This week I visited historic Bahir Dar and Lalibella, on a quest to share the iconic art of Ethiopia, with my new partners and friends from Chicago, Gallery Guichard. Gallery owners, Andre and Frances Guichard and Attorney Stephen Mitchell have embarked on an adventure in art, increasing tourists to Ethiopia and Africa in general through ARTCATION. Yes instead of the usual vacation artcation to Ethiopia will allow collectors and art enthusiast to explore and experience the history and development of Ethiopia through art. The art of the 10th through 16th Centuries depicted in churches and monasteries in the historic northern regions reveal a highly developed sense of artistic and technical abilities. From the plants and other organic based ingredients used to create the paint pigments to the canvas and skins that preserved these incredible expressions of faith, history and the future of humanity.
Emperor Haile Selassie said, “A purely materialistic art would be like a tree which is expected to bear fruit without flowering and to sacrifice grace and beauty for mere utility. Our admiration for the Creator’s handiwork should not be limited to those things he has provided us with for our daily needs, but should include all that is good and beautiful. Music, drama and the other arts are rooted in the ancient history of our empire and their development to an even higher peak of perfection will be possible in the atmosphere of a university. Ethiopia possesses an ancient literature and its study can be fostered here so Ethiopia youth inspired by this national example, may raise it yet to higher levels of excellence.” That profound and prophetic excerpt from the Majesty’s opening speech over five decades ago continues to be realized. Gallery Guichard owners witnessed this first hand during visits to the Alle School of Fine Arts archives, artists’ studios, museums, galleries and anywhere art exists in the region visited over the past ten days. But what is the potential for Ethiopia with this new concept of artcation?
Based on the Gallery Guichard model of art based tourism the following are foreseeable benefits to the country and artists alike:
Visitors experience will be enhanced by a fresh approach to the presentation of both historic and contemporary art building the profile of Ethiopia’s tourism sector,
Artists will step their game up in terms of how they promote and position themselves as one of the main focal points of these tours,
The development of art industry professionals such as curators, appraisers, art packaging and transport and art-tour guides,
Trade in contemporary art from Ethiopia to the USA will increase,
Promotion of Ethiopia as a destination for high end tours including art collectors and connoisseurs, and
Promotion of Ethiopia artists, galleries and museums.
There are many other possibilities and benefits but full success will require cooperation of all stakeholders. Until we reach that point, Gallery Guichard and your truly are partnering to take the leap of faith, just as the original artists who ten centuries ago made indelible mark on those of us in the 21st century. We will work on artist development, institutional alliances, cross marketing and whatever it takes to ensure the art of Ethiopia is placed on the international stage in an effort to raise awareness, increase income from trade in art, promote art and culture and debunk stereo-typical myths about Ethiopia.
So as we go into the holiday season where we will be visiting with family and friends at home and abroad, let us consider art as a fresh gift idea. Let us celebrate and give thanks for the blessings of creativity, originality and ingenuity which have led to an Ethiopia still going strong, regardless of seemingly insurmountable challenges.
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