Art Section

Ethiopia at the MET, Part Two: Q&A with Curator Dr. Andrea Achi

Theo Eshetu, The Return of the Axum Obelisk, 2009, Video, Collection of the artist, courtesy of The Met

Tadias Magazine

Updated: February 23rd, 2024

New York (TADIAS) – The Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York is currently hosting its inaugural exhibition exploring the intersections between African and Byzantine art, with a significant focus on Ethiopia. In our ongoing interview series, we delve deeper into this topic with Dr. Andrea Achi, Curator of this groundbreaking exhibition at the MET.

TADIAS: What significance does Ethiopia hold within the context of this exhibition?

Dr. Andrea Achi: Ethiopia was closely connected to the Romans and Byzantines religiously, politically, and through shared artistic traditions. The Axum Empire became a Christian nation even before the Roman Empire. The Axumites were close political allies to the Byzantines, participating in proxy wars to help secure the Byzantine borders and remained close partners with the Byzantines for centuries.

Installation view of Africa & Byzantium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna Marie Kellen, courtesy of The Met

Photo by Anna Marie Kellen, courtesy of The Met

Photo by Anna Marie Kellen, courtesy of The Met

TADIAS: Could you elaborate on Ethiopia’s rich artistic and cultural heritage and how the exhibition redefines conventional perceptions of Byzantium and Africa, particularly in its portrayal of Ethiopian art and culture?

Dr. Achi: Africa & Byzantium showcases Ethiopia’s rich artistic and cultural legacy extending over nearly two millennia. The Aksumite city of Adulis connected the Mediterranean trade with the Red Sea and the Indian ocean, facilitating transregional exchange. From there, the Axumites exported locally made objects such as worked glass, ivory, and metal, which circulated throughout the Mediterranean basin.

By beginning with Roman North Africa and ending with Ethiopia, Africa & Byzantium situates Ethiopian art and culture directly within the context of Byzantine artistic legacies. Previous exhibitions of Ethiopian art, particularly in the United States, have rightly focused on tracing the history of Ethiopian visual and material culture across the centuries. Africa & Byzantium places Ethiopian art in conversation with the artistic traditions of neighboring regions in East Africa, including Nubia and Egypt, demonstrating not only the liturgical concordances between these area through their shared Orthodox faith, while also encouraging the visitor to draw visual parallels between these artistic traditions. Although Ethiopia was never formally part of the Byzantine Empire, this context is important to further understand Ethiopia’s global connections with the regions that were within the domain of Byzantium, such as Egypt. It also complicates our understandings of the art of Byzantine Egypt and North Africa – rather than seeing the artistic tradition of these regions as a monolith, seeing these various regional artistic legacies in the same space encourages our audience to highlight the differences as well as the similarities between these distinct, yet related, visual expressions.

Photo by Anna Marie Kellen, courtesy of The Met

TADIAS: The discussion among the featured contemporary artists, including Tsedaye Makonnen and Theo Eshetu, reflecting on the exhibition was truly captivating. Given the exhibition’s exploration of the lasting impact stemming from interactions between North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, and Byzantium, could you provide further insights into how these artistic exchanges have shaped contemporary artistic practices?

Dr. Andrea AchI: Many of the Christian communities of North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, Ethiopia, and Byzantium are linked through their shared Orthodox faith, which shaped these region’s artistic traditions. In Africa & Byzantium, we see artists responding to this legacy, such as with Tsedaye Makonnen’s light sculptures, which feature incised forms of Ethiopian crosses on their modular structures. Other artists, such as Azza El Siddique, who is Sudanese-American, are thinking about how these cross-regional connections are shaped through shared ritual practices, such as through her work on Nubian and Egyptian perfume and scent. As a result of their shared geography, many of these regions also experienced colonial occupation, which profoundly affected how medieval art and heritage from the region is viewed and understood. In his work in the exhibition, The Return of the Axum Obelisk, and others, Theo Eshetu is reflective of this legacy: his work directly considers issues of provenance, repatriation, and cultural heritage, which are front of mind for many of the nation states that are in the regions of North Africa, Egypt, Nubia, and Ethiopia. These regional colonial histories have also in part resulted in the migration of these communities to North America and Europe – many of these artists hold dual nationalities. Tsedaye and the Ethiopian-American artist Tariku Shiferaw are also thinking about this history of immigration, and Shiferaw’s work deals with what it means to exist as an immigrant in the West, and how to fit this explicitly transnational practice within the canon of Western art history.

Installation view of Africa & Byzantium at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo by Anna Marie Kellen, courtesy of The Met

TADIAS: Lastly, for those unable to attend the exhibition in person, are there alternative avenues for accessing its content?

Dr. Andrea AchI: The exhibition is accompanied by a richly illustrated catalogue available for purchase, featuring the research of over forty contributors spanning from the subfields of medieval art history, history, archaeology, and literary criticism. Photographs of the exhibition’s objects are included in the catalogue, accompanied by scholarly texts. A virtual tour of the exhibition, led by the show’s curator, is also available online. Other digital offerings on the museum’s website include the exhibition’s full audio guide, as well as photography of the exhibition objects with accompanying explanatory text. These are arranged in order of their display in the galleries to best simulate the in-person visitor’s experience.

Special thanks to Michelle Al-Ferzly at the MET for her assistance with the Q&A.

Video: Exhibition Tour—Africa & Byzantium | Met Exhibitions

If You Go:

Next week, the MET will present Tsedaye Makonnen for a “site-specific performance that journeys through the history of the Byzantine Era’s African diaspora.” This show coincides with the display of her Astral Sea textiles as part of The Met’s Africa & Byzantium exhibition.



Ethiopia at the MET & the Walters Art Museum: TADIAS Interview Series on its Breakthrough Moment in Major U.S. Museums (Part One)

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Video: A Retrospective Journey Through 8 Remarkable Years with Addis Fine Arts

Over the years, Addis Fine Art has played a pivotal role in championing African artists on the global stage, emerging as a significant influencer in the contemporary African art market. (Photo: AFA)

Tadias Magazine

Updated: February 2nd, 2024

New York (TADIAS) – This year commemorates the 8th anniversary of Addis Fine Arts, an enduring commitment to showcasing and garnering global recognition for artists from Ethiopia and its diasporas, with a specific focus on “shedding light on the region’s rich artistic history.”

As stated on its website, Addis Fine Art stands as a prominent African contemporary art gallery, featuring locations in both Addis Ababa and London. Founded in 2016 by Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul, the gallery has centered its focus on artists hailing from Ethiopia, the Horn of Africa, and its diasporas. Over the years, Addis Fine Art has played a pivotal role in championing African artists on the global stage, emerging as a significant influencer in the contemporary African art market.

Distinguished by its international program, the gallery showcases mid-career artists through its London gallery space, making it one of the few Black and African-owned art galleries in the city. Simultaneously, the Addis Ababa location has transformed into a regional incubator for undiscovered talent, serving as a platform for exhibiting and nurturing the careers of emerging artists

In this video, founders Rakeb Sile and Mesai Haileleul take a retrospective look at the gallery’s remarkable journey.

8th Anniversary Video – Addis Fine Art from Addis Fine Art on Vimeo.


Addis Ababa’s Runway to Cultural Nexus: HAFW 2024 Shaping the Global Fashion Scene

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SPOTLIGHT: Meskerem Mees, Winner of The Montreux Jazz Talent Award 2021

The Ethiopia-born Belgian singer-songwriter Meskerem Mees is the winner of the 2021 Montreux Jazz Talent Award. According to organizers the up-and-coming musician was "elected unanimously by a jury that comprised both professional judges and members of the public." (Montreux Jazz Festival)

Press Release

Montreux Jazz Festival

The Montreux Jazz Talent Award 2021 has been awarded to the Belgian singer and composer Meskerem Mees. The 21-year-old artist performed at the Montreux Jazz Festival alongside eight other emerging talents selected by the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation. Meskerem Mees was elected unanimously by a jury that comprised both professional judges and members of the public, as well as an Artists Committee, including Yaron Herman, Anne Paceo, Shabaka Hutchings and Michael League.

The Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation (MJAF) invited eight artists to perform at the Montreux Jazz Talent Awards, between the 2nd and 17th of July 2021. Each candidate was carefully selected by the booking team for their diverse interpretations of jazz and soul-inspired music.

The eight artists performed during the 55th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival in front of a jury of professional judges and members of the public. Four musicians, who work closely with the MJAF, also participated in the vote: Yaron Herman, Anne Paceo, Shabaka Hutchings (Sons of Kemet) and Michael League (Snarky Puppy).


Beautifully composed tunes, a magnetic presence and a distinct velvet voice: Meskereem Mees was a true revelation during the competition, impressing all three juries. The 21-year-old Flemish musician says she is inspired by artists such as Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone and Courtney Barnett. After releasing a handful of singles including the stunning “Joe”, Meskerem Mees is set to release her highly anticipated debut album, Julius, on November 12, 2021.

“I feel very honored to be the winner of a talent award competition hosted by a festival as renowned as the Montreux Jazz Festival. I’m looking forward to learn from some of the world’s best musicians at the Montreux Jazz Academy. Thank you all, once again, for this amazing opportunity.”

— Meskerem Mees


Meskerem Mees has been awarded a one-week artistic residency at La Becque on the shores of Lake Geneva. She will also perform at the Montreux Jazz Academy under the musical direction of Shabaka Hutchings, Edward Wakili-Hick and Alexander Hawkins. The 7th edition of the Montreux Jazz Academy will take place at the Autumn of Music festival, organised by the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation between the 27th and 30th of October 2021.

At a key point in their careers, they also get long-term professional support from the Montreux Jazz Artists Foundation (MJAF) and the Festival’s large network of contacts. The MJAF is regularly involved in the programming of concerts in Switzerland and abroad, for instance at the Swiss cultural centres in Paris and in Rome.

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Art From the Horn of Africa Makes Exciting Debut in Sweden

Exhibition view: From Modern to Contemporary: Artists from the Horn of Africa and Diaspora, CFHILL, Stockholm (10 June–17 August 2021). Among them are two modern masters, and the first graduates of the Allé School of Fine Arts and Design at Addis Ababa University, the oldest art school in East Africa: Lulseged Retta and Tadesse Mesfin, who is also a long-time Allé educator. (Courtesy CFHILL and Addis Fine Art)

Ocula Magazine

This collaboration with London and Addis Ababa-based Addis Fine Art continues CFHILL’s commitment to offering an exhibition platform to international curators, artists, and galleries. Works by 19 artists including sculpture, painting, textiles, video, and photography are shown in five main galleries across two floors, highlighting important artists of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Sudanese descent spanning the modern era to the present.

A large painting hanging in a white gallery shoes figures dancing and playing trumpets. In the background, the next-door room is visible, and on it a painting of a fragmentary painting of a figure sitting on a stool.

Left to right: Tesfaye Urgessa, Gesicht III (2019); Lulseged Retta, African Jazz (2021). Exhibition view: From Modern to Contemporary: Artists from the Horn of Africa and Diaspora, CFHILL, Stockholm (10 June–17 August 2021). Courtesy CFHILL and Addis Fine Art.

Among them are two modern masters, and the first graduates of the Allé School of Fine Arts and Design at Addis Ababa University, the oldest art school in East Africa: Lulseged Retta and Tadesse Mesfin, who is also a long-time Allé educator.

Founded by the artist Alle Felege Selam, the Allé School of Fine Arts and Design was the first art school in Ethiopia, and for over six decades has produced an impressive cohort, including seminal text-based painter Wosene Worke Kosrof, Elizabeth Habte Wold, and educator Bekele Mekonnen.

Works by Retta and Mesfin are included in the first of four sections that organise the show chronologically and thematically: ‘The Modernists’, which looks at the first graduates of the Allé School of Fine Arts and Design in the 1970s.

Retta’s figurative acrylic on canvas painting Setate (2010) shows two women cooking in rich saturated hews; and Mesfin’s Pillars of Life: Patience II (2020) is a striking portrait of Ethiopian women in the marketplace—part of an ongoing series celebrating women working as small-holder vendors in Ethiopian cities.

Left to right: Tegene Kunbi, Red Panther (2021); Lulseged Retta, Setate (2010); Tsedaye Makonnen, Senait & Makonnen, The Peacemaker & The Comforter I (2019). Exhibition view: From Modern to Contemporary: Artists from the Horn of Africa and Diaspora, CFHILL, Stockholm (10 June–17 August 2021). Courtesy CFHILL and Addis Fine Art.

‘The Contemporary’ is the largest section, with mid-career artists who emerged in the 2000s, with many former students/mentees of Mesfin, including Addis Gezehagn, Merikokeb Berhanu, Tesfaye Urgessa, and Ermias Kifleyesus.

Urgessa’s expressive paintings are rooted in his childhood and memories as a young man in Ethiopia, but also draw from his encounters with both German Neo-expressionism and the School of London through his travels abroad. Wandering Man (2019) depicts a black, partially abstracted figure contorted atop a stool, giving equal emphasis to the figure as well as the background composition’s play of colour, light, and shadow.

Read more »

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ART TALK: Rare Works by Modernist Skunder Boghossian Go on Sale in New York

“Boghossian is one of Ethiopia’s most highly regarded Modernist artists, and we are delighted to offer the collection from the artist’s family for the first time at auction,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African Art, says. “The dynamic works illustrate the diversity of multiple influences throughout his prolific career.” (Images: Skunder Boghossian, Union, 1966; The Big Orange, 1971/Bonhams)

Penta Magazine

Twenty works by Ethiopian modernist master Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian will be offered at Bonhams modern and contemporary African art sale in New York on May 4.

The paintings and works on paper, executed from the 1960s through the 1990s by Boghossian (1937-2003), have all been kept in his family until this auction. Estimates of the works range from US$2,000 to US$150,000.

Boghossian was born in 1937 during Benito Mussolini’s occupation of Ethiopia. He left the country to study art in London and then in Paris. In 1970, he emigrated to the U.S. and taught painting at Atlanta University and Howard University.

Boghossian was known to use bright colors to create superimposed dimensions of form and shape, inspired by Ethiopia’s long tradition of wall painting in churches and of illustrated manuscripts. He became the first contemporary Ethiopian artist to have works purchased by the Musée d’ Art Moderne in Paris (1963) and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965).

“Boghossian is one of Ethiopia’s most highly regarded Modernist artists, and we are delighted to offer the collection from the artist’s family for the first time at auction,” Giles Peppiatt, Bonhams director of modern and contemporary African Art, says. “The dynamic works illustrate the diversity of multiple influences throughout his prolific career.”

Skunder Boghossian, The Jugglers (Bonhams)

Highlights from the collection include Union, a 1966 blue-color painting composed of forms of African symbolism and iconography, and The Big Orange, a 1971 canvas featuring various African animals and symbols. The two paintings are expected to sell for between US$150,000 and US$250,000 each.

Additionally, The Jugglers, a 1962 painting partially inspired by Cuban painter Wilfredo Lam (1902-82) is offered with an estimate of between US$70,000 and US$100,000. The two met in 1959 in Rome. In this painting, Boghossian took inspiration from Lam’s use of mysterious and primordial totemic images.

The collection is on view, by appointments only, at Bonhams New York galleries, from now until the auction on the afternoon of May 4.

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ART TALK: Julie Mehretu – A Decade of Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L. in NYC

Julie Mehretu’s engagement with the Gemini workshop began with a small drypoint etching created in 2008 to raise funds for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. Aptly titled Amulets – a good luck charm for the Senator - that print, along with another small-scale print benefitting the Guggenheim Museum published 2010, were Mehretu and Gemini’s equivalence of a “courtship.” (Photograph by Case Hudson)

Press Release

Gemini G.E.L. at Joni Moisant Weyl is pleased to present Julie Mehretu: A Decade of Printmaking at Gemini G.E.L. on view March 25th through July 30th, 2021. This survey presents every edition that Mehretu has created in collaboration with Gemini G.E.L., the renowned artists’ workshop and creator of fine-art limited edition prints. The exhibition coincides with Mehretu’s mid-career retrospective on view at the Whitney Museum of American Art, which was previously shown at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and The High Museum in Atlanta.

Mehretu’s engagement with the Gemini workshop began with a small drypoint etching created in 2008 to raise funds for Senator Obama’s presidential campaign. Aptly titled Amulets – a good luck charm for the Senator – that print, along with another small-scale print benefitting the Guggenheim Museum published 2010, were Mehretu and Gemini’s equivalence of a “courtship.” Ever since, the artist has challenged the technical and visual limits of the workshop, with three monumental bodies of work. This exhibition provides a comprehensive look at Mehretu’s evolution as a dedicated and skilled printmaker, featuring Auguries and Myriads, Only By Dark, where the deconstruction of architectural imagery, maps, and diagrams are layered with abstract signs and symbols, and concluding with her latest series, Six Bardos, which utilizes layers of calligraphic marks, political graffiti, and colorful abstract forms.

Scholars have noted Mehretu’s longstanding engagement with printmaking, most recently by Leslie Jones, Curator of Prints and Drawings at LACMA, in the catalogue accompanying Mehretu’s retrospective. Jones contends that since Mehretu’s early years in graduate school at RISD, intaglio printmaking has informed the line quality present in her paintings. Oftentimes prints by artists are treated as somehow separate from the rest of the artist’s unique output; this is not the case with Julie Mehretu. Printmaking informs her paintings and the paintings inform her printmaking in a reciprocal and intertwined manner – explicitly in the use of screenprinting in her paintings, and implicitly in the way that printmaking forces a slowed-down deliberation and dissection of the personal mark-making for which Mehretu is celebrated. Mehretu states, “[it’s] in the printmaking that new things are invented, which I then want to bring into the painting and drawing,” and her insistence that her prints are included her many gallery and museum exhibitions is proof of this seamlessness. The technical parallels between constructing an image in layers, as is necessary with printmaking, and the way that Mehretu builds her paintings through a stratum of imagery that is blurred and transformed, underscores the symbiotic relationship between the two mediums.

Mehretu’s paintings are usually large scale, but all her prints up until Auguries in 2010 were modestly sized. In working with Gemini, she knew she wanted to make a massive etching. The solution to the technical difficulty of producing such a scale was worked out with Case Hudson, Gemini’s Masterprinter, and Auguries measures 7 x 15 feet in twelve panels, hung in a grid. The title alludes to the ancient Roman practice of interpreting omens from the study of avian flight patterns, and that reference is supported by the imagery – the dashes and daubs of spit-bite aquatint marks layered upon sweeping multi colored lines. Auguries, in its scale and visual complexity, cemented printmaking as an essential medium in Mehetu’s oeuvre. As Leslie Jones notes, “while references to architecture rarely appear in her prints, it is notable that diagrams – graphic renderings – form the basis of her paintings, while gestural marks – the language of painting – predominate in her prints. Mehretu’s printerly paintings and painterly prints suggest the intermediary nature of her practice overall.”

Mehretu’s second large-scale project with Gemini, Myriads, Only By Dark (2014), is comprised of four 81×45-inch panels, each with three sections of embossments determined by the size of the copper plates. Originally conceived when press-bed limitations necessitated the abutting of separate sheets to achieve the desired large scale (as was the case with Auguries), the workshop acquired a larger press which would eliminate any divisions. Nevertheless, Mehretu elected to maintain the aesthetic of the division, even emphasizing it with thin white embossments to evoke the kinds of folds found in an oversized map. All of the imagery – except for the portion that was spit-bite directly onto the copper plates – was created on tall sheets of Mylar. The color lines, created using Adobe Illustrator, came first, and guided the artist as she painted imagery on subsequent Mylars. The inking of the lines is “à la poupée,” in which multiple ink colors are hand-applied and blended on one plate to create a multicolor appearance within a single etched line, and the other imagery is printed in a range of silver, gray and black inks. Mehretu employed a variety of drawing techniques, including airbrush and transfers from the patterning of paper toweling which suggest a newsprint imagepixilation. The handprints and even some of the graphic “swipes” that are apparent on several of the panels are the result of Mehretu dipping her hands and forearm in India ink.

The mark-making is loose, dynamic, and dense with layers obscuring each other, evoking “primordial expression.” Jones argues that the verticality of Myriads is reminiscent of portraiture, which is further suggested by the title, (unfolding body map), of the left-most panel. Reading Myriads as progressing from left to right, an expansion and contraction culminates in the central white voided shape in (origin). Mehretu has continuously explored her own identity, migration, and ancestral/political connections to geography as an Ethiopian American through repetitive mark-making and profound use of erasure.

Following a small etching, Haka, donated to President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, in 2014 and 2015 Mehretu and Gemini were asked once again to contribute editions, and examples of these are include in the exhibition. One, titled vertiginous fold, was given to FAPE for distribution to US Embassies worldwide, and one, titled Achille (epoch) benefitted Studio in a School, a visual arts organization partnering with public schools in the New York area. Complex and rich in their appearance, both measure 33×47 inches – a scale manageable for these two beneficiaries.

In 2017, continuing her desire to challenge herself and the Gemini workshop, Mehretu embarked on her most recent series of large-scale prints, Six Bardos. Influenced by a trip to the Mogao Caves in the Gobi desert, the title comes from the Tibetan Buddhist philosophy of the transition of consciousness from life to death. The titles of the six individual works, which follow the sequence of the Bardos, further the theme of migration and transformation present throughout Mehretu’s work. The prints are multi-colored aquatints, sometimes with as many as 31 different colors. Ink was applied “a la poupée”, requiring Gemini’s printers to reference a Mylar key that dictated the location of different colors on a single copper plate. Instead of printing by color separation, the colors are lightly dabbed onto the plate, resulting in a gradient of colors that blend the lines in a manner seemingly impossible in an aquatint. This extraordinarily complex technique, again overseen by Case Hudson, took three years to develop and complete. While four works from this series are comparatively modest in their scale (50×73 inches), two prints, Luminous Appearance and Transmigration are once again monumental, this time consisting of two abutting panels for a final dimension of over 8×6-feet. The profusion of colors and the mark-making has noticeably shifted in appearance from her prior projects, this time without the strict lines present in Myriads and Auguries to anchor the gestural strokes. The lines scribble and scrawl, forming recognizable shapes that dissolve, evoking stenciled graffiti on urban walls, sections of which appear to be partially wiped away, with marks that stubbornly refuse to be fully erased. Their immense visual complexity, as with all of Mehretu’s work, requires time to fully contemplate and comprehend. This process of looking, where the forms and ideas emerge slowly over time, creates a new kind of space for thinking about the possibilities of printmaking.

More info at WWW.JONIWEYL.COM.


Watch: Checkerboard Film Foundation presents “Julie Mehretu: Mid-Career Survey”

ART TALK: Julie Mehretu Makes Art Big Enough to Get Lost In

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

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

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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

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THE OTHER SIDE: New Film Raises Awareness About Ethiopia’s Abandoned Children Crisis

The short film by U.S. and Ethiopian crew including Ethiopian American producer Bemnet Yemesgen (pictured above) is based on a true story of a teenager named Abel who, like thousands of other young people in Addis Ababa, finds himself on the brink of becoming a street peddler. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: December 13th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — The Other side, a new film from Ethiopia, released in the United States during Thanksgiving week sheds light on the crisis of abandoned children in Ethiopia.

The short film by U.S. and Ethiopian crew led by Ethiopian American producer Bemnet Yemesgen is based on a true story of a teenager named Abel who, like thousands other young people in Addis Ababa, finds himself on the brink of becoming a street peddler. Abel is required to vacate the orphanage where he grew up when he turns 18 in a few days, leaving behind his younger brother and without any social safety net to support him as he must navigate life into adulthood as a homeless person.

Abel’s story is the epitome of a much larger problem that personifies the lives of millions of youth across the country who grow up without parents — most of whom were deserted at birth primarily because of poverty. UNICEF estimates that there are 4.5 million orphans in Ethiopia. The non-profit organization, SOS Children’s Villages, cites government statistics, and notes that in some cities such as the university city of Jimma “unmarried mothers, many of them teenagers, abandon their babies at a rate of two to three a day. Babies are abandoned at hospitals. They are left at police stations. They are put on the side of the road.” The Guardian has recently published an article tilted “Homeless Children Struggle to Survive on the Streets of Ethiopia’s Capital,” and like Abel many of them eventually find their way to Addis Ababa.

The Guardian adds:

Driven from their rural homes by family problems and lack of opportunity, more and more children are making for Addis Ababa. Alone and vulnerable, they receive no state support…Children as young as six come to the city to escape rural drudgery and, in many cases, family breakdown. “The reason is always poverty – but poverty plus [something else],” says the country director of Retrak Ethiopia, an organization that rescues street children in Addis Ababa and reunites them with their families. One recent survey found that almost half the street children sampled were living with step-parents because their biological parents had died, divorced or separated. Most come from rural villages, and especially from what researchers call Ethiopia’s “southern corridor” of migrant-sending communities, where a tradition of relocation to Addis Ababa and even further afield is well established.

In the film the The Other Side — which was developed in collaboration with NGOs including DC-based Orphan Care Ethiopia and Great Commission Ministries — Grammy-nominated Ethiopian-American recording artist Wayna plays a counselor in Abel’s orphanage called Mihret, while Abel is portrayed by American actor Ethan Herisse who is also the star of the Emmy-winning Netflix series When They See Us directed by Ava DuVernay. The film also features newcomer Adonai Girmaye Kelelom, a 15-year-old Ethiopian actor, who plays an orphan named Kiya. The filmmakers note that “though the role of Kiya stands as Kelelom’s professional debut, portraying this role has been one of ‘the best experiences [he’s] ever had,’ and has inspired him to pursue a career in acting. He aims to study acting as well as neuroscience in the United States in the near future.”

Grammy-nominated Ethiopian-American recording artist Wayna along with producer Bemnet Yemesgen and writer and director Josh Leong during the filming process in Ethiopia. (Courtesy photo)

The Ethiopia film crew. (Courtesy photos)

In addition to Bemnet — an Ethiopian-American producer, writer, and director — the film’s Ethiopia crew includes Frehiwot Berhane (Casting Director), Yabsra Megersa (Unit Production Director), Daniel Belay (First Assistant Camera), Beferdu Teffera (Sound Mixer), Temima Hulala (Key Makeup Artist), Tedos Teffera (Location Manager), Yodahe Zerihun (Translator), Abdirebi Daniel (Translator) and Nahom Semunegus (Boom Operator).

On its website the U.S. team states that “in order to allow the country to tell its own story, we wanted to collaborate with Ethiopian filmmakers in and around Addis Ababa.” They include writer and director Josh Leong, Producer and Assistant Director Sofia Bara, Director of photography Tom Ingwersen, Associated Producer Sophia Loren Heriveaux, Marketing Directors Celia Tewey and Grace Sessinghaus, Script Supervisor Olivia Bfournier, Art Director Cameron Protzman and Director of Business Development Phillip Kearney.

In a press release the filmmakers emphasize that “The Other Side seeks to raise awareness for Ethiopia’s abandoned children crisis through narrative film, and the team is currently seeking partners for the development of a feature-length version of the film.” The media release adds: “The film has reached the eyes of Ethiopian Ambassador Fitsum Arega, as well as the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC. The nation’s capital is actually the second largest Ethiopian city in the world (by population), behind Addis Ababa.”

So far “the film has been accepted into 10 major festivals (4 Academy Award®-Qualifying), winning Best Short at the Greenwich International Festival. THE OTHER SIDE enjoyed an NYC Premiere at the Urbanworld Film Festival and an LA Premiere at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival, in partnership with HBO and WarnerMedia. The film was also included at the 2020 Cannes Film Festival Court Metrage.”

You can learn more about the film at

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Spotlight: New York Times Features Jomo Tariku

Jomo Tariku manages Jomo Furniture, his company featuring modern African design while also working at the World Bank as a data scientist and graphic designer. (The New York Times)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: October 4th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Jomo Tariku, whom we have featured several times on our website, is one of the leading industrial designers at the forefront of a movement to break wide open the gates of opportunity for Black designers – who to date have little representation in the sector.

So it’s both exciting and reassuring to see that Jomo was one of the people prominently featured in a recent New York Times article aptly tilted “Opening the Doors of Design.” The paper notes: A tiny proportion of designers are Black, but a host of new initiatives, as well as evolving tastes, are working to right the imbalance” in the wake of the new Black renaissance ignited by the death of George Floyd last spring.”

“In areas of public relations and exposing my work it has been going very well,” Jomo told Tadias speaking about how Jomo Furniture is doing at the moment given the pandemic and BLM. “I was not expecting this much attention during the pandemic but because of the work we have been doing under the umbrella of Black Artists + Designers Guild (BADG) things took off when Black Lives Matter exploded again, to be followed by Black Out Tuesday that advocated for supporting black business.” He added: “On the flip side the pandemic has affected sales and production and things are a bit slow. There is some sign though that might change very soon.”

Jomo, who is also a data scientist employed by the World Bank, is a big believer in the power of visual communication. He was one of the guest speakers on the lack of representation in the furniture design industry during the International Designers Conference last month. “I convinced the organizers to change it to a panel discussion with other black furniture designers,” he told us. “It is probably the first time where 4 black furniture designers appeared together for a panel discussion.” He continued: “I asked for this arrangement so people see that we are more than a couple of people in this industry. We covered the areas of our own personal journey and where we are right now and giving advice to young and up-and-coming black designers.”

In addition, Jomo did a similar presentation at Princeton last February on greater inclusion of Black designers, which “became a hot topic on Business of Home, DeZeen and now The New York Times.

“It proved to me again the power of data and doing your homework has a great value,” Jomo said. “It showed to many that we were not talking about anecdotal incidents.”

The New York times reports that the high-end furnishings business generated an estimated $25 billion in worldwide sales in 2019 with a very tiny portion going to Black designers.

Per NYT:

That is exactly what Jomo Tariku, a Virginia–based Ethiopian-reared designer, did to compile a report that found that less than one percent of all furnishings produced by top international brands are by Black designers.

In addition to running his studio, Jomo Furniture, Mr. Tariku works as a graphic designer and data scientist for the World Bank. He initially undertook his research to put some numbers — which he concedes are scientifically imprecise — to his own experience of feeling like the only Black person at many industry events.

“I’d go to trade shows, but people don’t take you seriously as a Black designer because they don’t know — they’ve never met one,” said Mr. Tariku, whose work marries traditional African forms with digital modeling and a crisp, minimalist aesthetic. “When I’d ask for the name or the contact info of a company’s creative director, what I’d get is a blank stare or, ‘He’s not available.’ I don’t know if white designers face the same thing.”

As Mr. Tariku found, if you scan the designer pages of top furnishings companies you might see two or three Black faces out of dozens — or none at all.

Jomo shared with Tadias that he is currently dealing with two world renowned museums that are reviewing his work. “But I really can’t say much more than that until they announce it first,” he said. “I am working on two new chair designs and additional stools also, but the main focus is releasing my stools by Christmas.”

All Jomo furniture items are custom orders and built in the US. His work can be viewed at and current progress can be followed at


Opening the Doors of Design (The New York Times)

Contemporary Design Africa Book Features Jomo Tariku’s Ethiopia Furniture

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Ethiopian-American Artist Julie Mehretu’s First Career Survey to Open in Atlanta

The Ethiopian-American artist’s first career survey arrives at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art this month, before traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York next year. (Photo: Julie Mehretu’s Mogamma [A Painting in Four Parts], 2012 © JULIE MEHRETU, PHOTOGRAPH BY RYSZARD KASIEWICZ, COURTESY OF THE ARTIST, MARIAN GOODMAN GALLERY, NEW YORK, AND WHITE CUBE.

