 works of art, mostly abstract art by artist Nuru Abegaz, were exhibited. Once I was lucky enough to see the work of the same artist at the Hyatt Regency and some of his old arts were again exhibited at the Laphto Mall Art Gallery. All the artworks were meaningful, giving important lessons about life. African body figures of nude women and men, life experiences of couples and families, abstract art of Ethiopian politics, the roles and impact of our different senses, the different meanings of nature and their interpretations in real life, attractive African faces with colorful designs and deepening interpretations among other works of art were part of the exhibits. I spent more than an hour at the gallery wondering about the different interpretations and meanings that the arts can have to offer to the public. As an amateur art visitor, it was not at all easy to grasp the meaning that the artist sought to demonstrate at first sight. Although the exercise of researching the direct and indirect meanings of the works took time and required in-depth reflection, it was at the same time very pleasant and relaxing. The exercise really helped me develop my skills to think outside the box, which I really appreciated.
Before leaving the gallery, I bought a small book on the recent work of women artists in Ethiopia. The book featured more than 20 female artists, professional and amateur, mostly Ethiopian as well as a few visiting artists who had stayed in the country. The book presented general information about the artists, how they started the artwork and the type of artworks they make, such as visual art, sculpture, abstract, etc. Of all the artists featured, I was mostly attracted by the work of a female artist who graduated from Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts. The artist has used the well-known Ethiopian coffee ceremony in her work. The painting was colorful, showing all the utensils used to make traditional Ethiopian coffee such as traditional small cups, a “Jebena“ coffee maker, a traditional charcoal stove, etc. Additionally, the work featured two young women of almost the same age who were well dressed in traditional clothing and afro styled hair, sitting close together and having a chat over coffee. They both seemed to be having a good time and enjoying the drink with cups of coffee in their hands. Honestly, it wasn’t the coffee ceremony nor the painting of the two ladies that caught my attention. I rather became more drawn to the meaning the artist was seeking to reveal.
The artwork examined the hidden role and positive impact of the Ethiopian coffee ceremony on our society. Apart from enjoying the flavor and taste of coffee, coffee ceremony allows people to interact with each other and socialize. The experience is that people, including children, gather around a coffee ceremony, chatting and conversing with each other. They spend time together where they share and debate ideas and thus learn lessons, feedback and solutions to problems they may have in mind. The Ethiopian coffee ceremony has a major social impact by alleviating social problems as well as mental pressures. This gives the opportunity for those who gather over coffee to have stronger links and collaborations with each other. Conversations around a coffee ceremony are various ranging from family, neighborhood and friendship experiences and issues as well as professional experiences and challenges, including friendly discussions on various topics leading to a debate as well as to an agreement based on antagonistic and similar ideologies with fascinating experience sharing. Most people enjoy the moments they spend at a coffee ceremony with laughter and ease leaving good memories and a pleasant time.
After all, I admire the efforts made by Laphto Mall and other art galleries to promote the good work of artists in Ethiopia. It provides an opportunity to encourage works of art that seek to demonstrate Ethiopian culture, values and ethics. Also, Ethiopian artworks give different meanings including hidden meaning to the values and culture of Ethiopia by introducing the country to the general public inside and outside of Ethiopia. Subsequently, there is a need to promote artworks in Ethiopia by increasing the number of fascinating artists as well as art galleries.
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