“The only country I have is my sense and my senses.” Hiwot Adilow from the poem “no preponderance”.
March 8th is Woman’s Day and this year’s theme is “I Am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights”, marking the 25th Anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. As celebrations take place world wide, tech giant, Apple, chimes in with over 5,000 hours of female-focused sessions of “She Creates” branded sessions highlighting leaders, artists, entrepreneurs and creators. Music is naturally a main feature with artists including Alicia Keys however the new Art Lab, “Playful Portraits” will draw inspiration from visual artists including African American Jade Purple Brown. The New York based graphic artist will transforms everyday photos into art using patterns, stickers and colors using third party Procreate App on iPad Pro. Jade has become a force to contend with in the art scene using her graphic design, illustration and art direction to create content for fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands.
Back home in Addis, yours truly is in the process of curating an exhibition for the USA Mission to the African Union, opening at the end of the month, featuring the art of over 30 works from female African artists hailing from the five regions of the continent and the USA. A majority of the exhibition will be comprised of a collection of works recently shown in Zimbabwe entitled On Balance –curated by Nigerian artist, Numero Unoma Giese. Her vision and realization of a show comprised exclusively of African woman from all 55 countries is a truly remarkable accomplishment and I can’t wait to share a portion of On Balance with Addis Abeba art lovers. However you’ll have to wait for more information on this unique event and incredible curator, Unoma, who’s been coming to Addis for many years by the way.
On Thursday the Alliance Ethio-Francaise hosted an art talk on the occasion of the closing of Left Hand, a solo exhibition by Prince Merid Tafesse. One of the topics that came up in the frank and fruitful panel discussion with the artist and Alliance Director, Christian Merer, which I had to the honor to moderate, was “where are the women?” Though most seats were filled with males, the handful of women did not shy away from expressing themselves on topics such as the direction of the art industry and role of artists and all stakeholders. To sum up, Prince Merid shared his hope in fellow artists and their resourcefulness in creating solutions to space for exhibits and staying true to their calling, amongst other subjects. While Christian expressed the need for round table discussions and special events, bringing all those vested in art and culture together from government, private sector, embassies and academia etc. to plan and implement attainable and practical initiatives. He went on to share the recent launch of a virtual exhibition which features 30 years of Ethiopian artists who have exhibited at the Alliance, an effort to connect artists with art lovers and collectors worldwide. And while females are scarce on the site, the more that women are encouraged to pursue their passion in art and exhibit widely, the more enriched society will become through their narratives. That said, Isabelle Boavida, Portugal’s Cultural Attache,’ lecturer, curator and so much more also expressed her desire to see more women in visual art, art journalism and others aspects of the industry. She noted the increase of female Ethiopian artists over the past decade however the need for more is undeniable. It is interesting, if not ironic, that most of the art spaces in Addis are founded or owned by women including St. George, Asni, Lela, Zoma and Addis Fine Art. So we are making strides, well maybe baby steps, all things considered, but we did agree on an upcoming forum to further deliberate and take action to develop this multi-million dollar industry that can transform lives and livelihoods in Ethiopia.
I close with Hiwot Adilow, a Philadelphia based Ethiopian-American poet who was one of the 2018 Brunel International African poetry prize recipients and one to watch. Her emotive words are filled with her unapologetic truth, stirring the souls of her readers and moving publishers to include her work in several major anthologies. Her poem, “no preponderance,” expresses thoughts that many grapple with in the current changing social and political landscape.
I’m drawing back from invocation now.
I’m leaning in, to the myth/the heresy/the hearsay.
what was it? whatever. what peeled me from the stage
and had me gnashing the walls.
My tongue drips thick embers across the floor, burns bridges and monuments. It ribbons after me like a flag. The only country I have is my sense and my senses. The only language I know is my body and all its flinching notes.
HAPPY WOMAN’S DAY!
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.