Harper’s BAZAAR


Julie Mehretu’s richly layered paintings, often formed through the accretion of colorful lines and brushstrokes over architectural plans and drawings, have explored themes such as race, history, migration, revolution, global capitalism, and technology for more than two decades.

Now, the Ethiopian-American artist’s first career survey arrives at Atlanta’s High Museum of Art this month, before traveling to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York next year. It showcases the evolution of Mehretu’s abstract style through a selection of works, including a reunited cycle of monumental ink-and-acrylic canvases from 2012 called “Mogamma (A Painting in Four Parts),” each of which stands 15 feet tall.

Read more »


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

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

October 31st, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — This weekend the highly anticipated traveling exhibition — featuring a mid-career survey of Ethiopian-American artist Julie Mehretu’s work dating back to 1996 to the present — will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in California.

“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. Mehretu’s play with scale, as evident in her intimate drawings and large canvases and complex techniques in printmaking, will be explored in depth,” LACMA stated in its announcement, noting that the show brings together 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, which is co-organized by the LACMA and The Whitney Museum of American Art, will subsequently come to New York for a display at the Whitney from June 26th to September 20, 2020, before moving to Atlanta at the High Museum of Art from October 24th 2020 to January 31, 2021, and finally the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from March 13–July 11, 2021.

Julie lives and works in New York. She was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1977. As LACMA notes: “Mehretu received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and, among many awards and honors, is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” (2005) and a U.S. State Department National Medal of Arts (2015).”

Julie Mehretu, Untitled 2, 2001, ink and acrylic on canvas, 60 × 84 in., private collection, courtesy of Salon 94, New York, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Julie Mehretu, Black City, 2007, ink and acrylic on canvas, 120 × 192 in., Pinault Collection, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tim Thayer. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Julie Mehretu, Haka (and Riot), 2019, ink and acrylic on canvas, 144 × 180 in., courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging.


Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

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Spotlight on Merawi Gerima’s New Film ‘Residue’ – Media Roundup

In a review released last week The New York Times noted that ‘Residue’, the new film by Merawi Gerima — who is the son of Haile Gerima — "reveals a directorial voice as distinctive as that of his father." (Photo: Courtesy Venice Day)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 21st, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Merawi Gerima’s timely debut film Residue, is shining a critical spotlight on the adverse impact of gentrification on the local population in his hometown of Washington, D.C.

Coming in the middle of the largest post-civil rights movement, the film, which was screened this month at the 2020 Venice Film Festival and is now streaming on Netflix, has been greeted with great reviews.

“Merawi Gerima makes a stunning feature debut with “Residue,” a moving homage to the Northeast Washington neighborhood where he grew up,” declared The Washington Post in a review titled “Washington-born Filmmaker’s ‘Residue’ is a Deeply Personal Look at Black Identity and the Role of Art.”

The Guardian enthused: “A visually striking and timely film from first-time writer-director Merawi Gerima sees a film-maker returning to an unrecognisable DC neighbourhood. Residue is a fleeting and haunting lament for what is lost to gentrification, and other tolls on black life in America. But at the same, it’s exhilarating and monumental, laced with the sensation that we’re discovering a bold and sensitive new voice. Writer and director Merawi Gerima’s debut, released by Ava DuVernay’s independent film collective Array, tells a prodigal son story, about a man returning to his old stomping grounds. And in that story, Gerima experiments with performance and vérité, intimate narrative and poetic abstractions. His artistry is thoughtful. But more than anything, it’s emotional.”

For Merawi, the movie is essentially about home and a loss of the sense of belonging. “Residue is just about this neighborhood which I grew up in, which I remember fondly,” he said in an interview with Variety Magazine. “Trying to make sense of the distance between where I have ended up, and where they are. Because it’s vast. It’s not about gentrification in a specific sense.” He added: “It’s about a very specific perspective on this thing. On this all-encompassing battle that Black people face all over the world.”

“Residue, a fleeting and haunting lament for what is lost to gentrification.” – The Guardian (Photograph: Array)

Merawi Gerima’s new film is “a frank look at Gerima’s hometown, Washington, D.C., and the rate at which gentrification has transformed the city. The meta-tale follows Jay (magnetic newcomer Obinna Nwachukwu), a D.C.–born filmmaker who returns after finishing college in L.A.” – Vanity Fair. (Photo: Obinna Nwachukwu, right, in ‘Residue’/Array Releasing/Netflix)

According to Media Play News Residue was the only American movie to be featured on the sidelines of this year’s Venice Film Festival at Venice Days, “which pulled off the first major in-person film event since the COVID-19 pandemic forced many to go online, including Cannes. This followed its world premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival, where it took home the festival’s Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature.”

In a review released this week The New York Times notes that new film by Merawi, who is the son of Haile Gerima, “reveals a directorial voice as distinctive as that of his father.” NYT adds that the younger Gerima’s “challenging, engrossing filmmaking style is measured, simultaneously realistic and impressionistic. What’s out of the frame is often as important, if not more important, than what’s in the frame. As when Jay, climbing out of his basement in the dead of night, sees an old buddy passing by; through the grate of a fence they have a fraught conversation, made more so by the sight of the blue lights of an unseen police car bouncing off their faces. In another scene, Jay walks through the woods with a friend, Dion (Jamal Graham). They reminisce about old times amid this greenery, but it’s soon clear that he and Dion are actually in the visiting room of a jail, and that the restful environment is in Jay’s imagination.”

As Vanity Fair reminds us “Haile Gerima, the legendary Ethiopian director made two feature films before graduating from UCLA in 1976. Forty years later, his son, Merawi Gerima, found himself in film school at USC, with the same dreams of finishing a feature before exiting into the real world.”

“None of his teachers knew how he did it,” Gerima said of his father. “He shot two films before he had to give the camera back, edited the thesis by day, and then Harvest by night.” For Gerima, whose mother is the award-winning director Shirikiana Aina, completing a film before graduating was an urgent, deeply rooted goal. “It was my own personal kind of challenge,” he said.

Speaking about the rapid gentrification of Washington D.C. Merawi shares in his Vanity Fair interview that: “It was too much for my system to take,” adding “I was going down this dark path of pure anger with no outlet. The powerlessness was overwhelming, so I started writing [Residue] as a way to find something to grab onto that could make me feel like I had a way to affect the fate of my community.”

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Spotlight: Alitash Kebede, Among The Top Five Black Women In The Art World

Alitash Kebede was the long-time proprietor of a gallery in Los Angeles, Currently, her consultancy business manages collections and appraisal services for corporate and private clients, and organizes exhibitions that travel to museums across the United States and throughout the world. - Forbes (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: September 23rd, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Last week, Forbes magazine featured Alitash Kebede among “the top five Black women you should know in the art world.”

The short list was selected by Alaina Simone who is a prominent African-American art curator and consultant “known for championing the work of Al Loving, Ed Clark, Emilio Cruz, Herbert Gentry, Richard Mayhew and Nanette Carter, among other artists.”

Forbes notes that “Alitash Kebede was the long-time proprietor of a gallery in Los Angeles, Currently, her consultancy business manages collections and appraisal services for corporate and private clients, and organizes exhibitions that travel to museums across the United States and throughout the world.”

From Simone: “Alitash Kebede had one of the first auctions at Christie’s that was centered around her collection of artists of the African diaspora in 2008. She opened my eyes to the movement of art on the market. Since 2008, prices for black artists have soared at auction houses. Alitash was one of the first dealers to represent Kehinde Wiley, among many other art stars.”

Alitash Kebede with Ethiopian American artist Tariku Shiferaw. (Courtesy photo)

Alitash, who was born and raised in Ethiopia, is a groundbreaker in the African-American as well as the African Diaspora art communities and one of only a handful of women in her industry. Alitash points out that she also works with artists outside this genre. According to her bio: “Alitash Kebede opened her first gallery in 1994 after working as a private dealer for 10 years. The gallery earned a reputation for being a source for first time and seasoned collectors, as well as for being a supporter of artists working in a variety of media. At the gallery. Kebede presented the first solo exhibitions in Los Angeles of numerous New York artists including: Al Loving, Ed Clark, Emilio Cruz, Herbert Gentry, Richard Mayhew and Nanette Carter, among others. Author Terry McMillan had her first book signing for her debut novel Mama at the gallery in 1987, and later the gallery provided art for the movie based on McMillan’s novel, How Stella Got Her Groove Back.”

As Alitash told Tadias previously the American artist, author, and songwriter “Romare Bearden along with the pioneer Ethiopian artist Skunder Boghossian was an inspiration for my venture into the art world…I feel so fortunate to be associated with [two] of the most innovative artists of the 20th century.”


Under The Radar: The Top Five Black Women You Should Know In The Art World (Forbes)

Alitash Kebede on Romare Bearden’s 100th Birthday Exhibition at Macy’s

Four Generations of Black Women Artists in California: Exhibition by Alitash Kebede

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How Ethiopian art Secured Its Spot on the World’s Stage (CNN)

Though the commercial art gallery scene is small and remains challenging (Asni Gallery, one of Addis' stalwarts, recently shuttered), the growing local and international exposure is starting to pay off. (CNN)


Over the last five years contemporary Ethiopian artists have been making a name for themselves on the global art market, but it’s been a long time coming.

After almost four decades of political turmoil, famine and wars, the East African country has found increasing social and economic stability, with a growing middle class and investment in large-scale infrastructure projects. Since coming into power in 2018, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has followed a wide-reaching reform agenda including initiatives to bolster culture.

Founded in 1958, the Ale School of Fine Art and Design in Addis Ababa is one of the oldest fine art schools in Africa, and it was at the heart of Ethiopia’s modernist art movement. The vast majority of the country’s modernist artists trained or taught there — Including the painter and poet Gebre Kristos Desta, who is considered the grandfather of this movement, and Wosene Kosrof, who emigrated to the US and whose work is in the Smithsonian and the UN’s New York headquarters.
Today, many of the school’s former students are the country’s art stars, including Dawit Abebe, whose dramatic paintings often feature foreboding figures with their backs to the world. And Wendimagegn Belete, who specializes in textile and paint collages, or Ephrem Solomon, whose powerful woodcut-inspired paintings have been collected by institutions across the globe, including The Studio Museum in Harlem.

Read more »

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DC: Admas Band’s 1984 Album ‘Sons of Ethiopia’ Being Reissued For The First Time This July

Emerging from members of the Ethiopian community in Washington D.C. Admas was comprised Tewodros ‘Teddy’ Aklilu, Henock Temesgen, and Abegasu Shiota. (The Vinyl Factory)

The Vinyl Factory

Admas weave Ethiopian pop with soul on 1984 LP Sons of Ethiopia: A Sonic Time Capsule From Washington D.C.’s Ethiopian Expat Community

Admas’ 1984 album Sons of Ethiopia is being reissued for the first time, via Frederiksberg Records this July.

Emerging from members of the Ethiopian community in Washington D.C. who fled to escape the violence of the Derg regime, Admas was comprised Tewodros ‘Teddy’ Aklilu, Henock Temesgen, and Abegasu Shiota.

Taking up a residency at D.C.’s Red Sea restaurant during the early ’80s, Admas drew on the diverse sounds of the city for Sons of Ethiopia, alongside Ethiopian pop music, and elements of soul, jazz, highlife, samba and roots reggae.

Frederiksberg Records’ release of Sons of Ethiopia marks the album’s first reissue, and includes interviews with Admas alongside previously unpublished photographs.

Head here to pre-order a copy in advance of Admas’s 27th July reissue, check out the artwork and tracklist below.


1. Anchi Bale Game
2. Bahta’s Highlife
3. Tez Alegn Yetintu
4. Kalatashew Waga
5. Wed Enate
6. Samba Shegitu
7. Astawesalehu

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Spotlight: California-based Ethiopian-American Artist Netsanet Tesfay

Netsanet Tesfay poses for a photograph at home in Walnut Creek, California on Saturday, May 16, 2020. The artist finds inspiration for her paintings and drawings in nature and her Ethiopian culture. (Bay Area News Group)

Mercury News

Ethiopian-American artist Netsanet Tesfay on art as stress relief, connection

As a child growing up in Ambo, Ethiopia, Netsanet Tesfay recalls sitting at the kitchen table for hours at a time, drawing everything her eyes fell upon: pots, pans, a long-necked jebana — or kettle — for coffee.

Today, the Walnut Creek artist and mother of two known for her bold and bright female imagery — “Resist: Frida in pussy hat” was featured in the Bedford Gallery’s “World of Frida” exhibition —- is finding inspiration in much the same way, especially during spring’s shelter-in-place. Tesfay, 43, recently illustrated a 32-page coloring book celebrating Walnut Creek open space and talked to us about art as a tool for mental health.

Q: Can you tell us about the Ethiopian women in your work and why they speak to you as an artist?

A: Women in Africa play a huge role in families. They’re powerful in that way. We carry our families metaphorically and literally on our backs. The women of Southern Ethiopia’s Omo Valley, in particular, are members of a group of indigenous tribes that have lived peacefully for centuries. In the Suri tribe, it is customary to adorn the body with floral arrangements, clay accessories and paint. I find inspiration in their beauty and grace. And right now, these populations are being forcibly displaced, and it breaks my heart.

Q: Is there a place for art not just as creative expression, but as stress relief?

A: Yes, this is something artists think about a lot. A recent study in the Journal of American Art Therapy Association found that 45 minutes of making art reduces stress hormones. And this is at any level. There’s no talent required. If you can draw a line, you’re good. When I find my kids fighting — it’s always around 4:30 p.m. — I get out the art supplies, and we have a sort of Zen moment. After 45 minutes, they are happy. They are relaxed. And they are kinder to each other.

Netsanet Tesfay poses for a photograph at home in Walnut Creek, on Saturday, May 16, 2020. (Bay Area News Group)

Q: What is the role of art amid crisis?

A: In the middle of catastrophe, especially during times of loss, we’re at our most vulnerable and looking to experience that together. Catastrophe calls for connection, and art allows for that to happen. We’re looking for something positive, the best in ourselves. People are finding solace, inspiration and refuge in that.

Art is a savior for a lot of people. And it doesn’t have to be art as we think of it. People are baking more. Gardening. Anything where we use our brains differently.

Q: Does coloring count? What do you make of the rise in coloring books for adults?

A: I think it’s a fantastic practice for our mental health, like meditation or exercise. It switches off the brain and requires zero skills. It immediately puts you at ease and in a safe zone. It’s about finding an activity that comes with no judgment. I don’t think a lot of people realize that we spend most of our time in our left brain. I think switching to the other side brings about consciousness.

WALNUT CREEK, CA – MAY 16: Art work by Ethiopian illustrator Net Tesfay is photographed in Walnut Creek, on Saturday, May 16, 2020. (Anda Chu/Bay Area News Group)

Q: You recently helped create a coloring book for your community. How did that come about?

A: When the pandemic happened, it felt like a rug was pulled out from under me. I wanted to make sure people were OK, that they had something to do during shelter-in-place. Our PTA at Walnut Heights Elementary School came to me with the idea of doing a coloring book to celebrate the 50th anniversary of The Nature Area, a three-acre open space behind the school with a pond, pollinator garden, edible garden and amphitheater. It is a treasure and resource for the community.

The book, which is inspired by the Walnut Heights Nature Area coloring book
originally published by the PTA in 1982, has 32 pages and 60 images of the native plant and wildlife, along with blurbs. Every child at the school received a coloring book. We’re hoping it will motivate them to care about nature.

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Art in the Time of Coronavirus: Guide to Virtual Exhibitions from Ethiopia to U.S.

Photo: Addis Fine Art Gallery

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: March 26th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — Since the Coronavirus became a global health hazard, grounding billions of people around the world, most current and upcoming art exhibitions that we had featured on our website have either been scrapped or indefinitely postponed, but some have fortunately been converted into virtual shows.

“Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many forthcoming art fairs we had planned to attend have been canceled or postponed,” Addis Fine Art gallery said in a statement announcing its online presentation of Art Dubai 2020. The virtual show features works by artists Tadesse Mesfin, Addis Gezehagn, Adiskidan Ambaye, Tesfaye Urgessa & Tizta Berhanu. The gallery added: “During these uncertain times we remain committed to showcasing our artist’s work, we will pursue our programme via our digital platforms on our website, Artsy, and Instagram, beginning this week with our online presentation for Art Dubai 2020.”

The Africa Center in New York City that was presenting a new installation by Ezra Wube called Project Junction is closed until further notice due to COVID-19.

The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) that was featuring Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey until last week has been temporarily closed. However, the gallery announced that it is active online through its redesigned homepage with “links to free enriching and inspiring content for you to watch.. and browse at home.”

Addis Fine Art is not alone in making the transition to a virtual gallery tour. According to The Guardian, which highlighted “10 of the world’s best virtual museum and art gallery tours” this month, “art lovers can view thousands of paintings, sculptures, installations and new work online – many in minute detail – as well as explore the museums themselves. There are various platforms: from interactive, 360-degree videos and full “walk-around” tours with voiceover descriptions to slideshows with zoomable photos of the world’s greatest artworks. And many allow viewers to get closer to the art than they could do in real life.”

Artnet News notes that “luckily, many galleries across the country can still be visited virtually, and at your work-from-home leisure. If you’re in need of an art break, here are 13 favorite exhibitions, from New York to California, that you can gallery hop through your laptop.”

Artnet News also shares “5 pro tips on how to pull off an effective virtual studio visit” for artists who seek to continue sharing their work while supporting social distancing efforts to combat COVID-19.


Two Must See NYC Virtual Exhibitions Featuring Ethiopian Artists

‘I Had to Fight to Show What I Could Do’: How Elias Sime Emerged as One of Africa’s Leading Contemporary Artists

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Sofia Kifle and the Jazz Experience: Go See the Music!

Painting by Sofia Kifle. (Courtesy of the artist)

Tadias Magazine

By Tseday Alehegn

Updated: January 30th, 2020

New York (TADIAS) — The Hill Center Galleries in Washington D.C. is currently showcasing a sensational exhibit titled ‘The Jazz Experience’ curated by visual artist Sofia Kifle in collaboration with her brother, Gediyon Kifle, who is a photographer. For Sofia, her latest exhibit fuses together her two lifelong passions – music and art.

Having arrived in America in the early 1980s to pursue a college degree, and encouraged by her mother to major in business, Sofia enrolled at Mary Baldwin University in Virginia. Sofia recalled struggling through her first two years in her technical studies until she chose to enroll in a theatre course, which re-ignited her interest in the creative arts.

“Growing up in Ethiopia I had been inspired by my uncle, Fasil Dawit, who is an artist. I was always keen on learning more from him. But with family members who stressed the importance of getting a practical education, I initially put aside my creative interests,” Sofia shares. Once she started focusing on her theatre studies and also taking elective courses in studio art Sofia became more certain that she wanted to work as a visual artist, and subsequently earning an MFA at Howard University while studying with the late Ethiopian artist Eskinder Bogosian after completing her undergraduate studies as a double-major in Theatre and Arts Management.

Sofia’s first exhibition in the 90s featured Jazz as an African American art form with her works including paintings inspired by Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit,” and Miles Davis’ “So What” musical compositions.

“I’m not a musician,” says Sofia, “I’m a listener. And I try to come close to the music whether it’s jazz or classical.”

So how does it feel now to come full circle and have a joint jazz-based art exhibit with her brother?

“I really admire Gediyon as a photographer. He has the emotional eye in photography and passion for jazz” she responds. “I started with a jazz exhibit and now re-focusing on my love of jazz. It’s a blessing to be able to delve so deeply into a culture other than my own and also be able to share how to ‘see’ the music and not just hear it.”

Emphasizing that she conducts extensive research on concepts prior to painting about it, Sofia also notes that her endeavors are not about “repeating the message of the composers” but rather “understanding the human connection and emotion.” That’s precisely the experience she has curated in her current exhibition, which she worked on through the whole of 2019 after reflecting solely on rhythm and movement in the year prior. She then compiled her jazz paintings alongside photographs taken by Gediyon Kifle over a broader period of time.

While Sofia has also immersed herself in developing an extensive series of artworks such as the 2014 Visual Narrative 100 — consisting of the artist completing one painting a day for a hundred days with the last piece of work in the series called ‘2017 Suspended Movement 100’ presented as a blank, untouched canvas — she has also worked on and presented art for a global human rights dialogue. The non-profit Vital Voices, focusing on women’s economic and political empowerment is one of several examples with Mimi Wolford, the Founder/Curator of the MBARI Institute for Contemporary African Art in Washington, DC, assisting in exhibited Sofia’s work in Cape Town, South Africa. Sofia’s paintings have been exhibited at various institutions including the University of North Carolina Wilmington and Westfield State College, as well as via programs such as Art in Embassies and the D.C. Commission of the Arts. Sofia has also participated in the Artists for Fistula initiative where donated artwork helped raise community-based funds to build fistula hospitals in Ethiopia. In addition, her paintings are part of the Art of Ethiopia Catalogue.

Paintings by Sofia Kifle. (Courtesy of the artist)

For Sofia painting consists of “infinite possibilities to create beauty” and in addition to music she considers dance, literature, and poetry as well as her hobby of reading in the field of behavioral sciences as muses for her work as a visual artist. Although she is inspired by a diverse range of poets, writers and artists including Gebrekristos Desta, Federico Garcia Lorca, Fernando Pessoa, Rainer Maria Rilke, Rumi, and Haruki Murakami – who have all helped her in understanding human behavior – she shares that she never wanted to follow or repeat what somebody was doing. “I never even want to repeat myself,” she shares.

Her message is clear: “You have to have some kind of passion for yourself. Life can be repetitive – you wake up, eat, work and come home — but also remember that everything is constantly changing.” She adds: “Everybody thinks everything is permanent, but it’s not. We are creating movement and moments, and for me, music calls me in deeply to sense that feelings are not just sentiments but emotional understanding as well as knowledge. At the same time competition with myself on the canvas really helps me grow.”

Sofia’s next art series will continue her passion for studying jazz and delve into John Coltraine’s “Alabama” composition.

The Jazz Experience exhibit at The Hill Center Galleries in Washington D.C. ends on February 1st. Go see it before it closes. Go “see” the music!

‘The Music’ is her last painting series for 2019

Watch: The Jazz Experience show by Gediyon and Sofia Kifle

Tseday Alehegn is Co-Founder & Editor of Tadias.

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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:

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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Tightrope, The First Major Traveling Museum Exhibition of Elias Sime

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

Tadias Magazine

By Hasabie Kidanu

Monday, November 4th, 2019

New York (TADIAS) – “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.” Elias Sime.

Artist Elias Sime’s first major traveling museum survey exhibition entitled “Tightrope”, and comprising of work from the last decade, is being presented by the Wellin Museum of Art.

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 travelled from around the globe to his hometown. Through a meticulous hand, the salvaged materials are cut, layered, collaged, 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.

As the director of the Wellin Museum and curator of the exhibition Tracy L. Adler notes, “Elias Sime is one of the most significant artists working today. He is both critical and embracing of the world we live in, and brings a truly global sensibility to his work without losing any of its authenticity and authorship. While technology has in many ways changed our lives for the better and facilitated international communication and partnership, it has resulted in detrimental byproducts both materially in terms of its refuse, and socially and culturally, in that we look more to our devices than to each other.”

The notion of revival is a pillar of Sime’s work in Addis as well. This year, the city celebrated the public opening of ZOMA, a 25-year in the making institution. This ever-evolving project houses exhibition spaces, vegetable gardens, animal quarters, library, children’s center, elementary school, and has become an oasis for locals. Along with ZOMA co-founder and curator Meskerem Assegued, Sime has been appointed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to design and build a public garden for the Menelik Palace, expanding the project of innovative architecture and art into a different part of the city. Elias Sime is also a recent recipient of the African Art Awards from the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in Washington D.C.

On view from September 7 through December 8, 2019 at the Wellin Museum of Art, the exhibition will travel 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).

About the Author:
Hasabie Kidanu received her MFA at Yale School of Art in 2017. Her film Mal-Fekata was most recently screened at the 48th Rotterdam International Film Festival as part of the Bright Future program. She has been a member of the Blackburn Printmaking Studio in New York since 2013. She was most recently a guest lecturer at Addis Ababa University. Since 2014, she is an Arts and Culture writer for TADIAS Magazine.

Elias Sime Set for Major U.S. Museum Shows in NY, Ohio and Kansas
Noiseless: Elias Sime’s New Exhibition Opens in NYC

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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

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

October 31st, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — This weekend the highly anticipated traveling exhibition — featuring a mid-career survey of Ethiopian-American artist Julie Mehretu’s work dating back to 1996 to the present — will open at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in California.

“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. Mehretu’s play with scale, as evident in her intimate drawings and large canvases and complex techniques in printmaking, will be explored in depth,” LACMA stated in its announcement, noting that the show brings together 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, which is co-organized by the LACMA and The Whitney Museum of American Art, will subsequently come to New York for a display at the Whitney from June 26th to September 20, 2020, before moving to Atlanta at the High Museum of Art from October 24th 2020 to January 31, 2021, and finally the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis from March 13–July 11, 2021.

Julie lives and works in New York. She was born in Addis Ababa in 1970 and immigrated to the United States with her family in 1977. As LACMA notes: “Mehretu received her MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, and, among many awards and honors, is a recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” (2005) and a U.S. State Department National Medal of Arts (2015).”

Julie Mehretu, Untitled 2, 2001, ink and acrylic on canvas, 60 × 84 in., private collection, courtesy of Salon 94, New York, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Julie Mehretu, Black City, 2007, ink and acrylic on canvas, 120 × 192 in., Pinault Collection, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tim Thayer. (Courtesy Los Angeles County Museum of Art)

Julie Mehretu, Haka (and Riot), 2019, ink and acrylic on canvas, 144 × 180 in., courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, © Julie Mehretu, photograph by Tom Powel Imaging.

Julie Mehretu’s Mid-Career Survey To Open at LACMA

Julie Mehretu at Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), November 3, 2019 – March 22, 2020 (Level 1) and May 17, 2020 (Level 3)

More info at

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Edelawit Hussien’s New Film Reflects on Her Generation in Ethiopia & Diaspora

Filmmaker Edelawit Hussien. (Instagram)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: February 6th, 2019

New York (TADIAS) — Edelawit Hussien, a 23-year-old Ethiopian filmmaker who is living between New York and Berlin recently shared her upcoming short film with Tadias, which follows three Addis Abeba-based teenagers on a road trip to Lake Langano.

“My work aims to explore dual identity and global exchange motivated by my Ethiopian upbringing within an American context,” Edelawit tells Tadias.

“After graduating from New York University where I studied politics, film, and African studies, I worked within the commercial and branded film sphere before relocating to Berlin to exclusively work on independent filmmaking.”

The film tilted Wallahi, I Will Be Somebody “takes inspiration from the energy of Ethiopia today, a time of excitement and change,” Edelawit adds. “With its growing art community, young people are looking to connect the traditional with the modern as well as build a bridge between Ethiopians within the nation and in the Diaspora. These endeavors have manifested into music, art, fashion, culture and cinema.”

In the short film the three teenagers — Tefera, Omar and Miki — are in an uncertain stage of their lives, “that youth all over the world experience,” explains Edelawit. The film’s Indiegogo page describes how “this uncertainty ranges from how they will make a living, and what kind of life they see for themselves, to how to maintain the joys of their youth.”

According to the project’s website, as the audience, we will also “see how their surrounding affects them as the city evolves and as do the residents. Through a series of vignettes, we are transported in time and space from an elderly couple drinking macchiatos at a Piazza cafe to kids selling toys at a busy roundabout. With poetic moving image chopped throughout the work, the film carries an experimental twist in its meditation on the changing notions of culture, city landscape and societal expectation through an honest look at the youth experience in this evolving time.”

Edelawit shares that the film’s producer is 28-year-old Ethiopian-Swedish Adelia Shiffraw who is currently working in commercial and film production sector in New York City. The filmmaker describes Adelia as an artist who “supports the amplification of minority voices and the preservation of their stories and experiences through film with particular interest in narratives exploring race and representation in a global context.”

Why are they making this particular film?

Edelawit quotes from a play by Suzan-Lori Parks’ noting: “You should write it down because if you don’t write it down then they will come along and tell the future that we did not exist.”

You can learn more about Edelawit Hussien’s new film and support her fundraising campaign at

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Spotlight: New “Deseta Emojis” App on iTunes Celebrate Everything Ethiopian

(Courtesy of Deseta Design)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

August 25th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — For your next text message you may now include Deseta Emojis to express yourself with Ethiopian humor.

The digital icons often used to communicate ideas and emotions comes courtesy of Deseta Design. Announcing that its keyboard app contains over 200 small emojis Deseta Design says that the current collection is available for download on the App Store (Android version coming soon). Deseta emojis include icons of injera, buna, jebena and goursha.

The images “celebrate everything ethiopian in all of its glory,” says Maro Haile, owner of Deseta Design, an NYC-based online creative venture, whom we featured here three years ago highlighting her Ethiopia inspired holiday cards.

(Image: Courtesy of Deseta Design)

So how does this cool looking app work?

According to Deseta Design the emojis work in several ways including “a sticker pack that you can use while you are in iMessages and a keyboard that you can use in multiple messaging apps such as Whatsapp, Viber, and Facebook.

Deseta Design states: “As messaging apps keep evolving and new platforms keep getting introduced – such as Snapchat, Fitbit – we will continue to release new versions that will work with them as well.”

Click here to download Deseta Emojis on iTunes.

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In Pictures: Beteseb Painting Session at Smithsonian in DC

Beteseb Painting Session at the Smithsonian African Art Museum in Washington, D.C. on June 17, 2017. (Photo by Victor Mayeya Odori)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

June 26th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — Last week the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. hosted an evening of painting and Ethiopian Jazz “under the summer skies” with Beteseb Center and Feedel Band.

We featured the Beteseb art program when it was first launched two years ago as a weekly Saturday painting session for amateur artists in a rental space on 18th street in the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

Beteseb founders Solomon Asfaw and Aleme Tadesse envisioned providing a creative outlet for individuals as well as groups not only to create art, but to also jumpstart a movement for youth to spend their time in more rewarding ways. Indeed the movement is underway and growing. The most recent event at Smithsonian on June 17th was “attended by 529 people while 189 people painted,” Beteseb shared adding “Thanks for Feedel Band making the evening super nice.”

Below are photos from the event:

Beteseb announced that it will host its next event in August and September, closer to the Ethiopian New Year. They will also “be opening up more weekly paint sessions in Virginia in addition to the current one every Saturday in Adams Morgan.”

More information can be found at

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Curated by Henone Girma Art in FLUX Harlem Exhibition Opens April 19th

Liberty on Ice, Ben Ponté, Oil and mixed media on paper, 2015, 25” x 30”. (Courtesy of Art in FLUX Harlem)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: April 13th, 2017

New York (TADIAS) — Next week an Art in FLUX exhibition, curated by Henone Girma, will open at ALOFT Harlem as part of the New York organization’s mentoring initiative. The exhibition entitled Woe-nderland features five NYC-based artists including emerging Ethiopian American artist Tariku Shiferaw whose work we highlighted here last year. Additional participants include Belinda James, Ben Ponté, Elan Ferguson and JaSon Auguste. Tariku’s work is currently part of the 2017 Whitney Biennial.

