Tadias 10 Arts & Culture Stories of 2019

Ethiopia Habtemariam is one of the producers behind the new documentary Hitsville: The Making of Motown. (@tadiasmag on Instagram)

Tadias Magazine

By Liben Eabisa

Updated: January 2nd, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — As we close the year we wish our readers around the world a happy and prosperous new year!

Below is our annual list of the top 10 Arts & Culture stories featured on our website in 2019.

Maaza Mengiste’s New Novel ‘The Shadow King’

Maaza Mengiste’s latest novel, ‘The Shadow King.’ (Photo by Nina Subin)

Maaza Mengiste’s new novel The Shadow King was released this year to enthusiastic and well-deserved reviews by several national media organizations including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and NPR. As our readers know, Maaza is one of our favorite Ethiopian-American writers and her latest work brings to light the seldom-told role of heroic Ethiopian women during World War II and Ethiopia’s legendary victory against fascist occupation forces. We can’t agree more with NPR that “the star of the novel, however, is Maaza’s writing, which makes The Shadow King nearly impossible to put down.” As Time Magazine noted, naming The Shadow King on their list of 100 must read books of 2019: “Maaza Mengiste tells an unforgettable story steeped in the history of her home country. Hirut, an orphan, works as a maid subjected to the oppressive impulses of men — until she steps up to become a war hero, helping to defend Ethiopia against Mussolini’s invasion in 1935, a precursor to World War II. The Shadow King is a propulsive read that captures a historical moment from a fresh perspective, speaking to timeless themes about women’s power and oppression and the cost of war.”

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey at LA County Museum of Art

Julie Mehretu – Stadia II, 2004. Ink and acrylic on canvas, 108 x 144 in. Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, gift of Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn and Nicolas Rohatyn and A. W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund 2004.50. © Julie Mehretu, photograph courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art

It’s exciting to share the opening of Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey showcasing her work dating back to 1996. The traveling exhibition was launched at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in California this past October. “The first-ever comprehensive retrospective of Mehretu’s career, it covers over two decades of her examination of history, colonialism, capitalism, geopolitics, war, global uprising, diaspora, and displacement through the artistic strategies of abstraction, architecture, landscape, movement, and, most recently, figuration,” the Museum said in a statement. “Mehretu’s play with scale, as evident in her intimate drawings and large canvases and complex techniques in printmaking, [is] explored in depth.” The show features about “40 works on paper with 35 paintings along with a print by Rembrandt and a film on Mehretu by the artist Tacita Dean.” The traveling exhibition – co-organized by LACMA and The Whitney Museum of American Art – is set for its next major opening in New York City, Julie’s hometown, in September 2020. Then the show is scheduled to travel to Atlanta to be displayed at the High Museum of Art from October 24th 2020 to January 31, 2021, before moving on to Minnesota for an exhibition at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from March 13–July 11, 2021. This exhibition is a must-see.

Nesanet Teshager Abegaze’s Film “Bereka” Goes to Sundance 2020 Festival

Nesanet Teshager Abegaze at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia, August 2019. (Courtesy of the artist)

This past summer Nesanet Teshager Abegaze’s debut film Bereka won the Best Experimental Film award at the BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia. In January 2020 the short film is set to be screened at Sundance , the biggest independent film festival in the United States, which takes place every year in Salt Lake City, Utah. The film’s title is a reference to the third round of the traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, but the heart of the story is personal as Nesanet chronicles a family’s unexpected flight out of Gondar and decades later the jubilant homecoming of the grandchildren back to Ethiopia. Nesanet recently told Tadias that “the whole film came together in a very organic way,” noting that she had been recording audio as part of a family archive project for several years. We congratulate Nesanet and wish her all the best at Sundance and beyond.

