Spotlight: ‘Free Art Felega,’ A Virtual Ethiopia Exhibition by Yenatfenta Abate

Founded by artist Yenatfenta Abate, the 'Free Art Felega' project offers a platform for Ethiopian artists of various disciplines internationally to display their work as well as to discuss, exchange ideas and learn from each others experiences. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: December 16th, 2020

‘Free Art Felega,’ A Virtual Ethiopia Exhibition by Yenatfenta Abate Bringing Artists Together

New York (TADIAS) — There are positive and optimistic art projects growing amidst the challenges of the current COVID-19 era as a much-needed meeting space for Ethiopian artists around the world. Among them is an online exhibition that was held this week called Free Art Felega 5 Disrupt, organized by German-based Ethiopian artist Yenatfenta Abate.

“The basic concept is based on the focus of life and work of the participating artists in times of COVID-19 and the reflection of joint work in the context of the social challenge caused by the changing environment,” the announcement notes. “Artists from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Diaspora with a studio in Berlin, Germany, and Vienna, Austria, are involved.” It added: “With Free Art Felega 5 – Disrupt, a virtual platform is being created for the first time, on which artists who collaborated on prior projects work together, discussing their designs and work results and showing them online in a virtual exhibition.”

Yenatfenta, who now lives and works in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany is a graduate of the Ale School of Fine Arts and Design in Ethiopia. She staged the inaugural Free Art Felega exhibition in Ethiopia in 2004 after being awarded a scholarship by the Karl-Heinz Ditze Foundation, having started the project 8 years earlier in 1996 as an artist participating in an exchange program between Germany and Ethiopia. The program was eventually expanded into a series in partnership with the Goethe Institute Addis Ababa, which sponsored subsequent Free Art Felega shows in Ethiopia. In 2019, Free Art Felega 4 – Identity was held in collaboration with charity organizations in Addis Abeba.

“The objective of the ongoing project is the development of the abilities and skills of Ethiopian artists, especially the “liberation” from applied art in the extensive overall context of modern visual arts,” Yenatfenta says. “The original artistic training is given special consideration and is further developed through the concept of free art. She adds: “In terms of content, “Free Art Felega” guarantees to strengthen the quality of the artistic exchange, to create artistic identities and to enable artists to have a common platform in the long term.”


In 2019, Yenatfenta Abate decided to take the group of Free Art Felega 4 – Identity to charity organizations in Addis Abeba. There, the artists helped elderly and mentally disabled people, and children to deal with their everyday struggles by helping to express their feelings and thoughts through art. (Courtesy photo)


So far, there have been five complex projects of the series Free Art Felega. Yenatfenta Abate has run all projects in Addis Ababa, in cooperation with institutions like the Goethe-Institute and CIM. (Courtesy photo)


(Photo Courtesy of Free Art Felega)

The latest exhibition, Free Art Felega 5 Disrupt, is an online show that opened via Zoom on December 10th reflecting our contemporary reality, but has also provided an opportunity for a diverse and an eclectic group of Ethiopian artists to take part from various parts of the world including Germany, Ethiopia and the United States. “I am proud of all participants and especially the fact that we intensely used our times during the last months and that we worked concentrated together in those times of CoVid19,” Yenatfenta says, noting that she is working on a follow upcoming events.

Watch: Free Art Felega 5 – Disrupt – Virtual Exhibition (2020)


Free Art Felega is a project series created by artist Yenatfenta Abate. Yenatfenta developed the concept “Free Art Felega” – the search for free art – from her experience of intercultural work in artistic exchange between Germany and Ethiopia. (Video: Free Art Felega YouTube page)

Free Art Felega 5 includes several artists in two categories: “The Master Group” and the “Identity Group.”

The former features artists such as Adugna Kassa, Engedaget Legesse, Hailemariam Dendir, Henok Getachew, Leikun Nahusenay, Leykun Girma, Mekasha Haile, Mihret Dawit, Mihret Kebede, Mulugeta Gebrekidan, Ousman Hassen, Seyoum Ayalew, Simret Mesfin, Yacob Bekele, Yordanos Wube, and Zerihun Workineh.

Participants in the second group include: Alemayehu Bekele, Ananiya Zerihun, Bethelhem Tadele, Birhan Beyene, Brook Yeshitila, Etsubdink Legesse, Fasil Eyasu, Israel Woldemichael, Meron Ermias, Mulu Legesse, Omar Gobe, Selome Getachew, Selome Muleta, Tewodros Nigussie, and Tirsit Mulugeta.

As Yenatfenta sums it up”: “Art is not limited by its material but by its creator. And if the creator has a free mindset with the wish to create something new, everything is possible.”

You can learn more about the Free Art Felega project at www.freeartfelega.com.

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