The show, which opens on Wednesday, April 19th, “presents works that evoke a collective feeling of world-weariness that saturates the current climate and paints an honest picture of lamentation apt for recent events,” states Art in FLUX.

According to the press release “the title Woe-nderland takes as its point of departure the 1996 single ‘If I Ruled the World’ by recording artist Nas that begins with “Life, I wonder, will it take me under, I don’t know” – a simultaneous testimony to the ills of society and contemplation of its potentials.”

The press release adds: The exhibition offers a rather satirical lens through which we may reimagine our current social construct – this perhaps creating a timely opportunity for relating and purging.

About the Curator:

Henone Girma has been a gallery assistant at Art in FLUX since September 2016. She also works as a Research Associate for the Arts of Global Africa department at Newark Museum in New Jersey. She is a recent graduate from New York University with an MA in Visual Arts Administration. Henone wrote her final thesis on contemporary Ethiopian art as it relates to the art market. She hopes Woe-nderland will be the first of many exhibitions she will have the opportunity to curate as she continues her career as an arts advocate and professional.

If You Go:
Exhibition: Woe-nderland
Artists: Tariku Shiferaw, Belinda James, Ben Ponté, Elan Ferguson, and JaSon Auguste
Opening: Wednesday, April 19, 2017, 6:00 to 9:00 PM
Dates: April 19 through August 31, 2017
Location: Aloft Harlem, 2296 Frederick Douglass Blvd. between 123 and 124th Streets, NYC
Hours: Daily 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM

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Ethiopia: Composer & Pianist Girma Yifrashewa’s Phenomenal Show in Harlem

Ethiopian Pianist and Composer Girma Yifrashewa at Ginny's Supper Club in New York on Sunday, November 27th, 2016. (Photo: Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, November 28th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — Last night in New York the Thanksgiving weekend program at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem featured a special Ethiopia-inspired dinner menu prepared by Chef Marcus Samuelsson followed by a live performance by classical Ethiopian pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa.

Girma’s amazing concert on Sunday evening included his original compositions that evoke “Ethiopian melody making,” as he told the audience, “decorated” with sounds of the classical music tradition in combination with Ambassel, Bati, Anchihoye and Tizita based on Ethiopian music’s unique tone scale system.

Watch: Marcus Samuelsson in conversation with Girma Yifrashewa before the show:

Having picked up the kirar as a young child and later discovering piano at the historic Yared School of Music in Addis Ababa during his teenage years, Girma went on to pursue his music and composition studies in Bulgaria at Sofia State Conservatory of Music.

Last night’s piano performance at Ginny’s featured classical pieces by Chopin and Debussy for the first session and his own original compositions fusing the Western classical tradition with Ethiopian sounds for the second part of the evening, which included his playful Chewata, the spiritual Sememen and the joyous Elilta.

Below are photos from Girma Yifrashewa’s Concert at Ginny’s Supper Club in NYC on November 27th, 2016:

Girma Yifrashewa “offers a rare and fascinating example of aesthetic adaptation and convergence,” the New York Times declared three years ago in its review of Girma’s first NYC concert in 2013 at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn. In an article entitled From Chopin to Ethiopia, and Partway Back Again, The Times added: “Since returning to Ethiopia in 1995, Mr. Yifrashewa has promoted awareness there of the standard classical repertory, while also writing new pieces that apply European techniques to Ethiopian musical and folkloric sources.”

Photos Ethiopian Pianist Girma Yifrashewa’s Stellar Performance in Bethesda, Maryland

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Mahmoud Ahmed Brings Down the House at Carnegie Hall Debut Concert – Photos

Mahmoud Ahmed performing at Carnegie Hall in New York on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016. (Photo: Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, October 23rd, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — Mahmoud Ahmed performed live at Carnegie Hall in New York City last night, becoming the first major artist from Ethiopia to give a solo concert at the world-famous venue.

The 75-year-old Ethiopian cultural icon, who is still one of Ethiopia’s most eminent musicians, played at Carnegie’s Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage.

Below are photos from Mahmoud’s historic appearance at Carnegie Hall on Saturday, October 22nd, 2016:

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Ethiopia: Girma Berta Instagrammer & Artist Wins Getty Images Grant

Kerra Streets in Addis. (Photo by instagrammer Girma Berta)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, September 19th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — Girma Berta, an instagrammer and artist from Ethiopia, has won a $10,000 Getty Images Instagram Grant.

Getty Images in collaboration with Instagram announced today that “the $10,000 grant, expanded to include videographers and visual artists telling local stories, is given to photographers using Instagram to document stories from underrepresented communities around the world.”

“Berta uses his iPhone to photograph vibrant, gritty street life in Addis Ababa, crossing street photography with fine art by isolating his subjects against backdrops of rich color,” Getty Images said.

Moving shadows. (Photo by Girma Berta)

In addition to Girma Berta this year’s winners include Christian Rodriguez of Uruguay and Ronny Sen from India who “tell a range of diverse stories.”

“Every day, people around the globe capture and share poignant moments on Instagram, inspiring others to see things in a new way,” said Amanda Kelso, Director of Community at Instagram, in a statement. “We are honored to highlight the visual work of this year’s winners, who each offer a striking glimpse into rarely seen worlds.”

You can view more photos by Girma Berta on Instagram @gboxcreative.

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In the Gray: A One Person Ethio-American Show by Playwright Antu Yacob

Antu Yacob. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, July 25th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — What does it mean to be Ethiopian American? The answer depends on who you ask, but for Playwright Antu Yacob — whose parents immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia when she was barely five years old — the identity is not as clear-cut. In the Gray is the title of Antu’s latest one-person show, which explored precisely this question when it was staged in New York City as part of the Women in Theatre Festival by Project Y Theatre in Manhattan last week.

In the Gray features Antu playing several engaging characters including herself, her 8-year-old son, as well as her muslim and Oromo activist mother who lives in Minnesota.

“I knew that I wanted to write about my experience not only as an actor, but also as an Ethio-American professional in the entertainment industry,” Antu told Tadias in an interview following her show. “It’s a point of view that I don’t see reflected in mainstream media, but it is something that I live with.” Antu added: “I constantly have this experience of being between two cultures. That’s why I call it In The Gray, because a lot of things are not black and white for me. I wrote it so that people who watch it and relate to it can feel they are not alone.”

In January of this year Antu was one of five women writers selected to join a group and tasked to develop individual solo shows for a reading workshop here in NYC. “So I started woking on In the Gray in that development lab and later I was asked to present my piece at the Women in Theatre Festival,” she told Tadias.

Just as she negotiated her various identities while growing up in America, Antu does a seamless job of switching from one accent and voice to another, including that of her gregarious alter ego: an African American women of her age in the mid thirties.

The most memorable conversations in the play, however, takes place between Antu and her mother such as when Antu returns home from college one summer, sporting an afro hairstyle that her mom found absolutely horrifying, and begs her daughter to allow her to moisturize and make it smooth with butter. In another scene, Antu mentions that as a teenager her mother’s advice about sex usually came in two brief and stern sentences: “If you have sex, you will get pregnant. And if you get pregnant, you will not finish school.”

“The other thing that I tried to show with my mother’s character is that it’s a very complex relationship between her and I,” Antu said. “Sometimes she is my hero and I try to communicate that in the piece, but then there are other times when she kind of takes on the oppressor’s job.” She shared: “It’s not like there is good or bad, that’s another reason why it’s In the Gray because I know she loves me, and our parents love us and they want only the best for us, but they only know how to give it to you the way it was given to them.”

“Eventually I had to become comfortable with the fact that I am who I am. It never felt right when I tried to identify entirely as one thing or another,” Antu continued. “When you are young and are forced to assimilate you lose part of who you are, such as your language, and as an adult that’s not something that you will end up being proud of. I lost part of me willingly, for example, no one put a gun to my head and said ‘stop speaking your Oromo language,’ but I wanted so badly to stop being on the outside that I forgot my mother’s tongue.”

In another segment Antu touches upon the current race and police relations issues in the United States, pointing out that she worries a lot for the safety her own child. “The scene with my son at the end are all the conversations that we had together,” she said. “It is a concern that I have because he is a child who is very outspoken.” Antu added: “And so it’s kind of sad that you have to tell little brown boys to be careful that they can’t be as outspoken and demand the truth as much as any other child can. So, you know, it’s a real concern for me. Every time I hear things on the news I say to myself ‘oh my gosh, this is not ending, this is continuing.’”

Antu, who holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in Acting from Rutgers University in New Jersey, grew up in San Francisco and Minnesota before settling in New York where she currently lives and works. Her acting career includes a co-starring role in NBC’s Law & Order television film series as well as a lead role in Walking in Circles (NYU Film/Elegance Bratton) and supporting role in Inspiration (SVA Film/Kaelan Kelly-Sorderlet). Her play entitled Mourning Sun, set in Ethiopia and New York, that she wrote and performed in was shown last Fall at the West End Theatre in Manhattan.

Antu Yacob on-set of “Make a Name” by Morocco Omari. (Photo Credit: Paul Chinnery)

Antu (r) acting in Edward Allan Baker’s “Rosemary with Ginger” at Rutgers Theater Company. (Courtesy photo)

As a playwright Antu says “she tries to experiment with social and political activism in an entertaining way” noting that “America is made up of so many different cultures, and there is room to honor that diversity without sacrificing the beauty of who we are as a people. As Ethiopian Americans we make up a part of the larger American experience.”

Antu said she plans to tighten her one-person play, In the Gray, and take it on tour. “Initially I would like it to premiere with a full run in New York and eventually get it to regional theatres,” she said. “The best thing about In the Gray is that you don’t necessarily have to be Ethiopian to appreciate the play because it’s an American story. It’s for everyone.”

In the Gray was directed by Celestine Rae and produced by Project Y Theatre’s Inaugural Women In Theatre Festival at Theatre Row – Studio Theatre. You can learn more about Antu Yacob at

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Ethiopia’s Zoma Contemporary Art Center

The Zoma Contemporary Art Center was founded in 1982 and took seven years to complete. Each of the center’s buildings has unique features inside and out. (Photo: Meskerem Assegued)

The New York Times


Zoma Contemporary Art Center Links Local and Global

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA — Outside the walls of the Zoma Contemporary Art Center, the distinct chaotic clatter of Addis Ababa — goats bleating at a nearby market, cars kicking up dust on the dirt road — fills the air.

Yet inside the compound that houses the center is a haven of calm. Birds chirp in the trees that surround the courtyard, which is paved in flagstones decorated with images of turtles and lizards.

“It’s a space that hugs you,” Meskerem Assegued, the center’s co-founder and director, said in an interview in late January as she sat at an outdoor table having coffee, and pointing out some of the artworks created by her co-founder, the artist Elias Sime.

“The whole place is a sculpture,” Ms. Assegued said, describing the architectural space of the center and its programming. “It is not a place where one plus one equals two, but where one plus one equals three.”

Trying to add up what Zoma does is indeed challenging, as the physical space is a work of stunning vernacular architecture and art, while the programming is grounded in Addis Ababa and focused on an international stage.

The noncommercial gallery at Zoma has become one of the most important art institutions in sub-Saharan Africa, funding projects through small grants and the selling of Mr. Sime’s work to collectors and museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The center’s workshop programming has included internationally known artists like David Hammons from the United States and Ernesto Novelo, a Mexican who was so inspired after his residency at Zoma that he developed a similar program in his home country, calling it the ZCAC Yucatán.

Read more at »

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Q&A With Messay Getahun, Director of the Movie Lambadina’

Messay Getahun is the director of the film 'Lambadina.' (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tesfaye Mohamed

Published: Wednesday, May 25th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) – The film Lambadina, directed by Messay Getahun, features 9 year-old Joseph who is abandoned as his father, Solomon, flees Ethiopia during the civil war. Nonetheless he eventually finds refuge in a home and grows up to fall in love with the daughter in the new family (Ruth), and eventually emigrates to the U.S. The film takes us from Addis Ababa to Los Angeles, and shows the resilience of a young man overcoming various obstacles in life.

Screened at the Pan African Film Festival, Lambadina, is scheduled to be released in theaters in Fall 2016.

The film’s director, Messay Getahun, was born in Addis Ababa and raised in Dallas, Texas. He attended Texas Tech, studying computer graphics as well as human sciences and Family Studies. Subsequently he moved to California. Lambadina is Messay’s first full feature movie in which he wrote, directed, produced, edited and sound designed. Lambadina is the work of three crew members. The other two include Justin Dickson (Director of Photography) and Hermon Tekle (Camera and Sound Operator).

Below is a Q&A with the Director of Lambadina, Messay Getahun:

Tesfaye Mohamed: Did you have in mind what your first movie would be about, was there a particular story you wanted to tell?

Messay Getahun: Justin — who works as a DP & Lighting Gaffer in TV shows and feature films in Hollywood — and I have always dreamed of a day where we would make a feature film with a solid content. Media is a powerful tool with an immeasurable impact. Much of the content I often saw wasn’t necessarily positive. Especially when it comes to the representation of Ethiopia and Africa. Every film that comes out of Africa that makes a splash is often coated with the “white savior complex.” It’s a narrative that makes the West look good while on the other hand demeaning Ethiopia or Africa. My heart wanted to tell a different narrative — a contemporary narrative film. An Ethiopian Film for a Western audience. If there is a message, I wanted it to be about life. We wanted to make real life movies. Stories that are honest, real, entertaining and satisfying to the souls of the viewers. In 2011 I decided to save money to start purchasing production equipment needed to produce a quality film. It took me two years to finish writing the script. We wanted to make a universal film. Something the older generation, the younger generation, Africans and non-Africans could watch. Finding a good balance was essential.

Tesfaye: So the movie credits state that it’s based on a true story. Can you say more about that, and whose story is it based on?

Messay: It actually says “based on true events.” Yeah, beginning part of the film has an element of true events. It’s a story of a split that happens between a father and son during uncertain times in Ethiopia. That portion of the story is actually my personal story. My dad was involved in politics. I was about 6 years old and a new government was coming to power, so I based the story from some childhood memories I had of an era that I thought was important for the source of the film.

Tesfaye: Now let’s talk about the name, The first thing that came to my mind when I saw the title was “Teddy Afro’s” music Lambadina, Does it have any relation with the song?

Messay: [laughs]. I do often get this question. I chose the title because of its meaning. Lambadina is an Ethio-Italian word which means “lantern“ or “night light.” The definition represented the theme of the film. The film is about overcoming the obstacles that life throws at you. Life is not always going to be bright and sunny, but our perspective and how we handle those dark moments can be our “LAMBADINA.” I also wanted a one-word title. Something foreign enough but yet easy enough to pronounce for the western audience.

Tesfaye: You shot part of the film In Ethiopia, can you tell me the locations used. Was it all in Addis or was it also shot in other parts of the country?

Messay: All of the locations in Ethiopia were in Addis Ababa.

Photos of scenes from the movie ‘Lambadina’, provided by the director Messay Getahun.

Tesfaye: How long did it take to finish the film?

Messay: We started shooting the film at the end of 2013. We went to Ethiopia and filmed the Ethiopia scenes first. We took a 6-month break for a number of reasons and we started shooting the U.S.-based scenes in late 2014. It took me all of 2015 to edit the film. Once the editing was done, I had to color grade the film, do the music mix, and finalize the subtitles.

Tesfaye: Did you have to ship in equipment from outside the country or did you find everything you needed?

Messay: I was given a filming permit to film in Ethiopia so it made everything easier to bring in our own equipment with us.

Tesfaye: Can you tell me about the budget, about the crew, how many people were involved in the making of the film, and were they Ethiopians and local residents?

Messay: The entire film was self funded. No outside funding was used, nor did I do any crowdfunding. The entire film was also done by 3 crew members which is astonishing when you think about it. When we mentioned this fact during a Q&A at the Pan African Film Festival there was a gasp among the audience. Many executives and jurors from the festival couldn’t believe it. Myself, Justin, and Hermon were the only individuals who worked on the film. Justin was the DP & Chief Camera Operator, Hermon was the Sound Operator and sometimes the Camera Operator. We rotated responsibilities as needed. I would direct and sometimes Justin would be the acting coach, other times Hermon would be the DP. We would work 19-hour shifts. Can you imagine a three-man crew doing all the work in Ethiopia? It was nuts. We would get up at the crack of dawn, load equipment, drive to the location, set up, do scene blocking, coach the actors, pack up, go to the other location and repeat the process. It was the hardest thing I have ever done, but it made every minute worth it because I was working with people whom I loved and shared the same vision with. The actors in the film were mostly my friends who I knew had a passion for storytelling. I just asked individuals whom I thought would play the character well. Even the little kids were amazing. They were coachable. We did use two professional actors from Ethiopia — Hanan Obid & Seyoum Tefera were recommended to us through a good friend who worked in the film industry in Ethiopia.

Tesfaye: You premiered the film in Ethiopia first. Can you share more on how it was received?

Messay: The premiere in Ethiopia was fantastic. It was a private screening held on the campus of ICS. Michael Yimesgen who plays the “Solomon character” was in charge of putting together the Addis screening. Many people from the diplomatic circles and arts circles were in attendance. About 500 people attended the invitation-only event and it was received with a standing ovation. The screening was featured on EBS on their “Semonun Addis” segment. The trailer has gone semi-viral in Addis. We would get stopped everywhere we went. The demographics of the audience is what really made me happy. Older people, younger people, Ethiopians and non Ethiopians alike kept giving us incredible reviews.

Tesfaye: Was it premiered anywhere else? I know that it will be shown at The San Francisco Black Film Festival in June.

Messay: We are headlining the festival in San Francisco. The world premiere of the film was held at the 2016 Pan African Film Festival held in Los Angeles. We were the only film to have gotten sold out screenings in all our 4 screenings. Due to popular demand, there were additional screenings as well. We were also honored to receive the Audience Award for Narrative Feature as well as Special Jury Recognition-Director for First Feature Narrative at the 2016 Pan African Film Festival. We plan to do our own screening of the film in various cities including in Toronto during the Ethiopian Soccer Tournament as well as in Washington DC, Dallas, Seattle & New York between July & September. The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is also hosting an Ethiopia premiere of the film at the National Theatre in Addis Ababa sometime during this summer. Our goal is to get a distribution deal. Either a theatrical release or a Video on Demand deal would be ideal. Yes, Netflix is likely once we are done running the festival circuit, the theatrical screenings and the inflight entertainment features.

Watch below the official trailer for ‘Lambadina’ [HD]:

You can learn more about the film at

About the Author:
Tesfaye Mohamed is a second year law student at North Carolina Central University School of Law. His interests include Civil Rights Law, Constitutional Law, Employment Law, and Contract Law. Tesfaye was born in Ethiopia and grew up in the United States.

How DC Native Kenny Allen Moved to Ethiopia

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How DC Native Kenny Allen Moved to Ethiopia

The following is a Q & A with Addis Ababa-based artist and businessman Kenny Allen, who moved from his hometown in Washington, D.C. to Ethiopia ten years ago. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine

By Tesfaye Mohamed

Published: Tuesday, April 5th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — Kenny Allen is a musician, songwriter, producer, sound engineer, actor, and bag designer. Born and raised in Washington, DC Kenny has been living in Addis Ababa for the past 10 years, producing and performing music while making his mark in the fashion design sector.

Kenny has hosted a radio show on the first English radio station in Ethiopia (Afro-FM), and has produced music for several artists including Gash Abera Molla’s album Yamral Hagere, which won “Album of the Year 2014″ at Sheger FM’s Music Choice Awards; Sydney Salmon’s Ethiopia is Calling; as well as Wes Felton’s soon to be released The Ultimate Challenge; and Ethiopian-Armenian Singer Vahe Tilbian’s Mixology albums. Currently, Kenny is collaborating with Senegalese Poet Souleymane Diamanka on a full album recorded in his home studio E.A.R.S. (East African Recording Studio) in Addis.

In addition to running his own recording studio, Kenny has recorded three albums of his own, acted in three feature films and launched an iconic bag line called Und Kǝn — roughly translating to “one day” in Amharic. The bags are designed and manufactured in Ethiopia and sold worldwide.

When I learned about Kenny, I wanted to know his story; why he packed up and left Washington, DC, to settle in Addis. I wanted to know more about his career, his successful business, and what attracted him to his new homeland, Ethiopia.

Tesfaye Mohamed: I am really curious as to what prompted you to live and start a business in Ethiopia. Can you tell me about that?

Kenny Allen: I was playing guitar for the Grammy-nominated Ethiopian Singer Wayna, when the promoter of one of her concerts, Emmanuel Mekuria, opened a club in Addis called Harlem Jazz, and asked me to join. I had been touring with two international artists, MeShell Ndegeocello and Raheem DeVaughn, all over the world but I had never been to Africa. The contract was originally for 6 months, and because I felt so professionally embraced, it turned into 10 years. Thanks largely in part to singer Jonny Ragga — who gave me the platform to reach Ethiopians both here and abroad with a song I featured on entited Shiftaw Libu — I was able to brand myself as a public personality.

I also appreciated the various distinct cultures of Ethiopia, was seduced by the year-round mild climate, and appreciated the opportunity to explore many different artistic disciplines. Living in Africa, Ethiopia specifically, allowed me to see the world at large from a different perspective.

Tesfaye: Do you have friends or family members from Ethiopia?

Kenny: When I came here, I didn’t know anyone here. Over the years, in Washington DC, I encountered many Ethiopian individuals, but mainly from a distance. Ethiopian culture is often a very tight-knit bond that sometimes can be hard to break through, but the more I showed my admiration and interest in learning about it, the more people began to open up to me. I learned from some of the best in the music business — from the veteran group, the 4 Star Band, to the Mehari Brothers and a group that I assembled called the 251 Band.

Tesfaye: Why did you move from DC to Ethiopia?

Kenny: Prior to coming to Ethiopia, I had been recording and marketing my own original music for 10 years. I was shopping music and trying to get signed to record companies. When I came to Addis, I felt a sense of isolation and self-containment within the country. For a large, major city back in those times the vibe was more simple; not as tense as life in the Western world. It gave me a chance to live each day fully and enjoy conversation and companionship with friends and acquaintances.

I recognized the opportunity to share my experiences for the purpose of lifting the consciousness of those in my circle, mostly through music, but also more or less become an ambassador for African-Americans, dispelling stereotypes that black people only rapped and played basketball. I have a college degree and have seen many countries around the world while performing at some of the most prestigious venues. I felt that I could make a difference as well as have the mental space to continue to create.

Tesfaye: Can you tell me about your back-pack brand, Und Kǝn, that you launched in Ethiopia?

Kenny: Und Kǝn started very accidentally. One of the most memorable moments in the development of the brand was being on stage at Harlem Jazz having bought a cool new jacket earlier in the day. When I looked out into the audience I noticed a guy had on the exact same jacket. So I began using Ethiopian hand-woven fabrics to design my own stage wear. My shirts caught the eyes of the Desta Brothers, promoters in Washington DC, whenever I would go home to visit. They expressed how much they liked my shirts and suggested that I open a store. Almost immediately the name Und Kǝn came to mind — a play on my name Kenny, and an ode to the dreamers. I have always believed that through hard work, you will always fulfill your dreams, working towards the day where you have that breakthrough moment. I always add the tag “made in Ethiopia” because I feel like Ethiopia has made me the person and the human being I am today.

One day, as Und Kǝn was under development, a friend of mine brought back a laptop cover from the UK. There was one textile on the inside and one textile on the outside. I found this concept very interesting so I contacted a long-time friend from Florida — a performing artist and tailor named Haile Yesus — who began producing similar multi-textile laptop bags using Ethiopian and other African materials, which then became a simple hobby/creative outlet that caught the eyes of people in my social media network and turned into a sustainable business. I have gone on to employ local artisans to create the products featured on our website, namely two graduates from the Addis Ababa University leather textile program, Admassu Abera and Henok Kasahun as well as seamstress Selam Tesfaye. I quickly discovered that Ethiopia is rich in leather and that many major international companies source their leather from Ethiopia. With Addis Ababa being the home of the African Union there were several sources for West African wax, which I also incorporate in my products.

It is my belief that the only way you can make something original in this day and age is to combine elements that have not been combined. The idea of an African American musician who has always been fashion-minded coupled with the creation of a lush palette of fabrics and textiles using mainly just a great eye for color, is almost guaranteed to be at the least, a little different. I personally go to Merkato — the largest open-air market in Africa — to source and design each piece that we make before giving it to other members of the team to assemble and sew. On a craft level it’s a home-run business, but the global demands are driving it into a potentially globally recognizable brand. We are currently distributing the products on a small scale while shipping internationally and looking to offer wholesale distribution by the end of this year.

Tesfaye: What are your general impressions of Ethiopia, and economic condition of the people?

Kenny: Ethiopia is without a doubt a nation on the rise. What I wish most for the country is to invest more on the skill set and experiences of people. Empower the youth, bringing them into these global times but always stressing and emphasizing the importance of maintaining the tradition. Encourage people to take pride in their works and be aware of all levels of production, both internal and external. Public services should continue to grow in this growing metropolis of Addis Ababa, leaving no person or people behind along the way. Each group should realize a oneness under the age-old proverb, “together we stand, divided we fall.”

About the Author:
Tesfaye Mohamed is a second year law student at North Carolina Central University School of Law. His interests include Civil Rights Law, Constitutional Law, Employment Law, and Contract Law. Tesfaye was born in Ethiopia and grew up in the United States.

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CNN on Artist Fikru Gebremariam

Ethiopian artist Fikru Gebremariam at his home studio in Addis Ababa. (Photo: CNN)

CNN African Voices

From China, Paris to the U.S., this Ethiopian artist keeps the roots of his culture deep within his art.

Watch Video:

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Mikael Seifu Among 25 Artists From Around The World You Need To Know

Based in Addis Ababa, producer Mikael Seifu mixes traditional Ethiopian influences with electronic sounds. (Photo by Mulugeta Teklemariam)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — In its first-ever global issue sampling the underground music scene from Africa to Europe and Latin America, the New York-based music magazine, The Fader, highlights Ethiopian electronic artist and producer Mikael Seifu who “mixes traditional Ethiopian influences with mind-expanding electronic sounds” among 25 Artists From Around The World You Need To Know Right Now.

The magazine notes that Mikael Seifu, who calls his style “Ethiopiyawi Electronic,” has an album forthcoming on Brooklyn-based experimental label RVNG this year in which “he documented a typical day living in the Ethiopian capital.”

Seifu was born and raised in Addis Ababa and “attended the French school Lycee Guebre-Mariam as a child, and went on to study music production & the music industry at Ramapo College of New Jersey — a small school about 45 minutes outside of Manhattan,” according to his label. While in college, Seifu found a mentor in Professor Ben Neill, “the composer and music technologist who trained with La Monte Young. Seifu was inspired by Neil to take serious his calling in music.”

In an interview with Pitchfork magazine last Summer Seifu said growing up in Ethiopia he spent a lot of time online “using Napster and a spotty 28.8 kbps connection” to download 2Pac and Master P songs. “Then, spurred on by his businessman father as well as a naive drive for mainstream musical success, he enrolled in New Jersey’s Ramapo College having never even visited the States before. He was soon dismayed by what he calls ‘the fierceness of the American machine.’”

“There’s just a massive pressure, dude,” the 27-year-old told Pitchfork. “What I felt and saw there was this lack of purpose being accepted as the norm — people just working their way through as a cog.”

Pitchfork wrote: “After taking a life-changing, ear-opening class taught by the experimental composer Ben Neill, Seifu dropped out of school following his junior year, headed back to his hometown, and continued to hone his style.”

Seifu’s new EP, Zelalem, is scheduled to be released on March 4th by RVNG in both digital and vinyl along with a mixtape cassette.

“Mikael Seifu’s Zelalem is an ode to – and a fearless break from – the storied lineage of Ethiopian music” states RVNG.

Below is one song from the new album entitled ‘How to Save a Life (Vector of Eternity)’

25 Artists From Around The World You Need To Know Right Now (The Fader)

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Afripedia Screens Three Episodes of Docu-Series at Harlem’s Schomburg Center

Afripedia founders Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe (Center) during the Q&A session following the screening of their docuseries at Schomburg Center in Harlem, NYC on February 18th, 2016. (Photo: Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, February 19th, 2016.

New York (TADIAS) — From their current workspace at the New Museum incubator, New Inc., in Manhattan filmmakers Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe have been developing Afripedia — a visionary platform in conjunction with their documentary film series featuring visual artists, beat makers, dancers, fashion designers and cultural activists from across the African continent. Originally inspired by their film series entitled ’Stocktown Underground,’ which was experimentally launched on YouTube in 2005, Afripedia morphed into a five year journey to 10 African countries and the production of five episodes to date highlighting ambitious creatives from Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

In a recent Tadias Interview Teddy and Senay — Ethiopian & Eritrean filmmakers who grew up in Sweden — described Afripedia as a “spotlight of creative forces reshaping the image of Africa as told by African visionary artists who are pushing the boundaries of visual self expression.”

“We want to change the perception that people have about Africa, and to make the creative scene more inclusive of these new voices” Senay said.

As part of the African Film Festival three of Afripedia’s episodes were screened and followed by a Q&A session on Thursday, Feb 18th at Harlem’s Schomburg Center, which houses one of the largest and most comprehensive collection of resources on Black culture worldwide including an estimated 10 million items.

“The reason why we came to New York last September was because there are so many talents out there,” Teddy shared at the Q&A session following the screening. “We got invited to New Inc. to build a new online platform — or a visual wikipedia you can say — where we could see more stories being shared. We wanted to continue producing stories of course, but we also needed to give access. We can’t be the only voice.” The platform is also designed to serve as a hub “to find, connect with, and hire talent.”

A preview of Afripedia’s platform shared at Schomburg Center, Thursday, February 18th, 2016. (Photo: Tadias)

On stage at the Schomburg with Afripedia’s founders was Omar Viktor, a Dakar-based Photographer and Designer, featured in their Senegal episode, whose studio work intermingles local fashion styles and colorful artwork with photography.

“I had been to Senegal earlier shooting another documentary and a friend of mind said you have to check out Omar’s work,” Senay said describing how they heard about Omar’s creative work.

Portrait by Senegalese photographer Omar Victor, whose work is featured in Afripedia. (courtesy image)

“It’s about having creators who can share the network,” added Teddy. “And the secret source is actually to be more collaborative; that’s what we need. It can be powerful when you get to see the vast network happening right now.”

Afripedia is a stunning visual compilation of African creatives, which promises not only to curate a vast treasury of talent, but likewise create a virtual space for deep collaborations between Africans across borders as well as among the Diaspora community. Afripedia’s complete film series is scheduled to be released online in September 2016.

Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe at the screening of the Afripedia docuseries at Schomburg Center in New York on Thursday, February 18th, 2016. (Photo: Tadias)

Afripedia: A Creative Hub for African Visionary Artists

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Artist Tariku Shiferaw’s Paintings Investigate Contradictions, Glitches in a System

Tariku Shiferaw. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, January 28th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — As an emerging artist Tariku Shiferaw — whose work is currently up at Trestle gallery in Brooklyn, New York as part of a group exhibition titled Introductions 2016 — is “fascinated by contradictions, glitches, interruptions, and disagreements in a system,” he says. “I investigate intricate moments in our existence that appear to be one way, but at a closer look can be perceived and interpreted in many other ways.”

