“Really, I love my country…”
Addis Abeba is called the capital of Africa for several reasons. In addition to being home to over 6 million residents, and counting; the seat of the African Union and headquarters of the UNECA; St. George Golla Gallery plans to add another affirmation to the New Flower, a city currently in bloom with new buildings. But that is another story. Selamawit Alene is junior sister to Saba Alene, who is the founder of the #1 & #2 St. George Gallery. Selamawit says, “Really, I love my country. Although our gallery has diverse items including art, furniture, handcrafted souvenirs and more, I knew we needed a space just for fine art. I also know that we needed a space to show art from all over Africa… we will work closely with artists from all over and eventually hope to offer residencies for artists who can also work with children and the surrounding community. Already the gallery’s presence has created jobs, a sense of community pride and raised awareness about preserving and promoting our cultural heritage. This is the Ethiopia I love the Africa we live in and I know we will continue to open minds to art for new collectors and art lovers.”
The discussion with Selamawit was for this second section of my OUT OF THE FIRE article published last week. More importantly it was propelled by my fascination with the devoted mother of two, art aficionado Selamawit, who decided that against all odds, the historic house, now St. George Golla Gallery 3, must be saved and restored. Are women more sensitive and responsive to the notion of preservation, promotion and protection of culture? Are we compelled based on our connection to nature, beauty and creation? Or are we just tired of seeing our children’s heads buried in cell phones or fixated on television or computer screens and we are seeking an alternative? Whatever the reason the women in art in Africa are rising and the reason doesn’t even seem to matter as the goal is the focal point. “Do not be afraid of life’s ups and downs, don’t think easy money. You have to fight and work hard or you won’t get anywhere,” says Selamawit.
As we recognize the women warriors for art in Addis and other African cities for that matter, let us take time to consider some of the treasures right in our neighborhoods that need urgent attention. Let us encourage our children to value and care for their surroundings and set examples that can be followed daily on not based on holidays or special occasions. Change is happening around us and fast and we have lots to learn about the capital city in which we reside, Addis Abeba/New Flower. So as Tinsae is celebrated, recognizing the rising and renewal of all things pure and good as expressed during Fasika, let us all try to rise to the occasion of becoming stewards and protectors of heritage so we find ourselves on the ‘right side of history.’ I close with a few lines from the poem NILE by poet Laureate Tesgaye Gebre-Medhin:
“I am the first Earth Mother of all fertility
I am the source I am the Nile I am the Africa I am the beginning
I rise like the sun from the deepest core of the globe
I am the Ethiopia that ‘stretches her hands in supplication to God’.”
Typos April 21st article: “18th century French Gothic building” should have been “13th century” And “Pledges of over 7 million Euros For the restoration: should have been “700 million…”
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.