“Art is a matter of interest and ofcourse talent…and an atmosphere to develop.” Lecturer Negussie Woldetsadike, Alle School of Fine Art and Design.
Happy to be home in Addis Abeba, despite the rain and slowly dissipating jetlag, I had to “touch road” according to the Jamaican city slang. Of course art was on my mind, namely what has happened over the winter, which was filled with record setting rain and lots of wind. I started at Alle School of Fine Art and Design, specifically to glimpse the art work of the recent grads, which I did. Thankfully, I was also in time to catch the award ceremony for the summer class for children and youth. The summer program has existed for over 35 years and is fed by parents who see talent in their children and decide to expose them to the pedagogy of art early on. Alle Senior Lecturer and coordinator, Ato Negussie Woldetsadike shares, “The six week program offered during Kiremit over the past decades helps to immerse children with a love and talent for art. The program focuses on children under 10 and above 12 in specially designed courses to meet the age of the students. Art is a matter of interest and ofcourse talent…and an atmosphere to develop.” He also commented that the opening of more art schools around the country and art in the general curriculum will help develop students. I asked Gesh Negussie for words of advice for the rising generation of artists being seeded during the summer program, especially for our girls, as I saw an almost 50/50 ratio during the ceremony. “If you have the gift you are welcome but you must be willing to work hard.”
Another activity at the Art School during summers are the number of visiting aspiring and established teachers from outside the capital city of Addis Abeba . These teachers are not necessarily art teachers, some are in sports and other disciplines, but they participate every summer in classes towards earning a 5 year degree in art. Another highlight of my visit was the newly curated sculpture garden in the rear of the Art School. I penned a piece several months ago that looked at PM Dr. Abiy’s visit to the art school and promise to refurbish the abysmal condition of the garden we came to know and accept, diffidently, over the years. So said so done. Thanks to Zoma’s simply ingenious curator Meskerem Assegued and renown multidisciplinary artist Elias Sime, the art school has a space fit for faculty, students and visitors alike. They can experience the art school’s history through meandering stone paths filled with flowers and lush green grass, dotted with sculptures from the mid 20th century to 21st century. According to Director Agegnehu Adane, “The design reflects the flow of Ethiopians and Africans in general. Meskerem designed a space that fits the Ethiopian personality and culture and has included a generous amphitheater space for performance art and other activities. We hope to open the space to the public soon.” He then reminded me that His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selessie I visited the sculpture gardens every Sunday after church. I am certain The Majesty would approve.
I then headed to Guramayne Art Center in Piassa, an historic old home converted into a quaint gallery space hosting the New Bright Community Development Center exhibition. Curated by the Center’s art teacher, Elias, I was amazed at the level of talent and thoughtfulness that went into each work. The exhibition included the works of young students, teens to twenty, exploring notions of social justice, education, identity and poverty in myriad media. Paintings, drawings, installations were a refreshing expression of a plethora of topics near and dear to our youth. Guramayne has a host of activities and exhibitions coming after the New Year so we will keep you posted.
In closing this last article of 2011 ET Calendar, I must say that 2012 art scene in Addis is looking good. For instance, Ethiopian artist and lecturer based in Washington D.C., Mekbib Gebretsadike, was one of the visiting art teachers at Alle Summer Program. He teaches art at Howard University and was happy to share his excitement about working with the students and sharing new techniques as he prepares for a solo show next week at the Art School. Also on on the horizon are several shows scheduled for Addis Fine Art Gallery, the premier international gallery in our capital city. While St. George, Lela and Lafto Galleries, respectively have solo and group shows in the making, hopefully showcasing some of our well know favorites while presenting some of the fresh new talent in town. I am ready for the New Year in art in Addis and look forward to sharing some of the stories behind the artists to be featured in 2012. It was a good one…2011 farewell.
Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.