Tariku was born in Addis Ababa and raised in Los Angeles where he completed his undergraduate degree in Fine Arts at the University of Southern California (USC).

“One of my biggest influencers and probably the reason I pursued art beyond high school is Marco Elliott” Tariku tells Tadias. “He was my commercial arts instructor during my sophomore year, but eventually became a friend and a mentor for the rest of my time at Venice High School. Often, we disagreed on a lot of topics and those disagreements challenged and helped me grow.”

In 2013, Tariku moved to New York to pursue a Masters in Fine Arts at Parsons School of Design at The New School, which he obtained in May 2015. Currently he resides and works in Brooklyn.

“I first became interested in art by watching my older brother draw quick pen-sketches of his favorite movie characters such as Bruce Lee, Chuck Norris, Bugs Bunny and more,” Tariku said. “I used to bribe him with stolen candy from my dad’s cabinet in exchange for his drawings.”

For Tariku forms and gestures, including geometric shapes or painterly marks, fuel investigations of absolute meaning. “Often, I use a range of gray painterly gestures as ground to the geometric forms, which metaphorically refers to the gray space between meanings,” he said. “The dialectical relationships between painterly gestures and geometric forms create the necessary complexity to inspire deep thoughts on these simple shapes and color, and the possible interpretations.”

One of his paintings that’s now on display at the Brooklyn exhibition is called Space X, which he created last year. “Triangles and X’s have a strong presence in my paintings,” Tariku said. “I like using these forms for many reasons. They are aesthetically interesting and also carry a multitude of meanings because of their historical usage. Triangles, along with circles, squares, rectangles, x’s, and many more, are primitive forms that have existed with us (the human race) throughout our developments. These forms simultaneously carry a range of meanings at all times.”

“The letter “X” is probably the most complex of all these forms,” Tariku explained. “In math, X is an unknown variable until it is discovered, then it becomes obsolete. It can no longer continue to be “X” when the unknown variable is found. However, X is also widely recognized as a symbol that marks a space, denotes a place, cancels, negates, and more. The nature of these markings challenges the systems of visual language.”

This week Tariku will also be participating in the annual LA Art Show in Southern California with several of his paintings on display at Werd Gallery’s booth until Jan 31st, 2016.

His advice for fellow artists? “Fear nothing and pursue it with all you got.”

Below is a slideshow of Tariku Shiferaw’s paintings.

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Ethiopian Artists Featured in Kennedy Museum Exhibit ‘Encounters Beyond Borders’

(Artwork by Ethiopian painter and mixed-media artist Wosene Worke Kosrof/

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, January 11th, 2016

New York (TADIAS) — The Kennedy Museum of Art at Ohio University is featuring three Ethiopian artists — Salem Mekuria (Boston, MA), Wosene Kosrof (Berkeley, CA) and Julie Mehretu (NYC) — in its upcoming exhibition entitled Encounters Beyond Borders: Contemporary Artists From The Horn of Africa, which brings together eight contemporary artists from the Horn of Africa, now residing in either North America or Europe.

“Pursuing international trajectories in the contemporary art world, the artists re-figure indigenous artistic content, thereby visually articulating multi-directional and transnational flows, frictions, networks, and mobilities within and between the continents of Africa, North America and other world spaces,” The Kennedy Museum of Art said in an announcement. “The works included in the exhibition become a means for understanding transnational complexities of diasporas, political unrest in the Horn and broader stories of migration.”

Additional participating artists in the exhibition include: Mohamed Hamid (Sudan/Columbus, Ohio), Dawit L. Petros (Eritrea/Canada/NYC), Rashid Ali (Somalia/London), Elsa Gebreyesus (Eritrea/Canada/Washington DC), Yegizaw Michael (Eritrea/Seattle) and Andrew Cross (England).

“These artists are exhibited together for the first time, guest-curated by Andrea Frohne, an Associate Professor of African art history at the School of Interdisciplinary Arts, College of Fine Arts at Ohio University,” the Museum said. “An opening reception for the exhibition will be held Friday, Jan. 22 from 5-7 p.m. Frohne will lead a gallery walk prior to the reception at 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.”

If You Go:
Encounters Beyond Borders: Contemporary Artists from the Horn of Africa
Jan 22-May 29th
Kennedy Museum of Art
Ohio University
536, 100 Ridges Circle
Athens, Ohio

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Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2015

Images of some of the top Ethiopia-related arts & culture stories covered by Tadias in 2015. (File photos)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 28th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — – 2015 was a vibrant year filled with acclaim and awards for several emerging artists of Ethiopian heritage including the musician The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) and filmmaker Yared Zeleke. Singer and songwriter Mizan Kidanu likewise earned praise from Rolling Stone Magazine as she released her first EP album. As we approach the end of the year here are 10 Arts & Culture headlines that top our list.

The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye)

Prince (right) presented The Weeknd with the award for favorite album – Soul/R&B for “Beauty Behind the Madness” at the American Music Awards in L.A., California on Sunday, November 22nd, 2015. (Photo: AP)

By far the biggest Ethiopian name to emerge on the global music scene in 2015 is The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye). The Ethiopian-Canadian superstar’s “Beauty Behind the Madness” won favorite album in the Soul/R&B category at this year’s American Music Awards in Los Angeles last month. The Weeknd accepted the coveted prize from the American musical legend, Prince. But the best is yet to come for The Weeknd as he has been nominated in multiple categories for the upcoming 2016 Grammy Awards including for Record of the Year, Album of the Year, and Best Pop Solo Performance. “These kids, you know, they don’t have a Michael Jackson,” The Weeknd told the New York Times earlier this Summer. “They don’t have a Prince. They don’t have a Whitney. Who else is there? Who else can really do it at this point?” BET noted: “Though Prince can still really do it, Weeknd has a point. His latest album, Beauty Behind the Madness sat atop the Billboard 200 for three consecutive weeks (the first since Taylor Swift’s 1989 to do so), and broke the Top 10 in more than ten countries.”

Yared Zeleke’s Film ‘Lamb’

Actors Kidist Siyum and Rediat Amare with director Yared Zeleke at the premiere for Lamb at the 68th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 2015. (Photograph: AFP/Getty Images)

Yared Zeleke’s brilliant movie Lamb, which is the first Ethiopian film to be an official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, is also Ethiopia’s Oscar entry for 2015 under the Best Foreign Language film category. Yared’s film won ‘Best Feature Film’ at the 2015 Milano Film Festival, and the Guardian declared that “Yared Zeleke’s sharp eye for the culture of his homeland is showcased in this tremendous ethnographic debut…What’s most exciting about Lamb is that it is entirely from the inside out.” In an interview with Tadias Yared who attended New York University’s film school said: “For me, it’s not only about cinematic art but your point of view as a citizen of the modern world. I am a “cultural omnivore” of Ethiopian origin who tries to make sense of this vast, complicated world through the work I do. Film is a powerful medium to get your point across and/or engage in a dialogue with a wider audience.” Lamb is scheduled to premiere in the United States on January 13 at the 2016 New York Jewish Film Festival’s opening night. Read more »

Elias Sime’s Exhibit at James Cohan Gallery in New York

Elias Sime’s “Tightrope 7,” a collage of reclaimed electronic components adorned with items such as buttons and batteries. (Credit: Elias Sime & Adam Reich/James Cohan, New York/Shanghai)

Ethiopian artist and sculptor Elias Sime’s latest works were exhibited at James Cohan Gallery in New York from September 10 to October 17, 2015. The series called Tightrope included artwork made from the “discarded innards of computers and machines,” that Elias gathers from “Merkato’s Menalesh Tera section in his hometown of Addis Ababa.” In its review of Elias’ work the New York Times observed that he “makes complex monumental art from tiny parts.. painting like abstract pieces, stitched from yarn, of biomorphic forms in grays and browns. Mr. Sime has said that the title refers to the precarious balance a city must maintain to survive and thrive, and “Tightrope 7” might be read as a bird’s-eye view of Addis Ababa, now in the midst of a disorienting transformation.” Read more »

Chester Higgins’ Homage to Ethiopia

Priest in the Abuna Yemata cave at 8, 600 feet. Hawzein, Ethiopia. 2011. (Photo by Chester Higgins, Jr.)

The acclaimed American photographer Chester Higgins, Jr. presented an exhibition called Zéma at Skoto Gallery in New York City in May 2015. Higgins has been photographing Ethiopia since he first traveled there in 1973. Some of his stunning images of the country include iconic Christian and Muslim religious sites such as the Sof Omar Cave in Bale and the St. George church in Lalibela, as well as the Omo people in Southern Ethiopia. Describing his latest exhibit Higgins states that Zema is “a love song celebrating Ethiopia’s unique landscape and people as well as impressionistic imagery honoring ancestral spirits along the Blue Nile.”

Musician Thomas Gobena (Tommy T) Appointed UNICEF Ambassador to Ethiopia

In October 2015 Tommy T (Thomas Gobena) was appointed as UNICEF National Ambassador to Ethiopia. The Ethiopian American musician, who is a bass player for the New York-based gypsy band Gogol Bordello, follows in the footsteps of UNICEF Ambassadors Marcus Samuelsson, Aster Aweke, Abelone Melesse and Hannah Godefa. At a signing ceremony held at the UN agency’s office in Addis Ababa Tommy said: “I hope I will be an Ambassador who will awaken hope, inspire action, and nurture kindness and respect to all. I hope with all my heart that my modest contribution will be inspiring to as many youth as possible because inspiration fuels hope.” We congratulate Tommy and we wish him all the best in both his artistic and social endeavors!

Meklit Hadero at TED Talk

In this video from this past summer TED Senior Fellow Meklit Hadero speaks about how everyday sounds (nature, language and silence) inspire her creativity. “As a singer/songwriter people often ask me about my influences or as I call them my sonic lineages,” says the Ethiopian American artist. “And I could easily tell you that I was shaped with the Jazz and Hip-Hop that I grew up with, by the Ethiopian heritage of my ancestors, or by the 1980s pop on my childhood radio stations, but there is another genre. How do the sounds that we hear everyday influence the music that we make?” She says “the world is alive with musical expression,”as she explores popular Amharic interjections. “We are already immersed.”

Mizan Kidanu’s New EP

Another talented artist from Ethiopia to watch for in the coming years is singer and songwriter Mizan Kidanu whose newly released debut EP Dark Blue is already receiving high praise and national media profile in the United States including features on NPR. Rolling Stone recently ranked her EP as one of the 20 Best R&B Albums of 2015 along with The Weekend and Ethiopian American singer Kelela Mizanekristos. Mizan Kidanu who was raised in Ethiopia relocated to the U.S. four years ago. “Her choice of relocation after graduating from college in Delaware was decisive in that it exposed her to whole ecosystems of musicians and showed her, from the benefit of other artists’ experiences, that talent is not the prerequisite of success,” Heran Abate wrote two years ago in a Tadias article profiling Mizan. Rolling Stone notes that Mizan “knows how to make songs that make you move, too: “Looking For” casts her as the seductress over a throbbing club beat, but her “what are we looking for” chorus reveals unease over whether she’ll be embraced or rejected.” We wish Mizan continued success! Read more »

Marcus and Maya Samuelsson

Ethiopian-born chef, restaurateur and author Marcus Samuelsson and his model wife Maya Gate Haile traveled to Ethiopia earlier this year with a CNN crew led by their friend TV host Anthony Bourdain. Marcus and Maya shared their personal stories and welcomed Bourdain to their family homes while proudly showing the world the rich and communal nature of food preparation in their birth country. It was refreshing to see an international spotlight being focused on the beautiful culture of the Gurage of Ethiopia to which Maya belongs as well as the nation’s coffee tradition and Addis Ababa’s emerging skateboard scene among other highlights. Tadias was a proud partner with CNN and Food Republic in organizing an advance screening of the show at Ginny’s Supper Club in Harlem on October 9th, 2015. The sold-out evening featured a conversation with Marcus about behind-the-scenes stories and experiences. In addition, the event included a Q&A session and film trailer presentations by Julie Mehretu regarding the U.S. premiere of Difret and Teddy Goitom’s Afripedia platform. Read more »

National Museum of African Art Presents Haile Gerima’s Acclaimed Films

Haile Gerima’s films were featured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in D.C. from November 6th to 14th, 2015.(Courtesy image)

In November 2015 the National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. hosted a week-long screening of Ethiopian filmmaker Haile Gerima’s most critically acclaimed films including Adwa: An African Victory, Bush Mama, Sankofa, and Teza. The program — produced in collaboration with Positive Productions Inc., Minab Arts, Humanities D.C., and the Diverse City Fund — was entitled “Streams of a River African and African-American History and Identity in Haile Gerima’s Films” and was followed by panel discussions led by artists, activists and scholars. The award-winning director is also working on a new film called Yetut Lij. Read more »

Tadias Interview With Real-life Inspirations for Award-Winning Film Difret

Difret Producer Mehret Mandefro, Women’s Rights Activist Aberash Bekele and Lawyer Meaza Ashenafi (Photo: Tadias)

Indiewire has called Difret one of the 12 best films about girls and women of 2015. Tadias Magazine caught up with the real-life inspirations for the award-winning Ethiopian film — Aberash Bekele and her lawyer Meaza Ashenafi as well as Producer Mehret Mandefro — during the movie’s U.S. premiere in New York City in October 2015. Below is our conversation with three of the women behind Difret about the case that launched a global spotlight on the practice of abduction for marriage (telefa) and the educational efforts underway to end it.

Tadias Year in Review: 2015 in Pictures
Tadias Year in Review: 2014 in Pictures
Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014
Tadias Year in Review: 2013 in Pictures
Ten Arts and Culture Stories of 2013
Top 10 Stories of 2013

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The Art of Desta Hagos in California Exhibit

Desta Hagos. (Photo: Courtesy of William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art, Thousand Oaks, California)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Ethiopian painter Desta Hagos, who is the first woman to hold a solo art show in Ethiopia, is currently visiting the United States. She was one of five artists from Ethiopia that was featured at this year’s Miami Art Basel last week in Florida. This week Desta returns to the West Coast for a 10-day exhibition of her work at her alma mater, California Lutheran University (CLU), in Thousand Oaks, California from where she graduated in 1974.

“Desta Hagos is a renowned Ethiopian artist and was the first female painter to have a solo exhibition in Ethiopia,” the announcement states. “Her work has appeared in more than 50 national and international exhibitions during the last four decades.”

According to her bio: “Desta Hagos was born in Adwa in 1952, and she lived there until the age of nine, when she moved to Addis Ababa. Desta Hagos’ artistic interest developed at the age of five, when her father bought her crayons and asked her to draw flowers, rather than cutting them from the garden. After she finished high school, Desta joined the SFAD in 1964 as one of the first female students. Her teacher Gebre-Kristos Desta exerted an enduring influence on her style, which was also affected by her studies in the United States, where she earned a BFA from California Lutheran College. After three decades working as an artist, Desta Hagos recently opened her own art gallery in Addis Ababa.”

CLU adds: “A student of Professor Jerry Slattum while at Cal Lutheran, Hagos earned her bachelor’s degree in fine arts. During her time on campus as an undergraduate, and with Slattum’s encouragement, she exhibited her paintings in four group and solo shows. Returning home to Ethiopia during a time of great civil unrest, Desta overcame gender bias to exhibit her work there. She has been recognized both nationally and internationally for her art and philanthropic work and was featured in CLU Magazine.”

If You Go:
Return to the Roots: The Art of Desta Hagos ’74
Friday, Dec. 11, through Monday, Dec. 21, 2015
Opening Reception: Thursday, Dec. 17, 6-8 p.m.,
Gilbert Sports and Fitness Center, 2nd Floor Lobby
William Rolland Gallery of Fine Art
California Lutheran University
60 W. Olsen Road #1700
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360

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Afripedia: A Creative Hub for African Visionary Artists

Afripedia founders Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe (top) at NYC's New Museum incubator. (Photo: Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, October 29th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Growing up in Stockholm, Sweden Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe, self-taught filmmakers, longed to diversify the creative scene in the West and to share the voices of musicians, fashion designers and artists from Africa and the African Diaspora. In the last five years Teddy and Senay have traveled to 10 African countries with Ethiopia as their first stop. The global trek culminated with the release of five documentary episodes last year featuring the work of “visual artists, filmmakers, fashion designers, and cultural activists” from 6 African countries: Angola, Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Senegal and Ivory Coast.

Earlier this year, in April 2015, the two filmmakers were presenting their work in Barcelona when they received an invitation for a one-year residency at the New Museum’s incubator (New Inc.) in New York City to further develop their new platform, Afripedia.

Teddy and Senay describe their project as “a documentary series about the creative forces reshaping the image of Africa and told by African visionary artists who are pushing the boundaries of visual self-expression.”

“We realized that the films we made weren’t going to represent the whole talent base in Africa,” Teddy tells Tadias Magazine. “And we asked ourselves, how can we build a better platform so that more people can come together and share their work and network?” They have now re-envisioned Afripedia as more than just a series of films, and transformed their idea into one that could be better described as social entrepreneurship.

“We want to build a hub, a destination, where we can find, connect and hire talents,” Teddy adds. “The vision would be that five years from now we’ve created thousands of jobs through this platform. Whether the New Museum wants to find a new artist or a film production company is seeking a new director they can hire new talent from this platform, which includes individuals from the African continent as well as African Diaspora.”

“I just want to emphasize that this is not something that we can do by ourselves,” says Senay Berhe. “This is really a collaboration between curators and creatives” and a way for Africans to know what other fellow Africans are doing creatively across the continent.

Teddy Goitom and Senay Berhe at their workspace inside the New Museum’s incubator in New York. (Photograph: Tadias Magazine)

Senay was drawn to film at an early age, and remembers accompanying his uncle to weddings and being allowed to stand behind the camera while taping was in progress. He spent most of his days at his friend’s film school where he familiarized himself with editing tools in the multimedia labs and by age 14 he had decided that he wanted to be a filmmaker. Eventually he got an opportunity to work as a production assistant.

Teddy’s interest in film grew out of his work in photography and event production. In the late 90s he produced a music documentary series entitled Stocktown Underground after traveling to the United States, Australia, Japan and Brazil to document independent musicians and their efforts to remix music from different parts of the world. The series was released online in 2002 and broadcasted on TV in Sweden, Spain and Brazil. The DVDs are still selling in Japan as a collectors item.

“At the time Africa wasn’t on our radar,” Teddy says. “But after sharing Stocktown Underground with an online audience we saw the power of people connecting and discussing the creative work online, and we understood that there is a lot more content out there.”

The Afripedia film series and platform grew organically out of this initial experiment, and when YouTube was launched in 2005 Teddy and Senay realized that it would be an ideal platform to share film and moving pictures highlighting the African talent base.

“We were just a collective of artists trying to bring out new voices and we thought the Internet was the perfect way to do that. That’s actually when I got more interested in film and took it more seriously” Teddy shares.

With Afripedia, the co-founders chose to broaden their scope beyond music. “How about including the art scene, film, and what people are doing in the contemporary field in general?” they asked. They shared a Google document with fellow artists to get recommendations of individuals to network with. In 2010 they connected with a photographer who was documenting the fashion scene in Soweto and produced their first 30 minute pilot from South Africa. The pilot entitled Stocktown x South Africa was picked up by CNN and several online sites upon its release, and as interest in the film grew the project expanded to include additional series.

It’s an ambitious commitment to highlight the African creative marketplace, but the co-founders of Afripedia are inviting all Africans (both residing in the continent and in the Diaspora) to connect with each other. While in residence at New Inc. they are working on a business plan to identify funding and resources to develop and manage the platform, which they say will be curated in the first stage and transformed into an open-access site with minimal editorial control in the later stages.

“We want to change the perception that people have about Africa, and to make the creative scene more inclusive of these new voices” Senay says. Speaking of his friends in Sweden Senay adds, “A lot of my friends they have so little knowledge about what is happening on the continent.”

The Afripedia film series have been previously screened in Rio de Janeiro, London, Paris and Kigali as well as shown at the New York City Film Festival, Selam Festival in Addis Ababa, and at a cultural center in Lalibela, Ethiopia. They also recently launched the first virtual reality music video in Africa, which was shot in Addis Ababa for Ethiocolor Band and released on YouTube and via Android and Iphone apps.

The full version of Afripedia’s five episodes is scheduled to be released online on the new Afripedia platform in September 2016, and a few weeks from now, on November 15th, Afripedia’s co-founders will also be presenting the platform at a film and music festival at the National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York where artists featured in the series will be in attendance.

Watch: The first Virtual Reality music video in Africa, that was shot in Addis for Ethiocolor band

You can learn more about the project at and the New Museum incubator program (New Inc) at

The Ethiocolor 360 mobile App can be downloaded for Android and iPhone.

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Beteseb Painting Sessions in DC Catching On with Ethiopian College Students

Beteseb Art painting session in Washington D.C., Saturday, September 26th, 2015. (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, October 1st, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — For the past nine months an organization called Beteseb Art has been hosting weekly Saturday painting sessions for amateur artists at a small rental space on 18th street in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington D.C. The program was launched by Ethiopian artists Aleme Tadesse and Solomon Asfaw.

“I stopped in there last night quite randomly while looking for a place to eat in DC” one participant shared on Facebook regarding her discovery of Beteseb’s program. “$30 pays for a canvas, paint, wine, beer, snacks, use of easel, brushes, and apron. With lots of love and encouragement from organizing artists it looks like everyone was having a great evening and making great art.”

And neither do you have to be an artist to take part in the program. One of the regulars is Nathaniel Abebe, a Computer Science student and former President of the Ethiopian Students Association (ESA) at the University of Maryland. “For me it’s the quality of time spent and the kind of people that you meet here,” says Nathaniel who recently completed his first artwork at the gallery. Not having any prior experience in painting, Nathaniel enjoys the social aspect of the gathering. “Initially I brought my 13-year-old sister, who was visiting from Ethiopia over the summer, but eventually I got involved and now I am in charge of publicity, website, reaching out to students and the larger community.”

Founders Solomon Asfaw and Aleme Tadesse envisioned providing a “creative environment for individuals as well as groups” not only to create art, but to also jumpstart a movement for youth to spend their time in more rewarding ways.

“We are trying to redefine weekend pastime,” says Aleme Tadesse who leads the social painting sessions over wine and music targeting young people in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area. “You don’t necessarily have to go to a shisha bar to have a good time.”

The Beteseb evening program has become popular among local college students. When Tadias stopped by at last Saturday’s session the room was filled with University of Maryland Students including the current president of the Ethiopian Student Association at UM and her predecessor. Beteseb has likewise conducted more outreach and offered painting sessions at the annual Ethiopian soccer tournament. In the summer Beteseb offers two sessions from 11am to 2pm.

“The first painting session was held at the house of Nini Legesse, Founder of Wegene Foundation,” Aleme says. The program has now expanded to include weekend sessions from noon till 5pm for kids ranging in age between 3 to 18, and providing both supplies and “art-trained creative enablers” on hand to provide guidance and encouragement.

Below are photos from Beteseb Art’s painting sessions:

If You Go:
Beteseb Art Weekly Paint Session
Every Saturday: 7PM – 10PM
in Adams Morgan
2448A 18th Street, NW
Washington, D.C.

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The New York Times Review of Elias Sime’s Exhibit at James Cohan Gallery

Elias Sime’s “Tightrope 7,” a collage of reclaimed electronic components adorned with items such as buttons and batteries. (Credit Elias Sime and Adam Reich/James Cohan, New York / Shanghai)

The New York Times


Elias Sime Recycles Discarded Objects Into Abstract Works

Elias Sime, who is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, makes complex monumental art from tiny parts. His New York solo debut at James Cohan begins, in a side gallery, with things fairly conventional in format: paintinglike abstract pieces, stitched from yarn, of biomorphic forms in grays and browns. Work in the main gallery is, by contrast, larger, but incrementally composed, pieced together from individual blocks of dense patterning made with unusual material: braided and brightly colored electrical wiring, of a kind found in computers.

Mr. Sime (pronounced SEE-may) buys this and other electronic detritus — most of it shipped in bulk to Africa from elsewhere — in recycling markets in Addis Ababa. His use of it becomes spectacularly inventive in an enormous piece in the back gallery called “Tightrope 7.” Mr. Sime has said that the title refers to the precarious balance a city must maintain to survive and thrive, and “Tightrope 7” might be read as a bird’s-eye view of Addis Ababa, now in the midst of a disorienting transformation.

Read the full article at »

Elias Sime to Exhibit Latest Work at James Cohan Gallery in New York

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Shaken & Stirred by Beauty: Review of Awol Erizku’s New Flower (Addis Ababa) Exhibit

New Flower: Images of the Reclining Venus in NYC (Photo: Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, September 21st, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — Conceptual artist Awol Erizku’s New Flower: Images of the Reclining Venus exhibit, currently on display at The Flag Art Foundation in New York City’s Chelsea Gallery District, is his latest body of work challenging mainstream narratives and representations of beauty.

A few weeks prior to the opening of New Flower Erizku had posted Manet’s Olympia portrait on his Instagram account and shared “I’ve always had an issue with this painting.” Olympia had created controversy in its time primarily because the reclining nude in the portrait was a prostitute. The problem Erizku points to, however, is what Manet’s audience ignores — the side presence of the black servant bringing in flowers for the model. Where is the black beauty that is front and center in a work of art? That’s the central question that Erizku focuses on as he pays commercial sex workers in Addis Ababa to strike the same pose.

Climbing up the stairs to the 10th floor exhibition space one is greeted at the entrance with large-framed portraits of Ethiopian women, unconventionally nude, lying on beds that seem to take up the entire space of claustrophobia-inducing, minimally furnished hotel rooms.

Turning the corner and heading into the gallery’s main space pink neon lights burn on a wall emblazoning the words Addis Ababa in Amharic font — it’s the literal translation of the exhibit title, New Flower, which is also the name of Ethiopia’s capital city where Erizku traveled to and made these portraits in 2013. A mixtape co-produced with DJ SOSUPERSAM played during the reception highlights Ethiopian Canadian music sensation The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye) as well as songstress Aster Aweke. Across from the neon sign a table features copies of the exhibit press release and an elaborate flower arrangement — fresh flowers among the flowering beauty of Ethiopian reclining nudes.

Born in Ethiopia and raised in the Bronx Erizku seeks an alternate interpretation of the spaces that black bodies are allowed to inhabit in portraits. While his 2012 show at Hasted Kraeutler Gallery challenged Vermeer’s portrait, Girl with a Pearl Earring, with a photographic reinterpretation of an Ethiopian woman entitled Girl with a Bamboo Earring, his current exhibit focuses on introducing a more universal image of the reclining venus.

(New Flower. Photo: Flag Art Foundation)

Erizku’s reclining venus is a black beauty. In one portrait entitled Elsa an empty chair replaces the space where Manet’s black servant once stood bearing flowers; it’s an invitation for a visitor to enter the space, or perhaps to join and jumpstart a conversation on what is considered beautiful. The environment for this conversation is narrow, just like the windowless rooms that the nudes inhabit, but Erizku is pushing for this space to grow. Out of the thirteen images in the exhibit there is only one photograph of a room with its windows flung wide open, finally revealing a glimpse of the city’s scenery; the model in this portrait also appears more relaxed. It feels like a flicker of the artist’s hope for the acceptance and wider inclusion of universal blackness in modern art.

No matter how elegant a reclining pose the young Ethiopian models may hold, however, none of them are smiling. Their eyes are hauntingly sad; the girl in the portrait entitled Aziza looks downright bewildered. This is not an effort to make commercial sex work appear glamorous or a campaign for women’s sexual liberation; it’s impossible to brush away the harsh realities of their lives. According to the U.S State Department’s Trafficking in Persons report from last year cited in the exhibit’s press release “the central market in Addis Ababa is home to the largest collection of brothels in Africa, with girls as young as 8-years-old in prostitution in these establishments.” This is the untalked-of cost of rapid progress and globalization in Ethiopia’s capital city. And yet, to an Ethiopian audience, it is striking that the names of Erizku’s models (pseudonym or otherwise) are anything but gloomy: Desta (happiness), Tigist (patience), Zewditu (the crown), Worknesh (you are golden), Bruktawit (blessed), Aziza (cherished), Feker (love), and Meskerem (the month of September when Ethiopians celebrate the new year). Here again is beauty hidden in plain sight, the inherent royalty and humanity of the black model. The black servant does not exist in Erizku’s reconceptualization of the reclining venus and the girls’ names further nudge the windows open.

Erizku is not the first Ethiopian-born artist to photograph commercial sex workers in Ethiopia. In a 2011 interview with Tadias Magazine, award-winning photographer and artist Michael Tsegaye described how he spent close to two weeks “talking, eating meals together, drinking tea and coffee” with commercial sex workers in the Sebategna area of Merkato (known unofficially as the red light district) and spending time in the rooms where they live before photographing them. He noted that most of the commercial sex workers came to Addis Ababa from different towns across the country, lured as much by better financial prospects as the desire to remain anonymous in their line of work.

While Tsegaye spoke directly to commercial sex workers and took monochrome photographs of them in their natural setting, Erizku hired a translator to help him communicate with the girls — who themselves were selected by his assistant — as they agreed to recline in the nude in hotel rooms chosen by the artist. The walls of the rooms are painted in solid bright red, sunshine yellow, lime green or pastel baby blue colors and otherwise unadorned except for the jarring presence, in four of the portraits, of either a poster of a white Jesus or a westernized image of the Virgin Mary. Christianity was introduced in Ethiopia long before its advent in Europe and the walls and ceilings of ancient Ethiopian churches traditionally depict the Virgin Mary and her Son as well as angels more commonly with brown faces. In Erizku’s portraits one of the white Jesus posters contains a verse in Amharic stating: “For him who believes in me there is eternal life.” The masculine tone and non-black representation is out of place and in stark contrast to the models’ personal belongings including handmade wooden crosses in traditional Ethiopian design worn around their necks on black string. As much as this exhibit is about the status of blackness and interpretations of beauty in the art world, it is also about breaking cultural taboos and shattering globalized western narratives.

The day after the opening reception Erizku Instagrammed “I like making art that evokes an emotional response from people, I hope I was able to show you all something new & different.” Not only does Erizku share new images of the reclining venus but he is taking both the art and media establishments to task, shaking and stirring up a much-needed conversation about moving black bodies from the sides and bringing them to the foreground in modern art portraiture. Can we do this without slipping into simplified narratives that label the artist primarily as a “black artist” when he/she attempts such interpretations? That is the second challenge.

Erizku stirs in us the possibility to reconceptualize the space for black beauty in the new global art history being made. His work is soaringly hopeful and gut-wrenching in its honesty at one and the same time.

New Flower (Addis Ababa): Images of the Reclining Venus is on exhibit in New York City until December 12th, 2015.