Marcus Samuelsson’s PBS Show ‘No Passport Required’ Returns for Second Season

Marcus Samuelsson’s popular PBS TV show ‘No Passport Required’ is set to return for a new season in January 2020. (Photo courtesy: Eater.com)

Marcus Samuelsson’s popular TV show, No Passport Required, is scheduled to return for a second season in January 2020 highlighting diverse immigrant food traditions in American cities such as Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle, Boston, Las Vegas and Philadelphia. “An immigrant himself — born in Ethiopia, raised in Sweden, now a celebrated chef, restaurateur, author and resident of Harlem — Marcus Samuelsson is passionate about sharing and celebrating the food of America’s vibrant communities,” PBS stated. “Each episode shows how important food can be in bringing Americans — old and new — together around the table…In each city, he’ll visit local restaurants, markets and family homes, learning about each community’s cuisine and heritage.” The first season included highlight of Ethiopian food and culture in Washington D.C. via PBS, one of the largest television program distributors in the United States. No Passport Required is produced in collaboration with Vox Media. “We are thrilled to be working with PBS and Marcus to continue capturing these authentic stories focusing on the communities that make this nation so rich and dynamic,” said Marty Moe, President of Vox Media. Likewise, we are proud of Marcus and look forward to the next season in 2020!

Ethiopian Cultural Festival at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York

Ethiopian Festival at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in NYC on Sunday, June 2nd, 2019. (Photo: CMA)

On June 2nd, 2019 an interactive arts workshop inspired by artists from Ethiopia including Ezra Wube, Addis Gezehagn, Elias Sime, Afewerk Tekle as well as singer and songwriter Gigi was held at the Children’s Museum of the Arts in New York City. The well-attended family-friendly event was organized by the CMA in collaboration with the Ethiopian Community Mutual Assistance Association (ECMAA) and the Ethiopian Social Assistance Committee (ESAC) and included Ethiopian music, Eskista dance, and a coffee ceremony in addition to children’s game and art stations.

Tightrope, The First Major Traveling Museum Exhibition of Elias Sime

Artist Elias Sime’s first major traveling museum survey exhibition entitled “Tightrope”, comprising of work from the last decade, was presented by the Wellin Museum of Art through December 8, 2O19. (Photo credit: Brett Moen. Courtesy of the artist and James Cohan, New York)

Ethiopia-based Artist Elias Sime’s first major traveling U.S. museum survey exhibition entitled “Tightrope”, and comprising of work from the last decade, was presented by the Wellin Museum of Art from September 7 to December 8, 2019. As Hasabie Kidanu reported for Tadias: “The prolific and multi-disciplinary artist works primarily within the language of architecture, sculpture, and collage. Sime’s works are created from repurposing objects often carefully sourced from Merkato — Addis’ sprawling open air market. Sime often collects discarded electrical components that have traveled from around the globe to his hometown. Through a meticulous hand, the salvaged materials are cut, layered, collaged, and woven. The end result renews refuse into a new form – large colorful and lyrical compositions, pointing to the universal human struggle as a ‘balancing act’ of our relationship to technological progress, waste, resourcefulness, and environmental sustainability.” Speaking about his work Elias shares: “My art is a reflection of who I am as a human being without borders, labels, and imposed identity. There is a sense of unity and cooperation that I reflect through my art. At the root of all of it is love and passion. With this exhibition, including many years of my work, I hope the students and other visitors will share my feelings expressed on the arts.” The traveling exhibition is also scheduled to go to the Akron Art Museum in Akron, Ohio (February 29 through May 24, 2020), the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art in Kansas City, Missouri (June 11 through September 13, 2020), and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada (December 12, 2020 through April 18, 2021).

Addis Ababa Among Six Dynamic Emerging Art Capitals in Africa

Tadesse Mesfin, Pillars of Life: Market Day (2018). Courtesy Addis Fine Art.

In 2019 Addis Ababa was named among six dynamic emerging art capitals on the African continent by Artnet News website. Among the institutions featured in the article include “Alle School of Fine Art & Design (Ethiopia’s most important art school founded in 1958, during the reign of Emperor Haile Selassie); Addis Fine Art (The most notable commercial gallery in the capital will also be opening a new location in London’s Cromwell Place gallery hub in 2020); Guramane Art Center (A gallery dedicated to emerging Ethiopian artists); and Zoma (a museum founded by artist Elias Sime and curator Meskerem Assegued, which opened in April 2019 and shows contemporary art from East Africa and abroad).”

