We spoke this month with Alessandra Frezza of Gallery Ethiopia, an online gallery that features works from Addis Ababa and beyond. We are so happy to hear about the vibrant art scene in Addis, and it is a pleasure hearing about the mission of the gallery and a handful of their featured painters. For more about the gallery, visit their website.
Alessandra Frezza: We opened the virtual gallery a year ago (2017), with the aim to bring more awareness to Ethiopian artists and art.
AF: Artists in Ethiopia view themselves more as individuals, as their art is very personal, inspiring from their life experiences. However, they are a very tight knit community, supporting each other in many ways.
AF: In my humble opinion, there cannot be a central theme among artists. Each one gets inspiration from different thing, especially different life experiences. So no, there’s not central theme other than an Ethiopian artist’s life.
AF: I think artists in general struggle. Having said that, Ethiopian artists mainly struggle in gaining support from their families. Often and unfortunately, there is the stigma of artists not being able to support themselves and being “dreamers” or “good for nothing”. Here, it is maybe even more accentuated, where there is still the mentality that if you do not study to become a doctor, architect, engineer, or any other “good” job, you are basically wasting your life and here even engineers struggle to support their families. It’s great to see that some artists follow their dreams regardless and gift us with their work.
AF: Sure! Here are four artists and their work from this site.
Birtukan Dejene’s paintings are all colored with warm and earthy colors. You can see the fiery colors in “The Chant” and almost hear the priests’ chants. If you know a bit about Ethiopia, you know the importance of religion and you can feel through this painting the sober yet festive vibrations.
Birtukan is a woman who brings calmness when she walks into the room. All her paintings are colored with Ethiopian earthy colors – you seem to want to know more about the story being told in her paintings.
Nigatu Solomon’s work sold on this site are collages from bits of cloth applied to canvas. You will only notice they are collages when you see them up-close. Nigatu’s “Beneath a Warm Shade 2” depicts a woman with distinct Ethiopian features. The warm shades of blues with the fire red hues are his signature colors, and the contrast fits perfectly to make an impressive work of art.
Nigatu comes from a family of artists and gets his inspiration by the natural beauty of the Habesha (Ethiopian) woman. A very humble artist with immense talent.
Eyayu Genet’s paintings are mystical and magical. You are transported to places out of this world. He tried to pursue “traditional” jobs, but was quickly brought back to his calling and cannot be happier with the choice he’s made. He has managed to make Bahir Dar (a city in the north of Ethiopia) an alternative art corner and has trained more than 80 students in technical and artistic expression at the Bahir Dar University. He is as colorful as his paintings!
“Melody of Beauty” brings an alternative look to the traditional Ethiopian beauty. The colors are warm, putting music into a visual phenomenon. Beauty is personal, but music can connect regardless. A positive energy brings people together in this painting and metaphorically represents a woman as “key” (musical key and people’s key) in this religious chant.
Shewa Tamerat is a quiet introvert artist that expresses his blue moods through his art. You will notice that all his paintings have blue as the predominant color. His approach to portraits are completely different and distinct. Complex details compose the “skin” of his subjects, and when seen up close you can see the attention and effort put into each painting.
Shewa comes from the south of Ethiopia, where the Rift Valley crosses and magically transforms the landscapes. Bird life abounds in this area and Shewa has brought the majestic Fishing Eagle to life in “Eagle Eyes” with his intricate signature details.