If You Go:
The FLAG Art Foundation Presents
Awol Erizku: New Flower | Images of the Reclining Venus
from September 17 – December 12, 2015
545 West 25th Street, 10th Floor
New York, NY 10001
Tel (212) 206-0220

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Contemporary Design Africa Book Features Jomo Tariku’s Ethiopia Furniture

Ethiopian furniture by Jomo Design featured in the new book Contemporary Design Africa. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, June 11th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The newly released book, Contemporary Design Africa, includes a highlight of exquisite Ethiopia-inspired furniture designs and Berchuma collection by U.S.-based Ethiopian designer Jomo Tariku. The book, the first of its kind, features fifty artists from Africa and the Diaspora “all of whom are creating sophisticated and innovative products for interiors,” says the publisher Thames & Hudson.

Jomo’s products celebrate the traditional aesthetic of Ethiopian household items with modern design and artistic sensibilities. He told Tadias his designs are available for licensing and could be manufactured for any potential large orders and “the furniture pieces will look great inside one of the many lodges and hotels found all over Africa as well as any residences that want to have unique spaces.” Jomo currently works on graphic design at The World Bank Group in Washington, D.C.

The author of Contemporary Design Africa, Tapiwa Matsinde, is a British-born designer, creative business consultant, blogger and writer of Zimbabwean heritage. She has worked as a graphic designer and a brand guardian in corporate communications for leading international organizations.

“Dynamic, diverse, innovative: this is contemporary Africa, a continent where countless intricately layered stories abound,” Thames & Hudson said in a statement. “In the twenty-first century its designers are eschewing romanticised, clichéd interpretations of the continent’s creative heritage in favour of compelling visual narratives.” The publisher added: “Now in Contemporary Design Africa, author Tapiwa Matsinde captures the vitality and soulfulness shaping design from Africa in this first ever survey of the scene.”

Other designers featured in the book include the award-winning South African organization ZENZULU™, focusing on techniques used by Zulu master weavers; Cheick Diallo, who like many of the featured designers has a focus on sustainability; and Nigerian textile designer Banke Kuku, who “fuses African and Western styles in colourful, visually dynamic ways.”

The publisher notes that “Moreover, Contemporary Design Africa presents talent from lesser-known countries including Mauritania, Guinea and the DRC alongside countries – Nigeria, Morocco and South Africa – already making a definite mark on the global design industry.” In addition to Jomo, the Ethiopian textile company Saba Har ( is also showcased in the book under the fabrics section.

Thames & Hudson emphasizes: “Whilst contemporary art and fashion from Africa have gained widespread attention in recent years with several books published on these subjects, Contemporary Design Africa fills a large gap in the market. Revealing the rich possibilities being explored by a new generation of Africa’s creators, this is a comprehensive introduction and a source of inspiration for culturally curious designers, makers and interior enthusiasts everywhere.”

You can learn more about Jomo Design at And purchase the book at

Below are photos featured in ‘Contemporary Design Africa’ Courtesy of the publisher:

Review of ‘Long Ago and Far Away’: A Novel Set In Ethiopia by John Coyne

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Julie Mehretu: Multiple Identities

(Photo by Jean-Philippe Boucicaut)

NBC News


As a child, Julie Mehretu liked to make stuff.

“I was always…very interested in making, drawing and painting,” she said, “constantly.” But even as a young adult, she recalls, “I didn’t necessarily maybe know that I could have a life as an artist.”

In 2013 her painting “Retopistics: A Renegade Excavation” commanded $4.6 million at a Christie’s auction, ranking her among the top ten most expensive living female artists, according to art and literature website, Culture Type.

The daughter of an American Montessori School teacher and an Ethiopian college professor, Mehretu embodies multiple identities. She’s Ethiopian-American. She’s half black. She’s married to a woman. She’s a mother. And she’s a renowned artist. For Mehretu, making art, “is about trying to make sense of who you are,” she said.

Mehretu spent her early childhood in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Her parents planned to raise her there. But by 1977, she said, “Ethiopia really became a casualty of the Cold War.” So they left.

(Photo by Teju Cole)

They resettled in East Lansing, Michigan, where both her parents resumed teaching. Mehretu recalls that she was excited about coming to America, but she missed Addis Ababa, the place she knew as home. “I had this wonderful childhood there,” she said.

Mehretu is still close to her roots there. She proudly shared that some of her work hangs at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa.

Mehretu works primarily in abstraction. Her pieces are large scale as in 23 by 80 feet – about the size of a tennis court. They resemble networks of fast moving, interconnected and balanced galaxies. She lives and works in New York, along with her wife and two school age sons. She says, though, that New York is somewhat myopic.

Even at the forefront of contemporary art, Mehretu articulates a sense of challenge about being a black woman of African descent in the American art world. “I think it’s difficult for black artists still,” she says, “to work in languages where you’re not really talking about blackness.”

For Mehretu, the process of making art is one of self-discovery but she doesn’t force that discovery back into her work. Rather, what she makes is much more reflective of the world around her than of herself. “In Europe,” she says, “or in other places on the continent it’s more about what the work is and what the work is doing than who the artist is. That’s always, I think, where the conversation should be.”

Read more at NBC News »

Julie Mehretu Awarded 2015 Medal of Arts by U.S. State Department
American Artist Lecture: Julie Mehretu at Tate Modern in London
Julie Mehretu on Africa’s Emerging Presence in Contemporary Art

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Teddy Mitiku’s Saxophone Being Auctioned on Ebay

Album cover for classic recording of one of Teddy Mitiku's most beloved songs "Amalele." (Teddy's Mood)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Sunday, May 10th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — A saxophone that used be owned by legendary Ethiopian musician Teddy Mitiku is being auctioned on Ebay by his family. The instrument (Selmer Series III Alto Sax) is in “solid shape and was well cared for,” said the saxophone dealer coordinating the sale on behalf of Teddy’s widow.

Teddy who had lived in the United States since 1983 passed away in 2013 at the age of 58 after a long illness. He is survived by his wife of 22 years, Meaza Bezu, a daughter, Makeda, and his brother, the renowned singer-musician Teshome Mitiku.

“Teddy was a member of the legendary Soul Ekos Band—the first independent musical ensemble to be recorded in Ethiopia,” the announcement added. “He was also the cornerstone of many other famous bands formed in Ethiopia in the 1960s and ’70s. His instrumental renditions have been continuously popular. Teddy had a unique style beloved by Ethiopians. During his long career, Teddy performed with numerous top Ethiopian musicians, including the legendary singer Tilahun Gessesse, and the “father of Ethio-jazz” Mulatu Astatke. He was also a member of the Ibex Band, as one half of the group’s two-saxophone horn section on the classic Mahmoud Ahmed record Ere Mela Mela.”

The saxophone being sold, according to the dealer, was recently “disassembled, cleaned and adjusted in preparation for sale. The pads are old and while the horn is playing it is not up to its potential. You might be able to start swapping pads out one by one but really it needs a standard overhaul and it will be ready for years of serious use. You should plan at the least on having several pads changed and ideally have them all done. The tone is rich and full and will work well in a wide variety of playing situations. Classical players can use them but so can jazz and R+B players. Case is a black, hardshell contoured Pro Tec in good clean used condition.”

Below are photos of Teddy Mitiku’s Saxophone. You can learn more about the auction at

Teddy Mitiku’s Saxophone. (Photo: Ebay)

(Photo: Ebay)

(Photo: Ebay)

Video: Ethiopian Instrumental Music Teddy Mitiku (Amalele)

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The Nile Project in New York

The Nile Project performing at the Lincoln Center in New York on Thursday, March 19th, 2015. (Tadias)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

New York (TADIAS) — The power of music to unite people beyond borders was in full display in New York last week during the Nile Project’s unforgettable performance at Lincoln Center on March 19th and at Pace University’s Schimmel Center on March 20th.

The Nile Project is made up of over a dozen singers and instrumentalists from the Nile Basin countries. As the program notes the group “weaves together the deep grooves of Ethiopia with the Arab classical traditions of Egypt and Sudan, and the rarely heard music of Burundi, Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya.”

Ethiopian artists include Meklit Hadero, Selamnesh Zemene, Jorga Mesfin, Endris Hassen, Dawit Seyoum, Mekuanent Melese and Asrat Ayalew.

Below is an audio and photo slideshow of the concert at Lincoln Center:

Lincoln Center & Pace University Present The Nile Project in New York

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Lemma Guya: Strong at 87

Lemma Guya: "I am an African and my Africanness is uniquely rooted in my Ethiopianness." (Photo: AA)

Anadolu Agency

By Seleshi Tessema

ADDIS ABABA – Renowned Ethiopian painter Lemma Guya has just put the finishing touches on his goat skin-mounted portraits of the 53 African leaders who founded the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in 1963.

“I am an African and my Africanness is uniquely rooted in my Ethiopianness,” the 87-year-old Guya told The Anadolu Agency from his mansion-turned-gallery in Bishoftu, located some 40km south of Addis Ababa.

“Throughout my career I have shuttled between these two mutually complementary identities,” he added. “In my paintings I have tried to depict and narrate our acceptable and unacceptable traditions and lives.”

Maybe that’s why visitors to his mansion, which sits on 10,000 square meters of land, will find a yellowish bronze bust of a smiling Nelson Mandela, the late South African leader, as soon as they step into the place.

“Mandela is the most perfect embodiment of Africa’s rise,” Guya asserted. “He radiates dauntless moral courage, a peaceful transition of state power, equality, justice, inclusiveness and democracy.”

Guya traces Mandela’s story to Ethiopia, where the liberation icon received his first military training and his first handgun.

“This is why he stands here as a philosophical inspiration of my works and our lives,” he said.

The veteran painter, who looks much younger than his age, established his “African Art Museum” in 1983 inside his gallery.

“I wanted to make it an African visual art center of excellence,” he said. “But its fundamental objective was to initiate dialogue about African art with the aim of achieving Africa’s rebirth.”

“The then Organization of African Unity joined the vision and it was inaugurated by its then secretary-general, Ahmed Salim Ahmed,” Guya said.

Yet the pan-African body’s promises to financially support the center and turn it into a hub for African painters never materialized.

“I was disheartened by the backpedaling on promises. After years of waiting, I decided to go my way,” he said.

But despite the passage of years, Guya never forgot his artistic engagement with Africa.

“I have presented a project that aims to produce the portraits of the founding fathers of the African body on goat or gazelle skin,” he said.

The idea – along with some sample portraits – was well received by African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma in 2013.

In a hand-written note, she promised to stand foursquare behind the artist and his project.

“We are grateful for all the works of art you have produced in authentic African style for the history of Africa, the OAU and AU in a unique way,” Dlamini-Zuma wrote. “Our support is guaranteed.”

Guya has already completed the portraits to be displayed at the AU’s Addis Ababa headquarters.

Read more »

Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014

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Interview With Award-Winning Poet From Ethiopia Liyou Libsekal

Liyou Libsekal is a recipient of the prestigious Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2014. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Hasabie Kidanu

Published: Monday, December 15th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – Liyou Libsekal, a 24-year old Ethiopian-born poet is taking great strides in establishing herself as a prominent member of the new generation of African poets. There is no doubt writing is a natural outlet for Ms. Libsekal; her work is decked with traces of her “nomadic life so far and the growth and development that comes with it.” We enter Liyou’s world with Riding Chinese Machines: a dedication to the booming economic and physical transformations of her hometown Addis Ababa – a city swelling with construction, noise, asphalt roads, and congestion.

Riding Chinese Machines
There are beasts in this city
they creak and they crank
and groan from first dawn
when their African-tongued masters wake
to guide them lax and human-handed
through the late rush
when they‘re handled down and un-animated
still as we sleep, towering or bowing
always heavy
we pour cement through the cities
towns, through the wild
onwards, outwards
like fingers of eager hands
stretched across the earth
dug in

With a nostalgic tribute to what-once-was, she narrates her pilgrimage through dislocation, childhood, and tradition. Her techniques often vary – her poems are partly constructed in realms of fantasy and abstraction, and on the other hand, they open sensory valves with images so clear and realized we become full partakers of her stories. Her identity exists as an ongoing project, unconcluded, yet beautifully narrated, as a byproduct of things seen, overheard, spoken, and observed. Her work earned her the prestigious Brunel University African Poetry Prize 2014, an annual poetry award for the development and promotion of African poets.

TADIAS: First and foremost, congratulations on The Brunel University African Poetry Prize. Your poems have incredible sensory engagement, with such rich imagery that we partake in your world fully, and occasionally your work is abstractly delivered. Is that intentional? Are you always in negotiation between those two styles?

Liyou: I wouldn’t say it’s intentional, I’m still finding my voice so I tend to let things flow naturally. When I’m writing something I know how I want it to sound so I go off of that, I’m letting that be my guide, instead of any set intention.

TADIAS: You often write about “home” – its transformations, “poured in concrete” with “beasts” that “groan from first dawn when their African-tongued masters wake”– creating collage of a ever-forward moving city – do you ever get nostalgic about the Addis you and many of us grew up in?

Liyou: A lot of my childhood was spent outside of Ethiopia but Addis was always my family’s home base, so I do have a lot of memories of what the city was like before all this growth. To be honest, as happy as all those memories are, I don’t miss the old landscape because even though the city is somewhat chaotic right now, and everything is changing, it’s a moniker of progress. Living here, you see things change constantly and we’re moving so fast and people’s lives are improving and that’s more important than my memories of a less cluttered or chaotic city.

TADIAS: Any writing rituals?

Liyou: Not really, all I need is quiet and my laptop so I just need to isolate myself so I can write. If I’m having trouble writing I step away and clear my head, usually through meditation, just to find focus and clarity.

TADIAS: Are there things that are too personal to write about?

Liyou: I think everyone has things they many not want to address; I’m working on being as honest as I can with myself. I wouldn’t say there are things I wouldn’t write about because they’re too personal, just because I don’t have to show them to anyone but it’s a process. Being honest with ourselves and putting things on paper can be so powerful but it takes time and courage, it’s a work in progress.

TADIAS: Readers are one thing but family is a different audience – how has your reception been coming from a country where the Arts are somewhat underrepresented?

Liyou: I’ve had a lot of positive responses; it’s been great for the most part. I have talked to people who feel I should write in Amharic but considering my background, that’s not necessarily the best course of action for me; I couldn’t do that justice at the moment.

TADIAS: What/who do you think has had the most contribution to you becoming a great writer?

Liyou: I’ve always had really supportive people around me who value creativity and the arts. It has definitely been helpful to have encouraging people around me, people who are understanding about the fact that I might be off writing for a while and who give me room to do so.

TADIAS: In Hair (published below), a “black child in a white playground” where they “flock to touch a tamed head,” you tackle issues of identity and belonging – growing up, how were you able to negotiate your heritage in a world where you became a cultural ‘outcast’?

Liyou: It is difficult as a child to suddenly not know where you fit in your current world, it can cause a lot of different types of conflict, I touch on that a little bit in the poem. My parents were always very much involved in helping my sister and I understand our culture, we always traveled home when we could so we were never too far from where we came from; but at the same time, they understood our childhood was so different from theirs so they were also learning how to raise us in a new environment. I was very lucky to have parents that always gave me guidance but also let me make my own mistakes because it helped me figure myself out, where I stood and who I was in an otherwise undefined set of circumstances.

I left Africa carrying my skin
and my father’s thick ringlets
braids were for children,
tussled locks for grown women
eleven and unaware
a black child in a white playground
learns new words
girls flock to touch a tamed head
weaved by loving hands
and chemical cravings set in
It’s your crown says my mother
whose gorgeous mane gets wrapped tight
rolled ready for feverish waves
who convert to straight
what a word

About the Author:
Hasabie Kidanu covers arts and literature stories for Tadias Magazine. She is an artist and art historian living in New York City. Born in the United States, Hasabie was raised in Addis Ababa, where she attended Sandford International School. She is a graduate of The University of North Carolina where she studied Art History and French. She currently resides in Brooklyn and works in an art studio and as a freelance writer.

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In Ethiopia’s Capital, a Resurgent Jazz Scene

Fendika Azmari Bet in Addis Ababa. (Photo Credit: Nichole Sobecki for The New York Times)

The New York Times


On a recent Sunday evening, a stylish audience in their 20s packed Mama’s Kitchen, a wood-and-glass lounge on the fourth floor of an otherwise closed shopping center near the Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital. They were there to hear an adventurous young pianist, Samuel Yirga, as he careened between free jazz, études, R&B and the popular local style known as Ethio-jazz, a bewitching genre that fuses jazz with traditional Ethiopian music.

Mr. Yirga’s fingers flew across the keyboard, and the crowd nodded their heads reverently even through deep forays into dissonance. The musician’s intricate arrangements for his band featured psychedelic guitar lines and funky drumming, but the focus remained on the piano melody, which Mr. Yirga accentuated with the kind of ornaments and leaps characteristic of Ethiopian music.

“I think we Ethiopians love our own thing more than other things,” the dreadlocked 29-year-old, who has signed with Peter Gabriel’s Real World Records label, said before the concert. “We respect and love other cultures, but we love our own music, our own food, dance and clothes the most.”

Mama’s Kitchen is one of several venues featuring different jazz styles — from swing to acoustic, instrumental to free jazz — that have sprung up in the Ethiopian capital in recent years. The resurgent music scene is far from the only change occurring in this frenetic city of nearly four million.

Read more at NYT »

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A Video-Art Exhibition in Germany by Ethiopian Curator Meskerem Assegued

Curated by Meskerem Assegued the show at the Dresden State Art Collections museum in Dresden, Germany (October 17, 2014 to January 4, 2015) also features work by Ethiopian artist Abel Tilahun.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: October 1st, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – A video-art exhibition by Ethiopian anthropologist and curator Meskerem Assegued, Founder and Director of Zoma Contemporary Art Center in Addis Ababa, opens this month at Germany’s Dresden State Art Collections (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden) — one of the oldest museum and cultural institutions in the world. The show entitled “Curvature of Events” is an analysis of European art history as interpreted by contemporary video artists, including Ethiopian-born animator Abel Tilahun who teaches at American University in Washington D.C.

“The exhibition is a window into the way Renaissance, Baroque and Romantic artists depicted their society and how artists of our time interpret that perception relating it to the present,” the museum announced. “The curator’s selection and interpretation of the pieces is influenced by a different cultural background than the artists who created them. The curator invited three video artists to look at the selected works and to choose those that interested them most. The video artists used modern media to create a contemporary reaction to art from an earlier time.”

In addition to Abel Tilahun the other artists featured in the exhibition include Gunter Deller of Germany and Barbara Lubich from Italy. The museum notes that Meskerem came up with the idea for “Curvature of Events” during a visit to Dresden (sponsored in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut Sub-Sahara Africa) to do research and to develop a concept for an exhibition there. The video display is based on pieces she selected from the permanent collections at the Old Masters Gallery and the Albertinum dating from the mid-1500s to the early 1900s but excluding the last 100 years from 1914 to 2014.

Meskerem has worked with several prestigious art festivals including Venice Biennale (2007), Dak-Art Biennale (2004), as well as organizations such as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Santa Monica Museum of Art. “Meskerem Assegued’s curatorial career goes back over twenty years,” states the press release. “During the last sixteen years she has curated several exhibitions in Europe, Africa and North America. She is interested in contemporary artistic expressions that deal with historical and socio-cultural contexts. She believes all social issues are relevant everywhere regardless of socio-political, socio-economic and geographical differences.”

If You Go:
“Curvature of Events”
Baroque. Romanticism. Video
October 17, 2014 to January 4, 2015
Opening event: October 16th, 2014 at 7pm
Galerie Neue Meister, Albertinum
Dresden, Germany

Cover image: Courtesy of Meskerem Assegued

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Interview with Selam Bekele: Oakland’s Home Away from Home Art Project

Selam Bekele giving artist talk at the 'Home Away from Home' festival in Oakland, California last week. (Photo: Jon Teklai)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Tuesday, September 16th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – In a short, experimental film entitled Prince of Nowhere Ethiopian-born filmmaker Selam Bekele reflects on the exiled life and death of Prince Alemayehu Tewodros, the son of Emperor Tewodros II of Ethiopia. Alemayehu was taken prisoner by the British army in 1868 after his father committed suicide following the infamous Battle of Magdala. The child was initially accompanied by his mother, Empress Tiruwork Wube, but she died halfway through the trip. In England, the orphaned Ethiopian prince received some education under various caretakers and even briefly attended officers’ training at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He died of lung problems at the age of 18 on November 14th, 1879 and was buried outside Windsor Castle. Queen Victoria is quoted to have written in her diary noting the passing of Prince Alemayehu as “too sad.” Wiki adds: “She also mentioned how very unhappy the prince had been, and how conscious he was of people staring at him because of his colour.”

In her movie Selam holds an imaginary interview with Alemayehu before he dies in which she asks the prince about his feelings of being away from his family and country. “It’s mostly a conversation about displacement and how we continue to survive when we are away from home,” said Selam in an interview with Tadias Magazine. The aspiring filmmaker, who herself left Ethiopia at the age four in 1995, recently graduated in Communication & Film Studies from the University of California, Davis. “I was in London for the first half of this summer as part of my research and study abroad program and it was during this time that I rediscovered the amazing story of Prince Alemayehu,” she said. “I realized just how much I can relate to him as a person that left Ethiopia at a young age and kind of had to adopt to a new world. I kind of wanted to connect his story with the similarity of stories from the Diaspora today in regards to migration, relocation and adapting to a new society while maintaining our ties to our culture and history.”

Left: Prince Alamayou as a child – photo by Julia Margaret Cameron. Right: Alamayou in his teens in England – photo from Brotherton Library, University of Leeds.

Prince of Nowhere was screened last week in Oakland, California at the Home [away from] Home visual arts and music festival held in celebration of Enkutatash and featuring the works of several up-and-coming East African artists in Northern California including Ethiopian-born singer and songwriter Meklit Hadero, Eritrean American filmmaker Sephora Woldu, Ethiopian American musician Ellias Fullmore as well as Ethiopian painter Wosene Kosrof. The centerpiece of the week-long festivities in Oakland was a pop-up art installation in the form of a Gojo that was built by the artists and set-up on Lake Merrit. “You walk inside and you see the commissioned arts on display. It had an entrance door and the exit door is your way to the festival,” Selam said. “It was something that basically took the whole summer to organize. She added: “We found taxi cab stories from Ethiopian and Eritrean cab drivers. Basically we interviewed them and got them to tell us a bit of their stories. Then, we sent the stories to the artists to help them find some sort of inspiration based on the kinds of things the taxi drivers had shared and we made art out of it and each artist had their own interpretation.”

The outdoor event was attended by a diverse crowd of 300 to 400 people. “We attracted kids, elders, Ethiopians, Eritreans and members of the larger Oakland community,” she said.

As to her own film project, Selam notes that as part of her research she visited Alemayehu’s burial site at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and the major museums in London housing any information on Alemayehu, Tewodoros, and the 1868 British expedition to Ethiopia. “I got to see some incredible photographs of Alemayehu that were taken of him both alone and with his caretaker,” Selam said. “I use some of those images in my film.” Selam continued: “I found out that Prince Alemayehu was extremely homesick. They could not figure out what was really wrong with him, he had breathing problems that caused him to die at such a young age. I believe that his sadness contributed to his death,” Selam stated. “I was thinking that sadness, that feeling of emptiness, is easily relatable by those of us living in the Diaspora.” She added: “And his name Alemayehu is kind of ironic too, if you break it down Alem ayehu it means “I saw the world,” but in his case when you are forced or taken away without choice and not exactly for the best reasons, it has that ironic undertone. So I wanted to capture that in a modern, bright, experimental and artistic way, but at the same time save a piece of history.”

The film project came out of Selam’s study abroad experience: “I felt that we were not discussing enough when it came to some of the greater effects of the British Empire has had on the rest of the world and that conversation was kind of being left out. And that’s why I started to dig a little bit into what exactly was the historical relationship between Britain and Ethiopia?”

In addition to carrying off Prince Alemayehu, the British army employed elephants and hundreds of mules to transport royal loot of priceless Ethiopian treasures that to date remain unreturned. In an article published in 2007, BBC reported that “Many of them are still in Britain and the Queen has some of them – notably six of the very finest illuminated manuscripts, which are part of the royal collection in Windsor Castle.” The same article adds that “Ethiopia’s president has sent Queen Elizabeth II a formal request for the remains of a prince who died in Britain more than a century ago. The royal household at Windsor Castle, where Prince Alemayehu was buried, is said to be considering the request.”

That was seven years ago, but today Selam said she will be bringing her 18-minutes film to the East Coast this Fall “to keep the story alive” and hopes to screen in DC in late October and in New York sometime in November.

Below are photos from Oakland’s Home Away from Home Arts & Culture Festival:

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In Pictures: Ethiopia’s Thriving Art Market

Business and art are becoming increasingly entwined in the Ethiopian capital, but journalist James Jeffrey asks if this has come at a cost to creativity and true artistic experimentation. (BBC Africa)

BBC News

By James Jeffrey

Until recently the buying and selling of modern and contemporary art in Ethiopia was all but non-existent. The entrance to Makush Art Gallery & Restaurant in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, attests to how things have changed thanks to a burgeoning new art scene. Makush has about 70 artists on its books and a collection of more than 650 paintings from which customers can choose.

“Progress is just a miracle,” says Makush owner Tesfaye Hiwet, who began visiting his homeland after the 1991 revolution that brought down the Derg, Ethiopia’s communist-inspired military dictatorship. Mr Tesfaye remembers the sorry state of Ethiopia’s economy following 17 years of botched socialist economic policies: “After the Derg fell, there was not even toilet paper.” While living in the US, he opened a restaurant and nightclub in Washington DC, decorated with Ethiopian art sourced during his visits to Addis Ababa. After noticing the lack of galleries, he moved back 12 years ago.

Makush owner Tesfaye Hiwet. (BBC News)

Click here to see the rest of the photos at »

Ethiopia’s Emerging Art Scene Pits Creativity Against Profits

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Julie Mehretu Nominated for Smithsonian Contemporary Artist Prize

Julie Mehretu. (Photo: British Museum org)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – Julie Mehretu has been nominated for the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize. The Ethiopian-born artist is one of 13 “leading figures and visionary talents” selected from a diverse range including painters, sculptors, photographers, and filmmakers. The nominees include Njideka Akunyili, Cory Arcangel, Trisha Baga, Paul Chan, Barnaby Furnas, Theaster Gates, KAWS (Brian Donnelly), Josiah McElheny, Dave McKenzie, Frances Stark, Swoon (Caledonia Curry) and Mickalene Thomas.

Previously known as the Lucelia Artist Award, the prize was launched in 2001 “to recognize an artist younger than 50 who consistently demonstrates exceptional creativity.” The announcement from the Smithsonian American Art Museum adds: “Recipients must…stand apart as leading figures and visionary talents. The $25,000 award is intended to encourage the artist’s future development and experimentation.”

According to the Smithsonian “Joanna Marsh, The James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is coordinating the jury panel selection and the nomination and jurying process. Five distinguished jurors, each with a wide knowledge of contemporary American art, were selected from across the United States. The panel nominated the artists and will determine the award winner in a day of discussion and review, remaining anonymous until the winner is announced. Past jurors have included John Baldessari, Nicholas Baume, Lynne Cooke, Anne Ellegood, Richard Flood, Allan McCollum, John Ravenal, Jerry Saltz, Rochelle Steiner, Nancy Spector and Robert Storr, among others.”

The Smithsonian American Art Museum “celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station.”

American Artist Lecture: Julie Mehretu at Tate Modern in London
Julie Mehretu on Africa’s Emerging Presence in Contemporary Art

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Ethiopia’s Emerging Art Scene Pits Creativity Against Profits

A lunch crowd at Makush Art Gallery and Restaurant in Addia Ababa, popular with foreigners and tourists. (Photo: James Jeffrey)

Aljazeera America

By James Jeffrey

July 28, 2014

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Tesfaye Hiwet started visiting his homeland from the U.S. shortly after the 1991 revolution that brought down Ethiopia’s communist-inspired military dictatorship known as the Derg. One reason was to source art for his Washington-based restaurant and nightclub.

After noticing the lack of galleries in the Ethiopian capital, he moved back to Addis Ababa 12 years ago and opened the Makush Art Gallery and Restaurant, starting with a handful of artists. Nowadays, every wall in Makush is blanketed with vivid Ethiopian paintings depicting scenes ranging from monks praying in the dawn half-light to bustling markets and images of wide-eyed, elongated women.

Addis Ababa has an active art community that can benefit from the lucrative sales at Makush, which now has about 70 artists on its books and a collection of more than 650 paintings.

But not all the city’s artists want to get involved with Makush because of its unabashed commercial focus — at the sacrifice, they argue, of artistic merit. They worry the gallery represents an unfettered art market where lack of analysis and criticism can compromise artistic integrity, drive runaway prices and lead to the prevalence of mediocre art that doesn’t express the true range of artistic talent simmering away.

“Many artists are increasingly enticed to market-driven productions,” said Elizabeth Giorgis, an art historian and director of the Gebre Kristos Desta Center, a modern art museum in Addis Ababa. “The current Ethiopian art market has produced a dark side where prices are ineptly assessed and fixed at exorbitant prices that do not warrant the credibility or skills of the artists.”

But an emergent modern and contemporary art scene in energetic flux is a stark contrast from when Ethiopia had no market at all.

Read more at Aljazeera America »

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She’s Got A Perfect Afro — And A Melodious Vision For African Musicians

Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero shows off her guitar chops and her perfect afro. (Photo: Cody Pickens)



In February, Ethiopian-born singer Meklit Hadero was flying home from Uganda to the U.S. when her plane had to land unexpectedly near the Arctic Circle. It was so cold that to keep her fingers warm she put on oven mitts (decorated with an African print) that she’d bought to bring home.

A fellow passenger introduced himself: Leelai Demoz, he’s Ethiopian, too. He’d just finished co-producing Difret, a movie based on the true story of a 14-year-old Ethiopian girl abducted by a man who wanted to marry her; the girl shot him and was tried for murder.

Hadero and Demoz hung out, hoped to see the Northern Lights (no luck, it was foggy). By coincidence, a few weeks later, Hadero got a call from Lincoln Center to see if she’d sing at a screening of Difret.

So it’s a small world for global artists.

And that’s especially true for African musicians who’ve come to the West. They can get together and mix it up in diaspora more readily than on the continent, says Hadero, who left Ethiopia as a toddler in 1981 and now lives in the Bay Area. “There are 437 million people in the Nile Basin. There are all sorts of political tensions around how we share water,” she says. “There are barriers to getting to know each other. There’s not a lot of access.”

Her solution was to co-found the Nile Project, along with Egyptian ethnomusicologist Mina Girgis. They invite musicians from the 10 countries along the Nile River to play together and record an album. She was returning from a three-weeks session in Kampala, Uganda, when she had her Arctic detour.

Back home, Hadero talked about her music, how the Nile Project has changed it — and what it’s like to be compared to Joni Mitchell. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Read the interview at NPR »

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Grammy-nominated, Singer/Songwriter Wayna Returns to the Blue Note NYC

Wayna (Woyneab Wondwossen) is an Ethiopian-born, Grammy-nominated R&B singer. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) – “I’ve always been a bit of an expat,” says Grammy-nominated, Ethiopian-born, singer/songwriter, Wayna, who is scheduled to perform at the Blue Note in New York on Monday July 21st. Wayna is currently promoting her latest album The Expats. The CD, which The Washington Post calls “brilliant,” is a fusion of diverse genres of world music including Rock, African, Reggae, Soul and R&B sounds.