Ethiopia Habtemariam and Hitsville: The Making of Motown Documentary Celebrating its 60th Anniversary

Ethiopia Habtemariam is one of the producers behind the new documentary Hitsville: The Making of Motown.

Ethiopia Habtemariam is a first-generation Ethiopian-American who is currently the President of Motown Records and President of Urban Music at Universal Publishing Music Group. Earlier this year speaking about Motown’s 60th anniversary and a documentary film she was working on to celebrate the special occasion Ethiopia promised in an interview with InStyle magazine that she was “bringing back f—ing Motown.” And based on media reviews and audience reactions to Hitsville: The Making of Motown, it is clear that Ethiopia has delivered on her words. “Some of the archive clips trigger goosebumps, while Berry Gordy and Smokey Robinson radiate charm in this affectionate anniversary tribute to Detroit’s influential record label,” enthused The Guardian. “Young, gifted and black – and so many of them. Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, the Temptations, Diana Ross, Michael Jackson: all under one roof in a suburban house in Detroit, a sign hanging above the porch: “Hitsville, USA”.

Watch: Hitsville: The Making of Motown (2019) Official Trailer | SHOWTIME Documentary Film

Hitsville: The Making of Motown was produced for SHOWTIME by executive producers Berry Gordy, Steve Barnett, Marty Bandier, David Blackman, Ethiopia Habtemariam and Michelle Jubelirer.

Tommy T’s newest Single ‘Anchin’ Featuring Mahmoud Ahmed

Cover of Tommy T’s recent single ‘Anchin’ featuring Mahmoud Ahmed. (Courtesy photo)

Tommy T (Thomas Gobena) released a new song in 2019 featuring his musical hero the legendary Ethiopian singer Mahmoud Ahmed and it continues to receive rave reviews. Four years go Tommy T — the Ethiopian-born bass player for the American punk band, Gogol Bordello — met up with Mahmoud at a Stephen Marley concert in Washington D.C. where Mahmoud was performing a song for the opening. That same evening Tommy pitched a song idea to Mahmoud, which turned into the new single Anchin released online on July 2nd, 2019. “I had a chance to share with him a concept of a song that I had worked on a while back, and he eventually agreed to collaborate,” Tommy told Tadias. “Out of the collaboration on this song I also got a chance to direct my first music video for this single.”

Watch: Tommy T featuring Mahmoud Ahmed – ANCHIN አንቺን

Anchin (Amharic for ‘you’ in feminine pronoun), is a follow up to Tommy T’s first solo album entitled The Prestor John Sessions issued in 2009. As Tommy shared in a press release the self-released single launched on Tommy’s new platform, Afroxoid, “is a continuation of his work in exploring the vast world of afro-rhythms combined with an Ethiopian melody, and will guide the listener on a cross-cultural musical journey.”

Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week

The 2019 Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Addis Ababa from October 9-12th. (Image: Fetel Design. Photo by Lenny White)

The annual Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week celebrated its ninth anniversary in 2019. This year’s runway show held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Addis Ababa from October 9-12th featured both local and international designers from Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa. Past participants of Hub of Africa Fashion Week have gone on to participate in New York African Fashion Week as well as Berlin Fashion Week and received international media coverage including on CNN, Vogue Italia, Fashion TV, and BBC. According to Mahlet Teklemariam, Founder of the Hub of Africa Addis Fashion Week, the British Council served as the facilitator of a “Made in Ethiopia” event this year, which featured producers of textile, leather, manufacturing and other sectors of the industry.” Organizers point out that “fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry of which Africa only has a minute share… and the annual fashion week in Ethiopia’s capital “seeks to remedy this and has worked diligently towards this growth.”

Liben Eabisa is Co-Founder & Publisher of Tadias.

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