“I want this album to be about exploring and expressing all the ways in which I and every one of us are unique, culturally or otherwise, and to celebrate those differences unapologetically,” she adds. “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”

If You Go:
Wayna at the Blue Note
Monday, July 21st, 2014
Showtime: 10:30PM
Doors Open at 9:45PM
131 West 3rd Street
New York, NY 10012
Telephone: 212-475-8592

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Ethiopian Film ‘Asni’ to Screen in Washington, DC – July 19th and 20th

The late artist Asnaketch Worku is the subject of the new film "Asni." (Photo: Courtesy the filmmakers)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Friday, July 11th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — The new documentary Asni: Courage Passion & Glamor in Ethiopia (directed by Rachel Samuel and edited & co-produced by Yemane Demissie), which chronicles the life and times of Asnaketch Worku, one of the most talented and controversial performing Ethiopian artists of her time, will screen at the Washington DC Jewish Community Center on Saturday, July 19th and Sunday July 20th.

Per the director: “When I was a 4-year old kid in Addis Ababa listening to my father’s radio I heard a singer who mesmerized me. In an unknowing visceral response, Asnaketch Worku took root in my soul. Decades later it was an almost pre-destined privilege to direct a documentary on this extraordinary artist who is as much a cultural icon to Ethiopians as Billie Holiday is to Americans and Edith Piaf to the French. Asnaketch lived her life on the edge of her artistry, over the edge of her passions. But to separate Asnaketch from the social and political climate of conservative Ethiopia, particularly in 50’s and 60’s was impossible. Artists in that time were looked down upon, called derogatorily, Azmari, which the church deemed as “…those not going to heaven.” So this doc is as much about my country, my music, my culture as it is about this original being, Asnaketch, who is a substantive part of the fabric of Ethiopia, past and present.”

The film is also scheduled be screened at Africa World Documentary Film Festival in Bellville, South Africa (July 28-August 2, 2014), London, UK (August 30-September 9, 2014) and Kingston, Jamaica (October 2-5, 2014).

In a recent interview with Tadias Magazine Rachel Samuel shared that the movie took a little over four years to complete. “Asnaketch revealed herself slowly as we got to know each other over the years,” Rachel says. “And once trust was established, to get the best of her took a few interviews.”

Below is the trailer:

Asni Documentary from Samuel Overton Photography on Vimeo.

If You Go:
‘Asni’ Screening
Washington DC Jewish Community Center
Saturday & Sunday 19th & 20th of July
Time: 3pm and 5pm
1529 16th Street NW, Washington DC 20036
Theatre J
More info at:

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Ethiopian Pianist Girma Yifrashewa at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Club

Pianist and Composer Girma Yifrashewa (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, June 28th, 2014

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — Ethiopian pianist and composer Girma Yifrashewa will celebrate the release of his new solo piano album, Love and Peace, with a live performance on July 30th at Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club in Bethesda, Maryland.

Girma’s latest album was recorded last year in Brooklyn, New York.  Released by the Unseen Worlds record label, the CD features Girma’s arrangement of The Shepherd with the Flute — a short reflective and romantic piece originally composed by the late Professor Ashenafi Kebede — as well as his own compositions based on traditional Ethiopian melodies, such as Ambassel, Chewata, Sememen, and his favorite Elilta.

Following his debut New York appearance at the Issue Project Room in Brooklyn on June 8th, 2013, The New York Times described Girma as offering “a rare and fascinating example of aesthetic adaptation and convergence.”

“Born 1967 in Addis Ababa, Girma Yifrashewa combines the ecstasy of Ethiopian harmony with the grandeur of virtuoso piano technique into an effortlessly enjoyable mixture,” the press release states. “Trained in Bulgarian conservatory, the Royal Academy of Music in London, and the Hochschule fur Music Und Theater in Leipzig as a highly accomplished performer of classical repertoire, Yifrashewa has chosen to remain in Ethiopia, helping to forge a classical tradition for his country. Currently Yifrashewa works to promote Ethiopian and Classical Music by touring throughout Africa and Europe.”

If You Go:
Girma Yifrashewa in Bethesda, Maryland
Bethesda Blues and Jazz Supper Club
July 30, 2014
7:30PM / $15
7719 Wisconsin Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
Tickets at:

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New York Exhibition of Recent Works by Awol Erizku (June 19 – August 15)

Awol Erizku, 26, is an Ethiopian-born artist who grew up in New York. (Photo: Hasted Kraeutler Gallery)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Friday, June 20th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — An exhibition of new photographs, sculptures and installations by Awol Erizku opened yesterday at Hasted Kraeutler gallery in New York. The show entitled The Only Way Is Up runs through August 15, 2014.

Born in Ethiopia in 1988 Awol Erizku, who grew up in the Bronx, received his B.A. from The Cooper Union college in 2010, and completed his M.F.A from Yale in 2014.

“Awol Erizku is a cultural collagist, a creative synthesizer bridging eras and cultures, unifying the vocabulary of the art-elite and the New York City streets, the high and the low, the past and a very singular present, The Only Way is Up, takes its title from a Quincy Jones record he often listened to with his parents as a child—an album whose message was to empower and uplift,” states a press release from Hasted Kraeutler gallery. “Although Erizku’s work abounds with signifiers and indicators of African American culture, it speaks more broadly to a universal quest for self-discovery.”

Paramount among Awol’s interests, the gallery notes, “is the re-contextualization and re-purposing of ready-made objects—especially those vested with powerful associations or connotations. Like a contemporary anthropologist, he prowls the urban landscape of his daily life for items and materials that speak to him, procuring vintage T-shirts, used records, or even plastic bags of recycled soda cans—keeping his eyes open for things other people might disregard. He then subverts their expected function making them his own.”

The press release adds: “Erizku’s works are shaped by similarly timely uses of contemporary lexicon. Featuring an irregular square of synthetic black leather hung on the wall, which serves as a sort of canvas for evidence of Erizku’s urban wanderings, an old Michael Jackson record is juxtaposed with the word “#TRILL”—a combination of the words “True” and “Real”—written in neon. In another, a tourist-gift-shop style Obama T-shirt is placed in dialogue with “#WAVY.” Both words are evocative of an urban vernacular that describes a state of euphoria, and, when viewed in the context of the cultural and political icons Erizku has placed them with, they produce a compelling, unexpected harmony.”

If You Go:
Awol Erizku: “The Only Way Is Up”
Hasted Kraeutler Gallery
537 West 24th Street
New York, NY 10011
Show ends on August 15, 2014
Phone: 212 627 0006

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2014 Skoto Gallery Summer Show Features Work by Wosene Kosrof

Berkeley, California-based painter and mixed-media artist Wosene Kosrof is best known for his work that incorporate Amharic alphabetic characters into his prolific compositions. (Photo credit: Alan Bamberger)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, June 20th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — The 2014 Summer Show at Skoto Gallery (one of the first contemporary African art galleries in the United States), which opened on Thursday, June 19th, features selected works by a diverse group of international artists, including Ethiopian-born painter Wosene Kosrof.

Wosene, who was raised in Ethiopia but has lived in the United States for over 30 years, uses Amharic scripts as a foundation in his playful signature compositions that he calls “Fidel Chewata.” Wosene’s works are inspired by “movies, bookstores, photography, landscape, fashion, colors, conversations,” he says. “I am a loner so listening to jazz, sitting at cafes, watching street lights, people, car movements, all give continuous formation to my paintings.”

The Skoto exhibition highlights fifteen additional artists: Ade Adekola, Obiora Anidi, Ifeoma Anyaeji, SoHyun Bae, Uchay Joel Chima, Sokey Edorh, Diako, Peter Wayne Lewis, Aime Mpane, Ines Medina, Chriss Nwobu, Pefura, Piniang, Ines Medina and Juliana Zevallos.

If You Go:
Summer Show 2014
June 19 – July 31, 2014
529 West 20th Street,
New York, NY 10011
Gallery Hours
Tuesday to Saturday
11 AM – 6 PM
212-352 8058

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Kibrom’s Tizita: Fusion of Ethiopian Folk with Jazz and Gospel Sounds

Musician Kibrom Birhane. (Photograph courtesy Tsehai Records)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, June 16th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Learning how to play the krar, a five stringed traditional Ethiopian lyre, at age 8, Kibrom Birhane found himself enthralled by Orthodox chanting. “Always it moves me when I hear music,” he says. And from that time on he knew he wanted to pursue a career in music. Kibrom eventually began teaching piano to other students for about three years before receiving a scholarship to attend the Los Angeles College of Music where he developed a passion beyond Ethiopian folk music, and became a songwriter and composer focusing on the fusion of Ethiopian folk with jazz and gospel sounds. His debut album entitled ‘Kibrom’s Tizita’ was recently released by Tsehai Records, a new division of Tsehai Publishers. Kibrom describes his new album as “an exploration of Ethiopian heritage through folk and pop music with a jazz backbone.”

Kibrom is also a record and mixing engineer and says he “learned to play all of these different roles over time, and with that came new innovations” in his music and sound. His solo pieces are among his most personal works, and Kibrom shares that they are “an expression of what I feel at the moment. I don’t study or learn solos; I just play them.”

Kibrom hopes to reach the younger generation with his music. He sees the power of fusion as a way to expose individuals to Ethiopian music while adopting a style that is already familiar to them (such as jazz). Kibrom has already garnered some success including writing the score for the documentary film ‘Sincerely Ethiopia,’ singing in the award-winning documentary ‘Get Together Girls,’ and composing music for the documentary on the African Union’s 50th year celebration.

“The raw sincerity of Birhane’s music seeks to make strong connections with listeners as they are transported on a musical journey. And a journey it is – Kibrom uses Ethiopian scales, which are rarely heard in Western music. The distinct nature of these scales makes for hypnotic listening,” states Tsehai Records.

Watch: Zelesegna : ዘለሰኛ/ by Kibrom Birhane

Watch: Kibrom Birhane – Broken But Beautiful

For more information please visit, or email at Kibrom’s CD is also available on iTune , Amazon, Google Play and Rhapsody.

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Hyundai USA Releases World Cup AD “Epic Battle” Video by Wondwossen Dikran

Hyundai U.S.A 2014 FIFA World Cup AD featuring Work by Wondwossen Dikran. (Courtesy photograph)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, June 14th, 2014

New York (TADIAS) — Hyundai USA has released its latest Because Fútbol 2014 FIFA World Cup AD video featuring work by Wondwossen Dikran of Activator Pictures, who is one of two Ethiopian artists recruited to work on the project by Associate Creative Director David Mesfin. The video entitled “Epic Battle” highlights some amazing freestyle soccer by amateur players from Southern California. “They were all young, full of energy and totally devoted to the sport,” Wondwossen told Tadias Magazine.

Watch: Hyundai | 2014 FIFA World Cup™ | Because Fútbol | “Epic Battle” (Hyundai USA)

David Mesfin: 2014 Hyundai FIFA World Cup Ad Features Work by Ethiopian Artists

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In Pictures: The Changing of Ethiopia By Photographer Michael Tsegaye

(Photographs: By Michael Tsegaye)

The New York Times


May 12, 2014

Change is the one constant in Michael Tsegaye’s photographs.

Over the last 16 years, he has been making pictures of rural and urban Ethiopia as his homeland transforms itself. He captures sweeping panoramas, of markets springing up along newly built roads, or small details, like the cracked images on gravestones being moved to make way for development, or the rapidly disappearing communities in Addis Ababa that have been gentrified with new high-rises.

The latter forms the core of “Future Memories,” a series he started eight years ago, when architect friends gave him a heads-up on old neighborhoods about to be steamrollered.

“I know the city is going to be different in 10 years,” Mr. Tsegaye said in a Skype interview. “It’s going to be a memory for me, these pictures. You know the saying, ‘You don’t know what you have until it’s gone’? That was in my mind when I took these pictures. I tried to work with that.”

Read more and view the photos at NYT.

Tadias Q & A With Photographer Michael Tsegaye: Addis Ababa’s Red Light District

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‘Difret’: Audience Reaction at 2014 New African Films Festival (Video)

At the 2014 Annual New African Films Festival in Silver Spring, Maryland. (Image courtesy: Tsedey Aragie)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

Washington, D.C. (TADIAS) — During the Q&A session at the 10th Annual New African Films Festival — that was held at the AFI Silver Theatre in Silver Spring, Maryland this past weekend — filmmaker Zeresenay Mehari and producer Mehret Mandefro, fielded questions regarding their award winning movie Difret, including how they came across the epic story. Zeresenay shared that in 2005 he had met Meaza Ashenafi’s brother at a dinner where he heard about his sister.  Zeresenay recalled being told “you should make a movie about my sister.”

“Yeah, I laughed about it and then I typed up her name and a thousand pages came up.” He added: “And what she was able to [do] in Ethiopia at that time blew me away. And I wanted to meet her and I asked to meet her, and a couple of months later we met. She was very skeptical that a man, an Ethiopian man at that, wanted to do a story about women’s issues.”

Difret, which won the World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, narrates the true story of a teenager who was a victim of telefa (the archaic custom of marriage by abduction in Ethiopia) and later gained public attention when she was arrested and charged with murder for the killing of her abductor. The girl’s subsequent acquittal on the grounds of self defense is owing not in small part to the courageous and tireless effort of the now legendary lawyer Meaza Ashenafi.

“Bringing this issue of gender to the surface and making a difference in Ethiopian law is really very important,” said Martha Negash, an audience member and a former law school classmate of Meaza, emphasizing that she’s proud her friend’s work.

“I have a lot of respect for Mehret and Zeresenay for choosing to really talk and discuss in detail about women’s issues,” shared Dr. Menna Demessie. “Of all the films they could have made to make a film about the struggles of young women in Ethiopia, while also being very sensitive to the culture and tradition, I really respect them for that.”  Menna added: “First of all its based on a true story, so the fact that there is success or light at the end of the tunnel is key to the fact that there are women who against all odds are still fighting on behalf of other young women and willing to put themselves at the forefront of these issues that I find very empowering.”

Among those who watched the film included Ambassador Imru Zelleke, “Very well done,” he noted. “Both from the technical point of view and the history reflects the present day Ethiopia with all its contradictions between the old and new. It was marvelous, a first class job.”

Asked to name additional social subjects that he would like to explore in future cinema projects, Zeresenay told Tadias that he is interested in tackling immigration. “I want to talk about that,” he said. “I also have a story that I wanted to do about human trafficking and prostitution. That’s an issue that is affecting us a great deal.” He cautioned: “Of course, they are far away from being full conceptualized works.”

Mwiza Munthhali, Public Outreach Director of Trans Africa, and one of the presenters of the New African Films Festival, stated that compared to when they first started showing at AFI Silver Theatre nearly a decade ago, the number of films shown at the annual festival has doubled with 18 African motion pictures curated from all parts of the continent making their debut in 2014. “The number of films to choose from has also expanded stupendously in the last ten years,” Munthhali said.

Below is Tadias Magazine’s video coverage of the event by Tsedey Aragie.

Tadias Interview with Zeresenay Mehari & Mehret Mandefro
‘Difret’ Wins Panorama at Berlin Film Festival
Ethiopian film confronts marriage by abduction (BBC)
‘Difret’ Wins World Cinema Dramatic Audience Award at Sundance Festival
Tadias Interview with Filmmaker Yidnekachew Shumete

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10 Arts and Culture Stories of 2013

(File images)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Published: Sunday, December 29th, 2013

Kelela- Underground Queen

This past October, The Guardian dubbed Ethiopian-American musician Kelela Mizanekristos as “one to watch.” She recently released her first mixtape, Cut 4 Me, on the Los Angeles-based Fade to Mind record label. In her interview with Billboard Kelela shares that “with the mix tape I was presenting you with ideas. I presented the idea and then I let it go a little bit. I wasn’t trying to make every song an epic pop radio hit.” But for her upcoming album she says “I’d like to take it further. I want to make it so that every song is super, ultra epic and there are a million interludes.”

Kelela (Courtesy photo)

I was immediately drawn to Kelela’s music. Her sound is as effortless and distinct as her look. I can’t wait to see her music videos that will capture her beautiful face and will elevate her music. You can hear all of her songs here until then:

Sheba Film & Arts Festival- 10 Years Strong

At the 10th anniversary celebration of the Sheba Film Festival on June 22, 2013. (Tadias Photographs)

That Sheba Film Festival has survived ten years in New York City where there are film festivals all year round bewilders me. It’s a testament to its uniqueness. The annual event also highlights works by local Ethiopian artists. Throughout the years, I have seen Ethiopian films at the festival that I would have never had a chance to see anywhere else on the big screen. As the Ethiopian film world continues to grow I look forward to the expansion of Sheba Film Festival throughout the U.S. More info here:

Nishan- A Young Woman’s Twisted Journey

Poster for the movie Nishan. (Photo by Matt Andrea)

When I sat down to ask Yidnekachew Shumete, the director of Nishan, about his inspiration for the film, I was surprised to find out that he didn’t have a woman in mind for the lead. However, it was inspiring to see a brave, complex female lead in an Ethiopian film. After being selected to participate in workshops during the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, Yidnekachew presented Nishan at the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (FESPACO) – the largest film festival in the African continent – before screening it at various international locations including at the Seattle International Film Festival and in New York City. I truly enjoyed watching all of the multi-dimensional characters as the story slowly unfolded in great suspense. It was one of the most well-made Ethiopian films I’ve seen in a long time. Watch the trailer here.

Aida Muluneh – An Eye for Beauty

I’ve been following Aida’s work for many years. This past year her solo show So Long A Letter in Addis Ababa was based on the groundbreaking novel by the Senegalese writer, Mariama Ba and combined mixed media with photography. “In a sense it was my ‘So Long Letter’ to all the women in the country who often go unrecognized or are under-appreciated in our society,” Aida says. “I have always loved the book and the fact that it was written in a letter format.” You may get a glimpse of her work here.

Mizan Kidanu- Embodied Simplicity

Sometimes bluesy, sometimes jazzy and always soulful Mizan’s voice leaves you wanting more. There is a certain warmth that she brings to every song and an honesty in her lyrics that demands your attention. I look forward to what the future holds for this young songstress. I am mesmerized with the simplicity of this song and video.

Deseta- When Old Meets New

Design by Maro Haile. (Image courtesy of the artist)

I am hooked. For months, I’ve been sending cards with the recognizable Ethiopian imagery in bright colors for any possible occasion. Maro Haile’s paintings have been slowly flowing into her design work. “I am creating new and unique designs that touch on our rich Ethiopian design heritage but also with a universal appeal,” she says. “This process has been exciting, challenging, nerve-wracking and quite rewarding.” I am in love with Deseta, I can’t help it. Get hooked here:

Kenna- Gap #MakeLove

Ethiopian-American Musician Kenna & actress Beau Garrett Gap AD.

It feels great to see Kenna’s handsome face plastered all over New York City next to model and actress Beau Garrett. Both of them have been involved in making a difference in response to the global water crisis. Advertisement at its best.

Munit+Jörg – When Ethiopia meets Germany

Munit and Jorg performing live at Silvana in Harlem, NYC on July 12, 2013 (Photographs: Tadias)

Munit simply enjoys herself on stage and immediately pulls the audience into her music with her playfulness, but also her exceptional range. With the rather laid back and introverted Jörg, they make the best duo on stage singing in Amharic and English. Their long awaited album has something for everybody:

Yityish Aynaw – Miss Israel in 2013 is Ethiopian!

It was so beautiful to see Yityish win Miss Israel 2013. To be recognized, to be seen and celebrated as a black woman in today’s world is a big deal. Hailing from Netanya, Yityish, or Titi as she is popularly known, is using her new fame to bring attention and resources to the children in her hometown, and building an arts community center that will help the children “learn what they shown interest in, whether it’s dance or music.”

Anthm – Handful of Goodness

Anthm cover 1
Anteneh Addisu aka ANTHM. (Photo: Supermegatrend)

For Anthm (aka Anteneh Addisu) 2013 was really a busy year, dropping two albums. Produced by Blu, A Handful Of Dust reminds me of what Hip-Hop used to be and is an instant classic. His second album The Fire Next Time, whose name derives from a James Baldwin book title, experiments with different styles. It shows you can’t put him in a box, and for that I salute him! Listen to his music here:

Tadias Year in Review: 2015 in Pictures
Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2015
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Ten Arts & Culture Stories of 2014
Tadias Year in Review: 2013 in Pictures
Top Ten Stories of 2013

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Tadias Interview With Musician Mizan Kidanu

Mizan Kidanu working on her music. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Heran Abate

Updated: Friday, November 8th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – The most striking thing about Mizan Kidanu, as I discovered soon after we sat down for this conversation, is her frankness about her creative journey in a fickle industry. Songwriter and artist, Mizan makes the type of music that is self-declaratory with an imposingly rich voice, scant in glitz yet decadent in the exploration of human emotion. I was compelled to discuss her music with her not only because I relate to it, but also to investigate what allowed her to make the leap of faith to pursue music as a career. I would soon learn that my approach needed some fine-tuning: a leap of faith implies a lone and momentary act of bravery, white heat of passion, starry-eyed certainty looking into the future.

Yet, Mizan’s account of moving to New York City two years ago to court her craft implies that ‘leap of faith’ does not have the consummate relief of being momentary, it is more of a sweeping undertaking to nurture embryonic wings into a tenacious wingspan. Her choice of relocation after graduating from college in Delaware was decisive in that it exposed her to whole ecosystems of musicians and showed her, from the benefit of other artists’ experiences, that talent is not the prerequisite of success. As in, establishing music as a career is not just about creating the music, it requires the business savvy to run a one-woman show however long it takes to delegate management and operations.

Interestingly, the unflinching consent to her trade does not leave evidence of strain or exhaustion on her music. In fact, it sounds as effortless as if she sat down at her piano and recorded in one go. Rather than frustrate her expression, the anxious and urgent call manifests itself as an element turned into art, a feeling that she simulates beautifully through jarring acoustics and abstract lyrics. For one, the title of her upcoming EP, Dark Blue, is a telling description of her music personified in a color. Ethereal and nuanced, dark if for no other reason than it is a deep-sea exploration of a shared human experience of ebbing and flowing emotions that are hidden under the surface of every day life.

She is versatile, spanning from free-styled covers of songs like “Crazy” by Cee-Lo Green, which to date has garnered upwards of 34,000 hits on YouTube, and original, more melancholy ones like “No Fool,” the first track on her new album. A number of record companies have been quick to take notice of the essential common denominator of her music, her singular voice adorned only by the elegance of visual and aural simplicity. So too have artist collectives and musical news outlets that have called her in for interviews. Back in April 2013 she won first place at Amateur Night at the Apollo for a sultry and resplendent cover of “Ain’t No Sunshine”.

Offstage, her community of friends who are filmmakers, illustrators and digital engineers enable the signature simplicity of her videos and crisp quality of her music’s sound engineering. This availability of in-kind resources, of valuable equipment and skill from her friends’ respective artistic endeavors, seams together an audiovisual experience that she invites her listeners into. The multiplicity of venues where she can perform in real-time and virtual social media outlets enable a feedback loop for her to grow in dialogue with her audience. In a word, New York City and the Internet provide a means to participate in a diversified economy built around a circulating production and consumption of music.

This is notable not least because the availability and establishment of such opportunities is just budding in the homeland. For the time being, Mizan’s career choice is to remain in the United States to develop her skills and market. Both the decision and its byproduct have received some criticism and concern at home. Popular wisdom has it that unless you study law, medicine or engineering, you are not quite fulfilling your duty to the development of your country. There is, of course, a certain irony in being a people whose celebratory heritage is rich with music and poetry where there is a taken-for-granted understanding that the culture will produce itself.

Perhaps the scorn is targeted more at the allocation of financial resources to the production of culture, a ‘secondary’ priority where primary ones like public health and education abound. While Mizan acknowledges the gravity of tangible contributions to development, she asserts that it is not mutually exclusive to the progress of culture. As she puts it, “just because it doesn’t solve world hunger, it doesn’t mean that it’s not a valuable pursuit”. One could add that, from an archival standpoint, a past moment in time is untouchable through the head-on lens of history. Conversely, art, music in this context, entices us to perceive time-specific essence indirectly by way of all our senses. What better way to mark moments in the course of societal progress?

Responsibilities to the homeland considered, Mizan points out that realizing a professional vision in the U.S. entertainment industry has its own challenges, namely resisting the ready-made molds that promise an incomplete success. She credits her Ethiopian upbringing for exercising the foresight to opt out of the waylaying frivolity in her trade. Ultimately, she admits that no obstacle course is more potent than self between her and her quest to “sing about the human condition, to reach people in their solitude.”

It is this very journey of exploring and mastering self that becomes the stuff of her music. No song is more indicative than “Anxious”. Through this latest single, she takes a taxing emotion, anxiety, and wraps it around bars and a vision to make something you can dance to. It marks the indecisive beat between a strident step in one direction and another. It shows vision frustrated by the subtle differences between the grays, the black and white; the whole picture is not revealed to you at once, it comes in flashes, blurs of a monochromatic optical illusion. Call it the practice of deliberate and resolute expression where uncertainty is the overwhelming principle. It is a slice of subjective reality that may just reflect your own.

Watch: Mizan – Anxious

Photographs: Mizan Kidanu at work and play. (Photos courtesy of the artist)

About the Author:
Heran Abate is a creative non-fiction writer. Born and raised in Ethiopia, she recently graduated from Wesleyan University where she studied Sociology and Hispanic Cultures and Literatures. She chronicles her own generation, the Millennials, for Tadias Magazine.

Yohannes Aramde’s Bona Fide Step by Heran Abate

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8 Ethiopian Artists Bringing East Africa to the Future (MTV)

The following list isn’t a top ten of the most famous groups. It’s meant to be more of a smorgasbord where you can taste the different kinds of artists making music in Ethiopia and its diaspora today. (MTV)


By Marlon Bishop

Electrified lyres. Auto-tuned vocal acrobatics. Undulating digital synths. Extremely funky dance moves, all happening above the shoulders. Those are just a few of the awesome things to expect when you go to see an Ethiopian pop music concert in 2013.

African pop music is steadily gaining exposure abroad as Nigerian afrobeats take over Europe, azonto goes viral and South African rappers get big record deals. Yet up in the Northeast corner of Africa, nothing of the sort is happening. The modern music of Ethiopia is very little known outside the country and its diaspora. That’s a shame, because Ethiopian music is amazing and sounds like nothing else on the continent — or in the rest of the world, for that matter.

If Ethiopia sounds different from the rest of Africa, that’s because the country is pretty different. It was the center of some of Africa’s most powerful historical empires, home to one of the world’s oldest Christian communities, and the only African territory (other than Liberia) to stay independent through the colonial era. Ethiopian languages are written in their own cool-looking alphabet. Culturally, it’s long been influenced by the Middle East, North Africa and the Indian Ocean as well as the rest of Africa. Chances are you’ve tried that spongy injera bread once or twice.

Most people familiar with Ethiopian music know it for the “ethio-jazz” sound which thrived in 1970s Addis Ababa, during the final years of Emperor Haile Selassie’s reign. Musicians like Mulatu Astatke took American jazz and soul and refashioned it with the eerie, ancient-sounding pentatonic scales of Ethiopian traditional music, with swinging results.The sound has made popular abroad by the 28-disc Ethiopiques series put out by the French Buda Musique label over the last decade. Ethiopiques piqued the interest of beatniks the world over and has inspired a number of revivalist groups, like Daptone Records‘ Budos Band.

While bands in New York and Tokyo relive the 1970s, Ethiopia has moved on to make pop music for the present day. Those same ancient scales and melismatic vocals are there, but instead of jazz, the tracks are influenced by tinges of synthy funk, reggae and R&B. It’s a sound that was developed to a large degree by a guy named Abegaz Shiota, a Japanese-Ethiopian producer who has cut records for virtually every major Ethiopian pop singer over the past few decades. For much of that time, Shiota worked out of the Ethiopian community in Washington DC, where the music scene largely relocated during the military dictatorship years of the 70s and 80s.

“There’s a really strong focus on vocals and lyricism,” says Danny Mekonnen, leader of the Boston based “ethio-groove” group Debo Band. Mekonnen says he’s not crazy about the reliance on digital synth sounds in the musical arrangements, but he thinks there’s still a lot to love about Ethiopian pop. “A lot of artists are taking pop music forward by pulling elements from the past, not in a nostalgic way, but honoring the past to create something new.”

Unlike many other regions of Africa, where hip-hop and other foreign styles are coming to dominate the soundscape, Ethiopia sticks close to its roots in sound and style. A lot of younger artists are even including the traditional masengo fiddle and krar lyre on the tracks, playing along with the high-flying synthesizers. And while it’s true that the production-quality can be a bit chintzy, the success of South African Shangaan electro music and digital-traditional artists like Omar Souleyman has proven that younger “world music” audiences can get into the lo-fi aesthetics of the developing world. If you find yourself able to get down, Ethiopian pop music is hypnotizing and hot all at once.

Read more at MTV IGGY.
New Album Release: Wayna & Haile Roots to Perform at SOB’s in New York

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And the Beat Making Lab goes on, to Ethiopia

Beat Making Lab students in class working on a beat. (Credit: Photo: IntraHealth)

Public Radio International

By Pierce Freelon

Each morning in Addis Ababa, I piled into the historic home of the late Muluemebet Emiru — Africa’s first woman pilot — with 16 musicians and poets. The house was temporarily transformed into a community space for songwriting and music production called a Beat Making Lab.

In Addis Ababa, we collaborated with a global health organization called Intrahealth, asking students to reflect on health issues in their communities as they composed beats and poems. Among our most talented students was a young woman named Gelila, whose poem about access to health care facilities became the basis for a catchy anthem collectively produced by several of our Ethiopian students.

Read more at PRI.

Video: Gelila: Ambitious Ethiopian Beat Maker (Part 1/2) | Beat Making Lab |

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Ethereal Kremt: Exhibition at LeLa Gallery Remembers Ermias Mazengia

Artist Ermias Mazengia (1977 - 2013). Photo credit: LeLa Gallery.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Addis Ababa (TADIAS) — LeLa Gallery in Addis Ababa is hosting a group exhibition entitled Ethereal Kremt honoring the late artist Ermias Mazengia (1977-2013). The gallery’s first show of the new Ethiopian Year opens on Saturday, October 5th, and features recent works “all produced during the rainy season” by Michael Tsegaye, Dawit Abebe, Behailu Bezabih, Tesfaye Bekele, Tamrat Gezahegn, Eyob Kitaba & Ermias Mazengia.

“The exhibition sails under the banner of the ‘seasonal’. As if it was possible that a norm-transcending atmospheric condition –whether meteorological, phenomenological, social or historical could be intrinsic to works of art” LeLa Gallery said in its event announcement. “As if the ornamental and the abstract, the motion and the desire, could inaugurate a visual space transforming the totalitarianism of heavy rain, dirt, mud and thunderstorm into a gesture of liberation. As if the delinquency of art could, through spacial displacement, inspire an alternative form of ethereal beauty.”

The show is dedicated to Ermias Mazengia, who’se sudden, tragic death leaves a void in the art community.

If You Go:
LeLa Gallery Presents “Ethereal Kremt”
Opening Reception Saturday, October 5th at 3pm
Tel: + 251 11 6535506

Direction: From ring road direction Jimma, take the first right after the Armed Forces Hospital (old Airport) on China Embassy/ Ghana Embassy/ Swedish Clinic road – go down, pass Ghana Embassy approx. 200 mtrs make a right and follow the LeLa sign.

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Contemporary Art in Ethiopia: Ephrem Solomon Reflects on His Work

Pianting by Ephrem Solomon: Exist Yellow Chair, 2013, wood cut and mixed media, measuring 73x73cm.

The Guardian

By Karen Obling

Ephrem Solomon’s work differs from the prevailing artistic style in Ethiopia in many ways. Although his art is also two-dimensional and on canvas, a strong graphic emphasis makes it stand out from the ever-dominant paintings, be they figurative or abstract.

Solomon was born in Addis Ababa in 1983, and developed an interest in art early. After high school he studied fine art and graphic design, which shows in his portfolio. His works is often very descriptive and literal, focusing on the world around him; the city of Addis, its people, places, spaces and nature. Objects such as the signature chair and slippers are incorporated as a reflection on broader political and social themes.

“My works portrays the distance between what the governed people need and want and what the response is from the governors. I have tried to picture, as precisely as possible, the actual and innocent feeling of the governed,” Solomon says.

Read more at The Guardian.

Yohannes Aramde’s Bona Fide Step
Symposium In D.C. to Launch the Skunder Boghossian Fellowship Award
Photographer Michael Tsegaye On His Upcoming Exhibition in Oslo

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Symposium In D.C. to Launch the Skunder Boghossian Fellowship Award

Skunder Boghossian is one of the best-known African modern artists in the West. (Photo by Jarvis Grant)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, September 16th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – A few years ago the Fine Arts School at Addis Ababa University, which consists of the School of Music, the School of Theater Arts and the School of Fine Arts & Design, was renamed the Skunder Boghossian College of Performing and Visual Arts in honor of the institution’s most influential former professor of contemporary art and one of Ethiopia’s renown artists.

Since 2003 photographer Gediyon Kifle has been documenting Skunder’s paintings held in private collections around the world. Gediyon, who is scheduled to speak at a symposium in Washington, D.C. on September 22nd, 2013 marking the launch of the Skunder Boghossian Fellowship Award, said that he is also working on a documentary film and photo book highlighting the life and work of the legendary artist.

“I am probably the only person that has footage of a sit-down interview with Skunder done near the end his life,” Gediyon said. “The movie will focus on his years in Ethiopia, France and America.” He added: “I am lucky that I am collaborating with poet and screenwriter Solomon Deressa. There is no one in the world who knows Skunder as well as Solomon did from childhood onward.”

Skunder, who lived most of his life in the United States, briefly taught at Addis Ababa University in the late sixties (1966 – 1969) after returning home from an 11-year stay in Europe. Sponsored by the Ethiopian government, Skunder had attended Saint Martin’s School of Art in the U.K. in 1955 at the age of 18. He also studied at Slade School of Fine Art while in London. Two years later he moved to France continuing his studies for nine more years at Academie de la Grande Chaumiere in Paris.

He arrived in the U.S. in 1970 and accepted a teaching position at Howard University in 1972 that lasted until 2001, two years before he passed away at age 65.

Skunder became the first contemporary African artist to have his work acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1966 when MOMA purchased his 1964 painting entitled Juju’s Wedding. His last commissioned work was in 2001, a team project in collaboration with U.S.-based Ethiopian painter and art professor, Kebedech Tekleab, on the Nexus for the Wall of Representation at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington, D.C.

According to the event announcement, the D.C. tribute attendees at the upcoming symposium will have the opportunity “to listen to speakers from the United States and abroad and ask questions following each panel, as well as view video clips of Skunder’s works, listen to jazz compositions that inspired him, and have informal conversations with the guest scholars and artists during the reception.”

Skunder’s work has been represented by the Contemporary African Art Gallery in Manhattan, New York since the late 1990s. “I have a small room in the gallery that is completely dedicated to Skunder’s painting where I keep a collection,” said gallery owner Bill Karg, in a recent phone conversation. “He has done a total of three solo exhibition here,” Bill recalled. “But his first show at the gallery was in 1997.” Since then, Bill has kept the relationship through Skunder’s daughter Aida Boghossian, and opens his collection for customers periodically and by appointment.

Regarding Skunder’s collaborative art work featured at the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington D.C., the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art notes “this work highlights the intergenerational links among the diaspora community. The aluminum relief sculpture incorporates decorative motifs, patterns and symbols adapted from diverse Ethiopian religious traditions including Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other indigenous spiritual practices. The symbolic scrolls suggest major forms associated with the historic kingdoms of Axum, Gondar and Lalibela. Other forms represent musical instruments, utilitarian tools, and regional flora and fauna. Together, these designs compose a sense of Ethiopian identity and are intended as a balanced juxtaposition of traditional and contemporary Ethiopian aesthetics.”

If You Go:
SKUNDER TRIBUTE — Celebration of Art & Culture
September 22, 2013
Symposium: 12-7pm | Reception: 7-10pm
Corcoran Gallery of Art
500 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
Entrance: $35 & $25
Tickets must be purchased in advance

Video: South African musician Hugh Masekela on Skunder Boghossian

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Photographer Michael Tsegaye On His Upcoming Exhibition in Oslo

Ethiopia seen outside the box: Ankober 2007. (Photograph: Michael Tsegaye)

The Guardian Africa Network

By Caitlin Chandler

It’s hard to catch photographer Michael Tsegaye; photography jobs frequently take him to remote parts of Ethiopia, while his personal work graces urban art meccas such as Paris, New York and Bamako. He’s soon Scandinavia-bound; Oslo will host his next exhibition later in September.

Luckily Tsegaye recently had time to meet for a macchiato at the Lime Tree café in the Bole neighborhood of Addis Ababa. He grew up in Bole, before the area became home to the never-ending construction of shiny new office buildings and restaurants. Originally a painter, Tsegaye turned out to be allergic to oil paint, and switched to photography in 2003. Photography brought him out of the studio and into constant negotiation with places and people; he says he’s never looked back.

Tsegaye’s photographic series range from tackling social issues such as climate change to pondering space and time across Ethiopia. He has worked in a variety of mediums and formats, and is increasingly in demand from commercial and non-profit clients. Despite exhibiting around the world, Tsegaye regularly debuts work in his hometown. We chatted over coffee about how the media portrays African artists, which subjects catch his attention, and what reaction to his photos has surprised him the most.

Read more at The Guardian.

Tadias Q & A With Photographer Michael Tsegaye: Addis Ababa’s Red Light District

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Taitu Cultural Center Opens Amharic Library

Alemtsehay Wedajo at the inauguration of Taitu Cultural Center's Library in D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Dagnachew Teklu

Updated: Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Washington D.C. (TADIAS) – Taitu Cultural Center, an independent artists organization based in Washington, D.C, has opened a library and research center dedicated exclusively to Amharic publications — the first of its kind in the U.S. The opening collection features more than 900 Ethiopian books and rare periodicals, including newspapers, biographies, children’s books, fiction, political journals, comedy and poetry publications.

In an interview with Tadias Magazine the center’s founder, Alemtsehay Wedajo, said the library is supported by members as well as private donations and it aims to provide a space for research and study of Ethiopian culture and history.

“Visitors to the library can borrow books and take scanned copies of some 80-year old newspapers from Ethiopia,” Alemtsehay said. “We used to blame the public for lack of reading culture, but we didn’t create such a facility in the past.”

Theater productions and other stage activities organized by the Taitu Cultural Center in the last decade has become a magnet for established and aspiring artists and authors residing in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, which is home to one of the largest population of Ethiopians in the United States. Regulars at the cultural center include students, artists, writers, and poets.

“It was one of my dreams to establish such a center here in America” Alemtsehay told Tadias. “I hope it will serve to narrow the gap among the various Ethiopian communities around the country.”

Hiywot Kifle, who is a member of Taitu Cultural Center, said he often borrows books to support the center.

“I can’t tell you how helpful this center has been,” Hiywot said. “There are many youngsters who spend much of their time on the Internet because they don’t have such a center around.” he added: “There are plenty of parents who want such service for their U.S.-born children if its available for them.”

The library, which is located at 4408 Georgia avenue, is open seven days a week. Alemtsehay said the center is able to accommodate up to 50 people at a time. She said Taitu is currently negotiating with Ethiopian airlines to bring 500 additional books from Ethiopia.

Book Event Taitu Cultural Center: The Life of Poet-Playwright Tsegaye Gabre-Medhin
Tadias Interview: Samuel Wolde-Yohannes on his Book ‘Ethiopia: Culture of Progress
Tadias Interview: Alemtsehay Wedajo, Founder of Tayitu Cultural Center

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Ethiopian Taxi Driver, Keyboardists Reinvents Music Career (Video)

(Photo courtesy Voice of America)

VOA News

BY Deborah Block

WASHINGTON — One of the most popular keyboardists in Ethiopia is now working as a taxi driver in Washington, D.C. In the 1970s, Hailu Mergia performed with a famous band in Ethiopia. In 1981, he toured the United States with that band and then settled in Washington. But he kept his name and music alive in Ethiopian communities worldwide by producing his own recordings. Now one of those cassettes, from nearly 30 years ago, has been reissued after it was discovered in a music store in Ethiopia.

Mergia plays music from his 1985 reissued cassette, titled Mergia and his Classical Instrument, as he waits for customers at Dulles International Airport, located outside Washington. He said his Ethiopian customers get excited when they realize who he is.

“When I tell them my name, then they recognize my name, and then they say ‘Are you Hailu Mergia, then they tell me how they appreciate my music,” he said, beaming with pride. “Most of them ask me ‘Why do you drive a taxi,’ so I tell them the same answer, ‘Look, I just have to make money.’”

Mergia is mostly self-taught. In his younger days, he played in restaurants and bars in Ethiopia and found fame in the 1970s playing with the jazz and soul Walias Band.

“We were playing very modern music, so we were very popular at that time,” he explained.

For about 20 years in Washington, Mergia made money playing with another band and managing a nightclub. When those jobs ended, he became a taxi driver. But he never let go of his music and has produced a dozen cassettes and a CD over his professional career.

“I just like to play original music. I just play typical Ethiopian music,” he said.

Typical perhaps, but also unique. Mergia added new sounds to his 1985 cassette like the Moog synthesizer and drum machine which he mixes with traditional acoustic Ethiopian music. He also added the accordion which had not been heard in Ethiopian music for years.

Mergia’s style appealed to Brian Shimkovitz, founder of a small record label called Awesome Tapes from Africa. While visiting a music store in Ethiopia, he thought this particular cassette stood out and wanted to reissue it.

Mergia was surprised when he got the call.

“My question was, ‘How did you get it? Where did you get it?’ I was excited,” he admitted.

Shimkovitz thought Mergia’s sound would have wide appeal.

“There’s also tons of Ethiopians all over the world who would remember this music and would love to hear it again,” he remarked. “I think the music touches on jazz and rock and experimental music but, of course, also classic Ethiopian music.”

Mergia thinks the younger generation would also enjoy it.

“I chose the melody that can fit for accordion. They like it because they don’t have that kind of sound,” he explained.

Today, Mergia is likely to collect even more fans since Shimkovitz has released his music in different formats that make it available to access on the Internet.

“It’s being marketed in every continent and in record stores of all different kinds,” he said.

At age 67, Mergia is hoping to reinvent his career. He is traveling to Europe in November where he will tour with other musicians to showcase his distinctive style.

Watch: Ethiopian Taxi Driver, Keyboardist Reinvents Music Career

Read more Arts and Entertainment news at VOA.

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Emahoy Tsegue-Mariam Guebru: Jersualem’s Best Kept Musical Secret

Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù. (Photograph: Gali Tibbon)

The Guardian

By Harriet Sherwood

Jerusalem - From a small, spartan room in the courtyard of the Ethiopian church off a narrow street in Jerusalem, a 90-year-old musical genius is emerging into the spotlight.

For almost three decades, Emahoy Tsegué-Mariam Guebrù has been closeted at the church, devoting herself to her life’s twin themes – faith and music. The Ethiopian nun, whose piano compositions have enthralled those who have stumbled across a handful of recordings in existence, has lived a simple life, rarely venturing beyond the monastery’s gates.

But this month the nonagenarian’s scribbled musical scores have been published as a book, ensuring the long-term survival of her music. And on Tuesday, the composer will hear her work played in concert for the first time, at three performances in Jerusalem. Guebrù may even play a little.

Her music has been acclaimed by critics and devotees. Maya Dunietz, a young Israeli musician who worked with Guebrù on the publication of her scores, says in her introduction to the book that the composer has “developed her own musical language”.

“It is classical music, with a very special sense of time, space, scenery,” Dunietz told the Guardian. “It’s not grand; it’s intimate, natural, honest and very feminine. She has a magical touch on the piano. It’s delicate but deep. And all her compositions tell stories of time and place.”

Read more at The Guardian.

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Wosene Kosrof’s Exhibition ‘Wordplay’ at Gallery of African Art in London

Berkeley, California-based painter and mixed-media artist Wosene Kosrof is best known for his work that incorporate Amharic alphabetic characters into his prolific compositions. (Photo credit: Alan Bamberger)

BBC Africa

Ethiopian artist Wosene Worke Kosrof explores the aesthetic potential of symbols from the Amharic script.

He began distorting the symbols of his language 35 years ago and it is now an integral part of his work.

His exhibition Wordplay is being shown at London’s newly opened Gallery of African Art.

He told BBC Africa’s Jenny Horrocks how he came to work in this way.

Watch the video at BBC News.

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Munit & Jörg: Soulful Sounds from Ethiopia

The following is VOA News video interview with Munit and Jorg, a duet from Ethioia, who are currently on their first U.S. musical tour direct from Addis Ababa. (Courtesy photo)

VOA News

By Heather Maxwell

A colleague told me about a duo act from Ethiopia coming through town by the name Munit & Jörg. I gave their music a listen on bandcamp and, though different than the more traditional or fusion sound I generally go for, there was something new and fresh in it I liked. A few days later Munit & Jörg came into Studio 4 here in Washington.

They were on tour in the Eastern US from Ethiopia to promote the release of their new CD, called 2. The stop in Washington was to perform at one my favorite D.C. venues, a chic little world music spot with a contemporary psychedelic decor called Tropicalia.

They coined the name Ethio-Acoustic Soul to describe their musical style. They play original compositions as well as arrangements of classic works such as “Yekermo Sew” by Ethio-Jazz master Mulatu Astatke and Ethiopian folk music.

Check out our interview and their live performance of three tracks off 2: “Trans-Africa Highway” (written by Munit & Jorg), “Yekermo Sew” (music by Mulatu Astatke), and “Hagare” (written by Munit & Jorg).

Photos: Munit and Jorg at Silvana in Harlem, NYC, Friday, July 12, 2013 (Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Video Interview: Grammy-nominated Singer and Songwriter, Wayna
Summer of Ethiopian Music Continues: Krar Collective in NYC, Young Ethio Jazz in D.C. (TADIAS)

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Hailu Mergia: A Beloved Ethiopian Musician of a Generation Ago

Ethiopian-born musician Hailu Mergia plays the piano at his home in Fort Washington. A generation ago he was a major star in the Ethiopian music scene. (Nikki Kahn/ The Washington Post)

The Washington Post

By Chris Richards

He’s carried his music around the planet, but if you want to hear him play it, you have to go to his house.

In his living room, there’s an upright piano where he coaches his fingertips through jazz standards for 30 minutes each day.­

In his dining room, there are framed photographs where he’s sporting bell-bottoms and broad smiles alongside his seven bandmates in Ethiopia’s beloved Walias Band.

And in his garage, there’s a graphite gray Washington Flyer taxi cab where he spends his workweek dashing to and from Dulles International Airport — if his passengers happen to be from Ethiopia­­, the ID hanging from the cab’s sun visor might catch their eye.

“Hailu Mergia the musician?” they ask, pivoting from delight to disbelief.

“Some of them say, ‘I grew up listening to your music! . . . How come you drive taxi?’ ” Mergia says on a recent Saturday afternoon. “I tell them, ‘This is what I do. I am perfectly happy.’”

Read more at The Washington Post.

Listen to Hailu Mergia and The Walias Band playing – Tche Belew

Reissues Songs From Hailu Mergia, Local Cab Driver (Washington City Paper)
Summer of Ethiopian Music: Jano to Fendika, Teddy Afro to Mahmoud Ahmed (TADIAS)

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Photos From Sheba Film Festival & Art Show

At the closing event of the 2013 Sheba Film Festival & Art Show at the Harlem State Building in New York (Photo by Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – The 10th anniversary celebration of the Sheba Film Festival in New York concluded on Saturday, June 22nd with a reception and an art exhibition held at The Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Building in Harlem. The event entitled Children of Sheba Art Show featured works by local Ethiopian artists including paintings by Miku Girma, Ezra Wube, Maro Haile, Zebeeb Awalom, t-shirt designs by Beniam G. Asfaw, jewelry by Lydia Gobena (owner of Birabiro) and photographs by Tigist Selam.

Here are photos from the closing exhibition held on Saturday, June 22nd.

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Tadias Interview: Aida Muluneh on Her Ethiopia Exhibition ‘So Long a Letter’

Mixed media image created using photograph, pen drawing and paint. (Photo courtesy Aida Muluneh)

Tadias Magazine

By Tadias Staff

Updated: Thursday, June 6, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Last month, the award-winning Ethiopian photographer Aida Muluneh held a successful solo exhibition at TO.MO.CA gallery in Addis Ababa entitled So Long a Letter, which featured her photographs mixed with pen drawings on leather and mounted on wooden board frames. In a recent interview with Tadias Aida said the show was inspired by one of her favorite books “So Long A Letter” — a semi-autobiographical novel originally written in French by the Senegalese author Mariama Bâ.

“In a sense it was my ‘So Long Letter’ to all the women in the country who often go unrecognized or are under-appreciated in our society,” Aida said. “I have always loved the book and the fact that it was written in a letter format.”

Aida said the book left a lasting impression on her because the author was exploring issues that were close to home: “Women in Africa.” She added: “With this in mind, I wanted to do an exhibition featuring all the various women that I had encountered in the course of the almost six years that I have lived here in Addis Ababa.”

Aida, who returned to Ethiopia in 2007, was born in 1974, but left the country when she was five years old and spent an itinerant childhood between Yemen and England. After several years in a boarding school in Cyprus, she finally settled in Canada in 1985.

In 2000, Aida graduated with a degree in Film from Howard University in Washington, D.C. She later worked as a photojournalist for the Washington Post exhibiting her work in-between throughout the United States. Her images are part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, the Museum of Biblical Art, as well as various private galleries and collections in New York and across the country.

Today, Aida said, she finds herself in the middle of a thriving art movement in Ethiopia. “I have to say that the art scene here in Addis has flourished more than one can imagine and I would have to give recognition to the many artists and groups who are fighting the good fight to bring art into the forefront of society,” she noted. “The younger artists are exhibiting in various spaces and I have to say that almost every week there is an opening, this to me is a promising factor for the future of contemporary art in Ethiopia.”

Through her solo exhibitions as well as her work as Founder and Director of the first annual international photography festival, Addis Foto Fest, in Ethiopia, Aida is an active participant and organizer in the burgeoning local arts scene that has begun to attract increased worldwide attention. She emphasized that she continues to curate and develop cultural projects with domestic and global institutions through her company DESTA (Developing and Educating Society Through Art), a creative consulting venture based in Addis Ababa.

“We have to move from the shadows of our artists of the past and carve out our own visual language, which is happening even amidst the criticism and lack of support from older generation artists,” she argued. “With all of that said, we are all in our own way walking down the long path of doing something that we believe in and feel passionate about.”

Regarding the process of putting together her most recent exhibition Aida said it was a two-part project. “The classical black and white images that most often people recognize from my work was one part,” she explained. “Which came about by editing through my archives of images that I have shot in the past six years.” She added: “The other part is new work that I created, which is more of a personal design on combining image, pen drawing and paint. On the selection, the material used also has leather and in a sense for me its bringing together digital and analog forms of expression into one frame.”

You can learn more about the show and Addis Foto Fest on Facebook.

Video: Tadias interview with Aida Muluneh taped in New York in 2010 (Tadias Magazine)

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Sneak Peek Preview: Watch New Ethiopian Movie ‘Difret’

'Difret' is written and directed by Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, pictured above with the lead actress Tizita Hagere, center right, and her friends. (Photo courtesy Haile Addis Pictures)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, May 30th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – You may remember our highlight last year of a group of independent Ethiopian filmmakers in the U.S. who successfully raised seed money via Kickstarter, an online fundraising platform, to finance the production of a feature length movie called Difret. Originally titled Oblivion, the film chronicles the true story of a teenager from a small, rural village in the Arsi region whose widely publicized arrest for murder in the late 1990s unleashed a historic court battle that resulted in the girl’s acquittal on the grounds of self-defense, legally ending the traditional practice of child marriage by abduction in Ethiopia.

This week the producers released a short clip of their nearly complete project, revealing for the first time that the main character, 14-year-old Aberash Bekele, is powerfully portrayed by a new teen actress named Tizita Hagere, while Aberash’s feisty lawyer Meaza Ashenafi is played by one of Ethiopia’s leading actresses, Meron Getinet.

“We did two rounds of casting and looked at many professionals and youngsters from various local schools,” Leelai Demoz, one of the co-producers, told Tadias. Regarding the audition process, Leelai said, they screened over 400 people who tried out for the film’s various roles. As to the newcomer Tizita, she was spotted by the director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari. “It was one of those moments where as soon as he saw her performance at one of the auditions he noticed that she embodied the character he had envisioned,” he said.

The epic story opens with Aberash’s ordeal one fateful afternoon in 1997 when she was abducted while walking home from school. She was singled out from her friends by a group of horsemen, led by a 29-year-old farmer, who had planned to kidnap and marry her. That was the person she was accused of killing. “He hit me about the face,” Aberash told the authorities at the time. “I nearly lost consciousness. He was such a huge man, I couldn’t push him away. Then he forced my legs apart. He beat me senseless and took my virginity.” Aberash eventually fatally shot the man. She said that she discovered the gun in a room where she was being held, picked it up, and ran away. Following a chase she turned the weapon on her attacker; She was arrested and charged with murder.

“Making this film has really been a humbling experience because of the support of the community,” Leelai noted: “So many people have come through in so many ways and risen to the challenge.”

“Difret was the Amharic title and as we thought about it, it felt right to keep it for the English version as well,” Leelai said mentioning the recent change of the film’s English heading.

The video was released on, where the team has launched a second round of campaign for funds to help them finish the final stages of editing work in preparation for the movie’s submission to international competitions later this year.

“In the next two months, we have to start the post production sound mix,” Leelai emphasized. “This process is where every track of audio is mixed and perfected.” He added: “It is labor-intensive and expensive process. In some cases, we have to re-record some audio. We also need to do color correction. This is what gives the film a uniform look. Any differences in exposure or color temperature are fixed. At the end, we will have a film that looks and sounds amazing. This part is where you don’t want to cut corners.”

Below is the two-minute video with an introduction from the director Zeresenay Berhane Mehari.


You can Learn more and contribute to the kickstarter campaign for Difret at

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Yadesa Bojia Reflects on African Union Flag on 50th Anniversary

Ethiopian-born artist Yadesa Bojia is the designer of the current flag of the African Union that was adopted in 2010. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Monday, May 20th, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – On the evening of September 28th, 2009, Yadesa Bojia, an Ethiopian American artist based in Seattle, Washington, was babysitting his children at home while watching CNN when he recognized an image on the TV screen of one of his artworks. “That’s my design!” he exclaimed. He was looking at the new African Union flag created using a sketch that he had submitted for competition two years earlier. “By then I had almost forgotten about it because at that point I had not yet heard back from AU,” Yadesa (a.k.a. Yaddi) recalled in a recent interview with Tadias.

Yaddi spotted the flag on Lary King Live whose guest was Muammar Gaddafi, the Chairman of the African Union as well as the head of the African Union Commission (AUC) at the time. The Commission was tasked to come up with an updated insignia for the continental body, and the interview conducted at the Libyan Mission in New York showed Gaddafi flanked by the new banner. “I could not believe my eyes,” Yaddi said.

Immediately, Yaddi contacted the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa to enquire about the new flag. “What flag?” the perplexed women on the other end of the receiver replied. “Sir, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“To top it off the next morning there was Gaddafi again on CNN wearing my design all over his clothing,” Yaddi remembered laughing. “I was losing my mind.”

Yaddi would eventually learn that his work was selected earlier that year by the Commission out of approximately 127 entries submitted in the span of two years from artists residing in several African countries and including two contestants from the Diaspora.

Three months after he first saw the flag on CNN, Yaddi finally received a formal letter from the African Union announcing the adoption of his design as the continent’s new emblem. The letter included an invitation along with a paid travel package for him and his family to attend the flag’s inauguration ceremony during the 14th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State held in Addis Ababa on January 31st, 2010.

The design depicts a green Africa, the color portray the hopes and aspirations of the continent, resting on rays of a white sun that symbolizes the people’s desire for friendship and co-existence with all countries around the planet. The map is circled by a ring of golden stars each representing member states, wealth and a bright future.

“I was told by an official from the Ethiopian ministry of Foreign Affairs that when Meles found out the winner was an Ethiopian, he told them to go find the guy,” he said. “Once I got to Addis, on the second day of events, I was approached by the protocol chief who informed me that the Prime Minister wanted to see me. So my wife and I had the chance to meet with the PM privately who told me that he was proud of my work.” He added: “In addition, I also met with President Zuma of South Africa, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and other leaders who were very complimentary of the flag. Not to mention the five hours I spent with President Girma Wolde-Giorgis at the national palace.”

(Courtesy photos)

Although he received wide publicity in Ethiopia, Yaddi pointed out that his favorite moments were in the subsequent days spent in Addis, where people who recognized him would come up to him to give him a hug and a kiss. “A street vendor gave me a coin from the Menelik era that he was selling,” said Yaddi fighting back tears. “He sternly protested my offer to pay. The man told me that he just wanted to show his appreciation to me and he did not want any money for it.”

Yaddi says he continues to be proud of his contribution to AU and Ethiopia’s role over the past 50 years under starkly different successive regimes in keeping the organization alive. He is reminded of a forceful defense of this legacy by the late PM Meles Zenawi during his tenure as Prime Minister when there was a concerted effort to move the head office outside of Ethiopia.

“It was people like Nyerere, Nkrumah, who decided that Addis Ababa should be the headquarters of the OAU; Addis Ababa ruled at that stage by Emperor Haile Selassie,” Meles had argued. “Who trained Mandela? Who supported Mugabe in his fight against Rhodesia?” Meles asked. “There is one fact that nobody can deny — that irrespective of who is ruling Ethiopia, Ethiopia has always been committed to African independence and liberation.”

Indeed, it was 50 years ago this month that under the leadership of Emperor Haile Selassie 32 heads of state signed the founding charter to AU’s predecessor the Organization of African Unity (OAU). And to mark the occasion, Yaddi said, he has collaborated with his friend reggae musician Iré Taylor (Reginald Taylor) for a poetic and musical tribute.

“I wanted to commemorate the Golden Jubilee by remembering those who worked hard to establish the OAU, leaders like Haile Selassie, and applaud the Union’s historic and unwavering stand against apartheid in South Africa, as well as the present economic promise of African Nations and the selection of the first woman chair,” he said.

You can watch the video on You Tube here. The music is also available on iTunes, spotify, Amazon, and Zune.

Watch: African Union New Flag Design Winner Yadessa Zewege on ETV

Watch: ETV Interview Part 2

Watch: Tanzania’s President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete Poses for a photo with Yadesa Bojia

Watch: African Union African Union Yaddi & Iré (Official Music video)

Photos: United Nations Marks OAU-AU 50th Anniversary (TADIAS)
Yadesa Bojia Interview with Voice of America
Moammar Gadhafi on Larry King 9/28/09

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Tadias Interview: Alemtsehay Wedajo, Founder of Tayitu Cultural Center

Alemtsehay Wedajo acting in Macbeth staged by Tayitu Cultural Center in D.C. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Saturday, April 6, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Washington, D.C.-based Ethiopian actress, playwright and poet Alemtsehay Wedajo has composed over 400 Amharic lyrics for many legendary singers from Ethiopia, including Mahmoud Ahmed, Aster Aweke, Muluken Melese and the late Tilahun Gessese. But she is best known for her signature works in theatrical productions, such as Yalteyaze (Available). Last year scenes from this play were selected for performance at the University of Southern California’s celebrating “Voices from the Black Diaspora” — a USC Arts and Humanities initiative exploring “Visions and Voices” the multiple ways that identity is transformed and articulated in a global world.

“Early in my younger years, 13 to be exact, my teachers recognized my interest and talent in the arts particularly in poetry, playwriting and acting,” Alemtsehay told Tadias Magazine.

Later when she immigrated to the United States after working for several years as an actress and as the first female director at Ethiopia’s National Theatre in Addis Ababa — where at same time she launched the ‘children theater section’ at the Ministry of Culture serving as its head for nearly a decade — she said her parents were still not pleased. “With all these accomplishments in my profession as a performer, my family, particularly my father, were never satisfied since I did not complete a university education,” Alemtsehay said.

“So, after I came to America, working two jobs and raising two children, I started attending college and completed my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration.”

Alemtsehay is also the founder of Tayitu Cultural Center, formerly known as Tayitu Entertainment, a U.S.-based non-profit organization which held its first book release event and reading session in Washington D.C. in August 2000. Since then, the program has become one of the primary platforms for Ethiopian drama presentations in the United States. For the past 13 years Tayitu Cultural Center has put together more than 30 stage shows and traditional musical concerts. Alemtsehay emphasized that the center conjointly trains young Ethiopian-Americans in Amharic-poetry writing and acting. Tayitu has nurtured a number of aspiring artists and comedians in addition to hosting a popular monthly poetry night called YeWeru Gitm Mishit, showcasing emerging and veteran talents not only in literature, but also in painting, filmmaking and music, as well as highlighting various communities.

“Regardless of the trauma of adjusting to a new life in America and supporting my family, my love for my profession never faded away,” she said. “Being a woman is not easy.”

The association was named after Empress Tayitu Bitul who is famous for her historic role at the battle of Adwa during the Italian invasion of Ethiopia in 1896. “My two big dreams are to build a statue of Tayitu in Addis Ababa and to establish a permanent Ethiopian Cultural Center in Washington D.C.,” Alemtsehay said. “My other female role model is the beloved great actress and singer the late Asnakech Worku.”

As for the current generation of young people who want to follow in her own footsteps, “Have faith, dream high, be strong and do not quit,” she advises.

Photo from African Poetry night organized by Tayitu Cultural Center. (Courtesy photograph)

Alemtsehay Wedajo (Courtesy photo)

You can learn more about the artist and Tayitu Cultural Center at

Taitu Cultural Center Opens Amharic Library in D.C.
Netsa Art Village: Ethiopia’s Cutting Edge Contemporary Art Movement

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Netsa Art Village: Ethiopia’s Cutting Edge Contemporary Art Movement

Contemporary Ethiopian artist Tamrat Gazahegn with his artwork at Netsa Village. (photo courtesy AFP/Jenny Vaughan).


April 2nd,2013 | AFP Jenny Vaughan

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Under a canopy of trees in a park not far from Addis Ababa’s National Museum, home of many of Ethiopia’s historic national treasures, a contemporary art revolution is quietly afoot. It is here at Netsa Art Village that the experimental work made from shoelaces by Merhet Debebe can be found, or the vibrantly-coloured work of Tamrat Gazahegn, who uses tree trunks as canvases. Nearby are the giant sculptures of jazz musicians, trains and horse-drawn carts made from metal scraps and trash by Tesfahun Kibru. The collective, the only one of its kind in Ethiopia, is made up of 15 artists who are spearheading Ethiopia’s contemporary art movement, shifting away from endless copies of Ethiopia’s ancient Coptic Christian paintings. Still in its infancy, the movement marks a daring shift away from the commercial art that dominates many of Ethiopia’s mainstream galleries, and seeks to put the country on the map in the international art world as a source for cutting edge work.


Tewodros Hagos: Winner of the First ‘Ethiopia Creates’ Art Prize

Painting by Tewodros Hagos from his 2013 U.S. exhibition at the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center in Los Angeles, California. (Image: Faces from the streets of Ethiopia, acrylic on canvas )

Tadias Magazine
Art News

Updated: Thursday, February 21st, 2013

Los Angeles (TADIAS) – Last year, Negist Legesse, also known as Nikki, director of the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center in Los Angeles asked her friend, commercial director and fine artist Lori Precious, to co-create an art competition for Ethiopian artists in Ethiopia. The first place winner would receive a trip to L.A., an exhibition of their artwork and a cash award.

“I was immediately intrigued since I had traveled to Ethiopia a couple of times and had taken note of some interesting contemporary art, including a visit to artist Elias Sime’s studio in Addis Ababa, (who had a 2009 solo show at Santa Monica Museum of Art and is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art),” Lori said in a statement announcing the first winner of the prize. “I said yes and ‘Ethiopia Creates’ was born.”

Lori said then launched a website and made radio announcements in Ethiopia. “Nearly a year went by and many submissions were received,” she added. “I then selected a group of judges who I knew to have impeccable taste and a sharp eye for new talent.” The judges included Alitash Kebede, owner of Alitash Kebede Gallery in LA, Bennett and Julie Roberts, co-owners of Roberts Tilton Gallery in Culver City, and painter Laura Owens.

The inaugural award went to Tewodros Hagos, whose haunting portraits of faces from Ethiopia wowed the group. “The judges viewed all the work collected via photographs,” Lori said. “The verdict was unanimous. Tewodros Hagos won first place in a landslide.”

As the first winner of the prize, Tewodros, who is a graduate of Addis Ababa University’s art school, participated in a week plus residency in Los Angeles earlier this month, and the first American exhibition of his work was held at the Little Ethiopia Cultural and Resource Center (LECRC) from February 10th to 16th, 2013.

Tewodros also spent time with inner city kids where he gave after school art lessons. According to organizers, a portion of the sales of Tewodros’ art from the Little-Ethiopia exhibition goes to Artists for Charity (AFC) in Addis Ababa. AFC was founded by Ethiopian American artist Abezash Tamerat and supports 18 HIV positive orphans who live and study together.

Organizers said they hope to expand the residency program in California next year to include more workshops and displays of the artist’s work in local galleries.

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Haile Gerima’s Film ‘Bush Mama’ Part of L.A. Rebellion

Haile Gerima's "Bush Mama" is about a Watts single mom's political awakening. It screens next month at The Museum of the Moving Image in New York. Haile will be present at the event. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New York (TADIAS) – Ethiopian-born filmmaker Haile Gerima is among a group of African and African American independent producers and directors who were students at UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, in the sixties and seventies as part of an “Ethno-Communications” initiative designed to empower minorities. Their work is being highlighted in an upcoming film series at The Museum of the Moving Image in Queens from February 2–24.

“Now referred to as L.A. Rebellion, these mostly unheralded artists, including Charles Burnett, Julie Dash, Larry Clark, Billy Woodberry, and many others, created a unique cinematic landscape, as—over the course of two decades—students arrived, mentored one another, and passed the torch to the next group,” the museum said in its announcement. “They came from Watts. They came from New York City. They came from throughout America or crossed an ocean from Africa. Together, they made movies and produced a rich, innovative, sustained, and intellectually rigorous body of work. The filmmakers of L.A. Rebellion achieved this while realizing a new possibility for “Black” cinema, one that explored and related to the real lives of Black communities in the U.S. and worldwide.”

If You Go:
February 2–24
36-01 35 Avenue
Astoria, NY 11106
718 777 6888
Organized by the UCLA Film & Television Archive

Below are images from some of the films featured at the ‘L.A. Rebellion’ series

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Philadelphia: Debo Band Brings Sounds of Ethiopia, Much More to Town

At World Cafe Live in Philadelphia last weekend Debo Band drew on Ethiopian pop music from the 1970s and many other sources. The band's spirit of adventure made it a pleasing performance. (Courtesy Photo)

Philadelphia Inquirer


Hard-driving African music held court Saturday night at World Cafe Live. And though rhythms of Africa and its diaspora dominated the proceedings, drums had very little to do with this domination.
Debo Band, from Boston, has gone all in on the Ethiopian pop music of the 1970s, a veritable golden age of creativity in that venerable land. Though other groups, including Either/Orchestra, Debo’s Hub homeboys, have done homage to this music, none is as adventurous or unabashedly traditional as Debo.

Read more at Philadelphia Inquirer.

Watch: Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk On A Muggy Afternoon (NPR)

Debo Band: Ethiopian Funk, Reinvented (NPR)
Interview with Debo Band’s Founder Danny Mekonnen (TADIAS)

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SELEDA: Ethiopian Art Exhibition in the Bay Area

The exhibition will be held at the Jazz Heritage Center's Lush Life Gallery in San Francisco, California.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Friday, January 11, 2013

San Francisco (TADIAS) – An art exhibition featuring works by Ethiopian artists residing in the United States is scheduled to open in the Bay Area this weekend. The event organized by the Ethiopian Arts Forum and the San Francisco Jazz Heritage Center takes place at center’s Lush Life Gallery from Saturday, January 12th to February 17th, 2013.

Among the artists highlighted include Yisehak Fikre-Sellassie, Ezra Wube, Solomon Asfaw, Tadesse Alemayehu, Tesfa Besu Amlak and Yohannes Tesfaye.

The opening reception, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday, January 12th) from 6PM to 9PM and includes live jazz and discussion about Ethiopian art and music.

If You Go:
SELEDA: Fine Art Exhibition
Opening: Saturday, January 12, 2013 (6PM – 9PM)
Jazz Heritage Center’s Lush Life Gallery
1320 Fillmore Street
San Francisco, CA
For more information call: 415-255-7745
Click here to learn more at the Jazz Heritage Center

New Exhibition Highlights the History of Africans in India

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High Hopes for Ethiopia’s Rising Classical Music Stars – Video

One evening last month, the sounds of classical Spain could be heard in an unlikely place: the Ethiopian National Theatre in Addis Ababa. Onstage were the talented students of the Yared School, Ethiopia’s only institute of higher learning for music; directing them was Silvia Sanz Torre, conductor of the Metropolitan Orchestra of Madrid. And in more ways than one, the performance ended on a high note. (Radio Netherlands Worldwide)

Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

By Borja Santos Porras, Addis Ababa

“This concert has encouraged the students to continue studying and working a lot,” says Yared School director Tadele Tilahun. “In Ethiopia, there has not been an orchestra concert in the last 30 to 40 years purely formed by students or teachers of Ethiopia.”

Around for over four decades, Yared, which is part of Addis Ababa University, has become a special spot for budding musicians, often fresh out of secondary school. To enrol, candidates must all demonstrate musical talent. But aside from that, each student’s story is unique.

Continue reading at Radio Netherlands Worldwide.


2012 in Review: Ten Arts & Culture Stories

The late artist Afewerk Tekle speaking at Stanford University on March 7, 2004. (Photo: Tadias Magazine File)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Wednesday, December 26, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – In 2012 we lost Ethiopia’s most famous painter, Maitre Artiste Afewerk Tekle, who died last Spring at the age of 80 and was laid to rest at the cemetery of the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa on April 14th. Speaking about his life-long dedication to the fine arts, Afewerk Tekle once said: “At the end of the day, my message is quite simple. I am not a pessimist, I want people to look at my art and find hope. I want people to feel good about Ethiopia, about Africa, to feel the delicate rays of the sun. And most of all, I want them to think: Yitchalal! [It's possible!]” Our coverage of Afewerk’s passing was one of the most shared articles from Tadias magazine this year: (In Memory of Maitre Artiste Afewerk Tekle: His Life Odyssey).

Below are other arts and culture stories that captured our attention in 2012.

Marcus Samuelsson’s Memoir ‘Yes, Chef’

Marcus Samuelsson released his best-selling memoir Yes, Chef back in June. From contracting tuberculosis at age 2, losing his birth mother to the same disease, and being adopted by a middle-class family in Sweden, Marcus would eventually break into one of the most exclusive clubs in the world, rising to become a top chef with a resume including cooking at the White House as a guest chef for President Obama’s first State Dinner three years ago. Since then, Marcus has morphed into a brand of his own, both as an author and as owner of Red Rooster in Harlem. Earlier this year, Tseday Alehegn interviewed Marcus about his book.

Watch: Tadias interview with Marcus Samuelsson

Dinaw Mengestu Named MacArthur ‘genius’ Fellow

Ethiopian American novelist and writer Dinaw Mengestu was named a MacArthur genius Fellow in September. The Associated Press reported Dinaw’s selection along with the full list of 22 other winners. Dinaw is the author of The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears and How to Read the Air. In addition to the two novels, he has written for several publications, including Rolling Stone, Jane Magazine, Harper’s, and The Wall Street Journal. According to MacArthur Foundation, the “genius grant” is a recognition of the winners “originality, insight, and potential” and each person will receive $500,000 over the next five years. Below is a video of Dinaw discussing the award.

Ethiopia at Miss Universe 2012

Helen Getachew (Photo credit: Miss Universe)

After years of absence from the Miss Universe pageant, Ethiopia graced the global stage this year represented by 22-year-old Helen Getachew. The competition was held in Las Vegas on December 19, 2012. Women from over 80 countries participated in the 61st annual contest. The new Miss Universe is Miss USA Olivia Culpo, a 20-year-old beauty queen from Rhode Island and the first American to claim the coveted title since 1997. Olivia was crowned Miss Universe 2012 by Miss Universe 2011 Leila Lopes of Angola. Over the next year Olivia will hit the road on behalf of her cause: HIV/AIDS prevention as mentioned on her official pageant profile.

A Prodigy Reviving Ethiopian Jazz & A Rock Band from Ethiopia Called Jano

Samuel Yirga (Photo courtesy of Worldisc)

Two distinctly different Ethiopian musical acts emerged in 2012 that are sure to dominate the entertainment scene in the coming year. Samuel Yirga (pictured above) is a U.S.-based pianist from Ethiopia whose debut album Guzo has won critical acclaim. Here is how NPR described the artist and his work in its recent review of his new CD: “A 20-something prodigy, Yirga is too young to have experienced the Ethio-jazz movement of the early 1970s, but he has absorbed its music deeply — and plenty more as well. With his debut release, Guzo (Journey) Yirga both revives and updates Ethiopian jazz.” Likewise, the new Ethiopian rock band Jano is also influenced by legendary musicians of the same era, but as their producer Bill Laswell put it: They don’t join the ranks of Ethiopian music, they break the rules.” Below is the latest music video teaser by Jano.

Teddy Afro Abroad

Teddy Afro pictured during a surprise party thrown for him at Meaza Restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia following his performance at Echostage in Washington D.C on Friday, November 23rd, 2012. (Photo: By Matt Andrea for Tadias Magazine)

In 2012 Teddy Afro gave us Tikur Sew, which is undoubtedly the most talked about music video of the year in our community. And Teddy’s current world tour is winning him new international support outside of his loyal Ethiopian fan base. (Click here to watch a highlight of Teddy’s growing popularity on the global stage by China Central Television – CCTV)

Two Ethiopian American Bands Make a Splash: Debo & CopperWire

Debo Band is an 11-member Boston-based group led by Ethiopian-American saxophonist Danny Mekonnen and fronted by vocalist Bruck Tesfaye. (Courtesy Photo)

In its thumbs-up review of Debo band’s self-titled first album released this year, NPR noted: “The particular beauty of Debo Band is that you don’t have to be an ethnomusicologist to love it: It’s all about the groove. Debo Band transforms the Ethiopian sound through the filter of its members’ collective subconscious as imaginative and plugged-in 21st-century musicians…The swooning, hot romance of Yefikir Wegene bursts up from the same ground as the funky horns of Ney Ney Weleba. From that hazy shimmer of musical heat from faraway Addis, a thoroughly American sound emerges.” Similarly, another Ethiopian American musical ensemble that made a splash this year is the sci-fi trio ‘CopperWire’ that produced the futuristic album Earthbound. The hip-hop space opera takes place in the year 2089 featuring three renegades from another world who hijack a spacecraft and ride it to Earth, and eventually land in Ethiopia. Watch below CopperWire’s music video ET Phone Home.

Fendika Dancers’s First Solo American Tour

Melaku Belay and Zenash Tsegaye of Fendika Dancers (Courtesy photo )

After thrilling New York audiences at Lincoln Center in summer 2011, members of the Addis Ababa-based musical troupe, Fendika, returned to the East Coast for their first solo tour in 2012 with stops that included New York, Washington, D.C, Boston, Hartford, Connecticut and Smithfield, Rhode Island.

Mahmoud Ahmed, Gosaye Tesfaye and Selam Woldemariam at the Historic Howard Theatre

Mahmoud Ahmed performs at Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, May 26th, 2012. (Photo by Matt Andrea)

Mahmoud Ahmed and Gosaye Tesfaye performed at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. during a Memorial Day weekend concert on Saturday, May 26th, 2012. It was the first time that Ethiopian music was featured at the iconic venue, which re-opened in April following a $29 million renovation. The event was organized by Massinko Entertainment, and also included an appearance by guitarist Selam Woldemariam whose collaborative concerts with Brooklyn-based musician Tomas Donker at Summer Stage in New York was part of the biggest entertainment stories that we covered this year.

Journalist Bofta Yimam Nominated for Regional Emmy Awards

Bofta Yimam is an Ethiopian American reporter currently working for Fox 13 News in Memphis, Tennessee. (Courtesy photo)

Last but not least, Ethiopian American Journalist Bofta Yimam who is a reporter for Fox 13 News in Memphis, Tennessee, was nominated this year for Regional Emmy Awards by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (Nashville/Mid-South Chapter) for her journalism work. The winners will be announced on Saturday, January 26th, 2013 at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center in Nashville where the ceremony will be telecast live beginning at 8:00 PM. Below is a video of Tsedey Aragie’s interview with Bofta Yimam.

2012 in Pictures: Politics, London Olympics and Alem Dechasa

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CCTV: Teddy Afro Gaining International Recognition

Teddy Afro pictured during a surprise party thrown for him at Meaza Restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia following his performance at Echostage in Washington D.C on Friday, November 23rd, 2012. (Photo: By Matt Andrea for Tadias Magazine)

Tadias Magazine
Art Talk

Updated: Thursday, December 13, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – As Teddy Afro continues his current world tour, the Ethiopian pop star is also attracting international media attention. Teddy performed for a sold-out crowd at Echostage in Washington D.C last month, accompanied by Abogida Band, and as part of his ongoing concert series.

In the following video, the English program of China Central Television (CCTV), highlights Teddy’s growing popularity on the global stage.

Watch: Ethiopian pop star Teddy Afro (CCTV Video)

Photos From Teddy Afro’s Concert in DC (TADIAS)

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TEDx Video: Gabriel Teodros Does Hip Hop & Science Fiction

Seattle-based hip-hop musician Gabriel Teodros, right, with fellow Ethiopian-American artists Meklit Hadero, left, and Elias Fullmore, center, pictured in a promo image for their group CopperWire's space fiction album called "Earthbound," released in 2012. (Photo: CopperWire)

Tadias Magazine
By Tigist Selam

Updated: Monday, December 10th, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Last month musician Gabriel Teodros was highlighted at ‘TEDx Talks’ in Seattle. The artist was part of the Ethiopian American sci-fi trio CopperWire that earlier this year produced the futuristic album Earthbound. The hip-hop space opera takes place in the year 2089 featuring three renegades from another world who hijack a spacecraft and ride it to Earth, and eventually land in Ethiopia.

In the spirit of creative “ideas worth spreading,” TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share their experiences. “To know that another world is possible, and to bring it to life through music; this has always been the mission of Gabriel Teodros,” the program announcement stated. “He made a mark with groups CopperWire, Abyssinian Creole and Air 2 A Bird, and reached an international audience with his critically-acclaimed solo debut Lovework.”

The following is a video from the event that took place at TEDxRainier in Seattle on November 10, 2012. Gabriel performed and told his personal story as an artist, culturally mixed heritage and his relationship with his parents — a mother who is an immigrant from Ethiopia and a father who is a Vietnam veteran from Duvall, Washington.

Watch: Hip Hop & Science Fiction — Gabriel Teodros at TEDxRainier

CopperWire: How Jam Sessions in Ethiopia Became a Hip-Hop Space Opera

Watch: CopperWire’s official video for the song ‘ET Phone Home’ from their ‘Earthbound’ album

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A Writers’ Celebration of Romare Bearden

Romare Bearden. (Photo courtesy of the Romare Bearden Foundation)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Monday, December 3, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Earlier this year, as part of Black History Month — and in conjunction with displays of his paintings at Macy’s stores nationwide, including works owned by Alitash Kebede Gallery — we had highlighted the distinguished African American artist and writer Romare Bearden.

The Poetry Center in New York now invites creative writers to speak about what Bearden’s life and art has meant to them. An announcement of the event highlights Playwright August Wilson’s praise of Romare Bearden for his celebration of “black life presented on its own terms, on a grand and epic scale, with all its richness and fullness, in a language that was vibrant.”

According to organizers, the tribute this evening at 92nd Street Y also features a special showing of Bearden’s artwork.

The event is a collaboration with the Romare Bearden Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and The West Chester University Poetry Center.

If You Go:
Monday, December 3 at 8:00 pm
92nd Street Y
1395 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10128
Tickets: $24-$42
Call 212-415-5500 to order
Click here to buy tickets

Untold Stories from African and the Diaspora Fall Film

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NPR on Samuel Yirga: A Prodigy Reviving Ethiopian Jazz

Samuel Yirga's debut album is called Guzo. (Photo courtesy of Worldisc)


All Things Considered

Samuel Yirga is a pianist from Ethiopia. A 20-something prodigy, Yirga is too young to have experienced the Ethio-jazz movement of the early 1970s, but he has absorbed its music deeply — and plenty more as well. With his debut release, Guzo, or “Journey,” Yirga both revives and updates Ethiopian jazz.

His talent was recognized early, but music educators in Ethiopia placed roadblocks in Yirga’s path. First, they told him his hands were too small to play piano. Later, he was thrown out of a prominent music school for experimenting too much. Yirga fit in better in the anything-goes world music scene in England. At last a place where his penchant to fuse jazz, Latin music, classical, pop and Ethiopian sounds made perfect sense.

On “Abet Abet,” a Fender Rhodes piano vamps while a traditional violin plays dark harmonies to conjure a delicious mood of foreboding. The sound instantly allies Yirga with Ethiopia’s fabled musical past, a time when indigenous folk musicians, brass bands and local funksters found common ground in the capital Addis Ababa.

On “I Am the Black Gold of the Sun,” Yirga enters into a kind of retro soul-jazz collaboration with the Creole Choir of Cuba. Quirky, yes, but decidedly original. Among the intriguing ensemble pieces on this album are three solo piano compositions, and this is where we can really take the measure of a maverick young player.

Yirga throws a lot into the mix with this release. He actually risks being overwhelmed by his influences, whether they be the unmistakable rhythms and modes of Ethiopia, or any of his other wide-ranging borrowings. Yirga has had to fight for his right to be himself, and in the end, the voice and vision of a distinctive composer shines through in this impressive debut.

Click here to listen.

2012 in Review: Ten Arts & Culture Stories
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‘The Athlete’: Catch A Movie About Abebe Bikila at Film Festival Flix

“Atletu (The Athlete)," produced and directed by Davey Frankel and Rasselas Lakew, is a tale of extraordinary determination and of a singular man, Abebe Bikila. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Aida Solomon

Updated: Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Los Angeles (TADIAS) – It is no secret that Ethiopia has produced some of the world’s greatest long distance runners. Rasselas Lakew’s independent film Atletu (The Athlete), pays tribute to the first runner that paved the way for generations of African athletes in the Olympic Games — the marathon hero Abebe Bikila.

Directed by Davey Frankel and Ethiopian-born Rasselas Lakew, Atletu, which was released in 2009, is currently featured as part of Film Festival Flix’s monthly theatrical series and an online platform that brings lesser-known movies to audiences around the country. Lakew, who co-wrote the script and also stars as the legendary runner, will attend the screenings along with the co-director.

In the film, Abebe Bikila is introduced to the audience well after his physical prime, while visiting family in Jato, Ethiopia in 1969. Driving a creaky Volkswagen on a dirt road, Bikila takes a literal and figurative drive down memory lane, passing through the breathtaking countryside of his childhood as actual footage of Bikila’s past races are juxtaposed together.

Bikila, who served as a member of the Imperial Bodyguard of Emperor Haile Selassie, became the first African to win a gold medal in the 1960 Rome Olympics, which he run barefoot, and setting into motion the legacy of long-distance running in Ethiopia. He won his second consecutive gold four years later in Tokyo in a new world record time, becoming the first athlete to win the Olympic marathon twice. The film’s archival footage highlights Bikila’s historic finish in Italy as he ran through the streets of Rome – passing by the stolen Ethiopian Obelisk monument while cruising to victory.

A symbolic slap in the face to Ethiopia’s former occupier, Italy, Bikila catapulted into international stardom. Several years after the Rome Olympics, however, Bikila realizes that other young stars from his country are conquering the sport. Atletu touches upon Bikila’s reckoning with being an aging legend in his country, as he focuses his attention on the upcoming 1972 Munich Games.

Unfortunately Bikila’s qualification for Munich is further deterred by a car accident that he suffers on his trip back to Addis Ababa from the countryside. Declared a quadriplegic, Bikila has to endure months of rehabilitation in the U.K., and his final race is never fulfilled.

Rasselas Lakew’s portrait of Bikila is stoic and understated, garnering him the “Best Actor” award from the 2011 Brooklyn Film Festival. Although Lakew studied Geology in college, he was drawn to filmmaking in the hopes of creating African narratives created by Africans. Lakew, who now lives and works in New York, took film-studies courses at Montana State University film school in the early 90′s. Lakew says Bikila’s remarkable story is a neglected one, a “man of the mountains” who “conquered Rome” with his bare feet.

With stunning cinematography, a memorable soundtrack, and archival footage that is sure to stir pride and please any heart, Atletu (The Athlete) is a modern ode to one of Ethiopia’s legendary heroes.

Watch: Atletu (The Athlete) Movie Trailer

Abebe Bikila: Athletic Legend Honored With Google Doodle (TADIAS)

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Music Video Teaser by the Ethiopian Rock Band Jano Creates Online Buzz

Members of the new rock band Jano consists of four vocalists - two male and two female - two guitarists, two keyboard players, a bassist and a drummer. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff | Art Talk

Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – You may remember the new Ethiopian rock band Jano from our interview over the summer with their producer Bill Laswell who told us that he is convinced that the ten-member ensemble that fuses distinctly Ethiopian sounds with heavy guitar, will be the next big musical act on the world stage to come out of the country. Laswell had promised an unconventional marketing strategy to introduce the group to outside audiences.

“It will come as a word-of-mouth and not so much as a marketing distribution build up how America does things, but more to do with getting that interest to communities,” Laswell had said. “I think it will start in the Ethiopian community and hopefully it will build into what the world calls the ‘World Music’ genre, which is pretty big internationally.”

Jano recently released a teaser video that is already creating a buzz within the Ethiopian community online and elsewhere.

You can watch the video below and join the conversation on Facebook.

Watch: The Ethiopian Rock Band Jano – Interview with Producer Bill Laswell (TADIAS)

Interview: Alemayhou Gebremedhin on his Obama Painting, Plus Photos

Artist Alemayhou Gebremedhin pictured at Richmond Art Show. (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff | Art Talk

Updated: Monday, October 8th, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – Regardless of who wins in November, and despite President Obama’s restrained and lackluster performance at the presidential debate last week, there is still a voter in Virginia who says the incumbent doesn’t have to worry about losing his support.

“My personal admiration and respect for Obama goes far beyond politics,” says Alexandria-based artist Alemayhou Gebremedhin, whose portrait of the President was recently presented to Yohannes Abraham, Deputy National Political Director of Obama for America 2012, at the Ethiopian New Year celebration event held last month beneath the Washington Monument in the nation’s capital. According to All Eyes on Africa, Mr. Abraham, the Ethiopian-American campaign official who accepted the gift, also delivered a message of “Happy New Year” from President Obama to the Ethiopian community in the United States.

Alemayhou told TADIAS he started the painting four years ago after he watched Obama’s acceptance speech at the 2008 Democratic National Convention in Denver. “That was the day I said, wow, this guy is someone special, very brave. And if you remember the crowd was something else,” Alemayhou said in a phone interview. “I have been in America for 40 years, I came here in 1972. I attended Howard University in D.C. I have seen all the major changes that took place in this country in the last four decades.”

“When I was watching Obama that day on TV four years ago speaking to 80,000 people gathered outdoors in Denver, Colorado I knew that he was a very serious person and that he was destined for history. His confidence was my inspiration for the painting. I wanted to do something as an artist to capture the imagination that he fired inside me.” He added: “That’s when I started thinking about him in a way that I still do. Almost immediately I began putting my thoughts on canvas. From my personal perspective the fact that Obama became President represents social and cultural progress in the United States in a scale that I never thought was possible in my lifetime. That’s the lens in which I look at him. When he was elected it was an incredibly beautiful feeling for many, many people. I jumped up and said ‘only in America’ like Don King would say. I was so proud of Americans. If you understand the racial history of the United States and how far the country has come even since I got here, for example, in the arts, movies, music, literature, and politics, then you know that symbolically there could be no doubt that Obama is a very important figure in American history. This is what my painting expresses. His name that is written in Amharic on his tie is to show my Ethiopian background.”

Alemayhou, whose colorful paintings are part of the decor in a number of Ethiopian restaurant across the country, said he also exhibits his works at different galleries in the D.C. area, including at Parish Gallery, Anacostia Gallery, and DC Loft Gallery.

“Art is my passion,” he emphasized. “It’s a direct response to my interaction with my environment and a creative expression of my life as well as a personal interpretation of the lives of those around me, their love, pain, dreams and aspirations.”

“Painting is my way of surviving and coping. There is no other way to describe it,” he said.

Below is a slideshow of samples courtesy of the artist, including the Obama painting.

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The New Rough Guide to Ethiopian Music

The World Music Network label has a new CD out called Rough Guide to Ethiopia , which provides samples of everything from Ethio-jazz to contemporary fusion sounds, including classics from Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete as well as a new Krar Collective. (World Music Network, 2012)

Art Talk | Reviews

World Music Central

Ethiopian music continues to be a source of fascination and listening pleasure. Buda Musique’s Ethiopiques series, 27 volumes strong and full of vintage rediscoveries and new revelations, has certainly had a lot to do with leading the charge. It’s safe to say, though, that the Ethiopian fascination has taken on a life of its own. And it just so happens there’s an ever-increasing supply of releases to satisfy the also rising number of devotees.

It makes perfect sense that World Music Network would put out a second edition of The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia.

Continue reading at World Music Central.
Fendika Dancers Returning to U.S. for Solo East Coast Tour
New Film Documents Teshome Mitiku’s Ethiopia Homecoming
Catching Up With Ethiopian American Singer Rachel Brown
Debo Band’s First Album: Interview with the Group’s Founder Danny Mekonnen
The Ethiopian Rock Band, Jano – Interview with Producer Bill Laswell
Amha Eshete & Contribution of Amha Records to Modern Ethiopian Music
How Ethiopian Music Went Global: Interview with Francis Falceto

Artists for Obama Portfolio Set Includes Julie Mehretu, Frank Gehry and More

President Barack Obama and his daughters, Malia, left, and Sasha, watch on television as First Lady Michelle Obama takes the stage to deliver her speech at the Democratic National Convention, in the Treaty Room of the White House, Tuesday night, Sept. 4, 2012. (Photo by Pete Souza / White House)

Tadias Magazine

Art Talk | Election 2012

Published: Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – President Barack Obama’s reelection efforts are getting help from some of America’s most renowned artists, including Ethiopian American painter Julie Mehretu. Mehretu is one of nineteen artists whose work is featured in a portfolio of a limited edition print-set called “Artists for Obama,” which was created in collaboration with Gemini G.E.L., a Los Angeles based art workshop and publishing house.

Organizers have announced that September 24th is the initial New York presentation of a nationwide offering of the special collection. “The evening will be an intimate reception for a maximum of 150 guests, including a number of the artists whose work appears in the portfolio,” the announcement said.

Artists participating in the fundraiser include John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Bruce Nauman, Claes Odenburg, Chris Burden and Frank Gehry.

Per The Los Angeles Times, “Organizers said the portfolio is being offered in exchange for a $28,000 donation to the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee. They said 150 portfolios will be up for sale, for a potential fundraising total of $4.2 million. All proceeds will go toward the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee, according to organizers.”

If You Go:
Monday, September 24
7:00–9:00 PM
535 West 24th Street – 3rd Floor
New York, New York 10011

Portfolio on exhibit through Election Day. Click here to view the Artists for Obama portfolio. Minimum donation for reception: $300 per ticket, $500 per couple, payable to the Obama Victory Fund. Attendance is limited and RSVP is required. RSVP at 212-249-3324.

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Catching Up with Filmmaker Wondwossen Dikran

Wondwossen Dikran (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Friday, August 31, 2012

New York (TADIAS) – A group of African-born filmmakers in the United States, including Ethiopian-American writer and director Wondwossen Dikran, are collaborating in upcoming movie project exploring one of Africa’s busiest cities.

According to the film’s writer and producer, Benard Neto, a Kenyan native, he drew inspiration for the script from actual stories. “Nairobi is a unique city with a diverse range of characters struggling for survival,” Neto said in a statement. “Growing up I saw the inner workings of the real street hustlers and their constantly evolving relations with the police — this became the basis for Mzungu,” which chronicles the vacation of a lifetime for a character named Jesse Bloom, a charming young traveler who wakes up one morning after a night of hard partying and is arrested for a grizzly murder.

“When the writers and the director pitched me this project, I was instantly drawn to the material for its originality, blistering energy, and the way it deals with certain themes that are very timely right now,” Wondwossen told TADIAS.

Nairobi itself is a home of many worlds. Alternatively known as the “Green City in the Sun” and sporting sprawling villa suburbs, it is also host to some of the biggest urban slums on the continent.

The film’s synopsis notes: “Mzungu” – pronounced [muh-zun-gooo]) – is the southern, central, and eastern African term for foreigner, usually referring to people of European descent. (Image credit: Kickstarter Poster)

“It’s a story that must be told,” Wondwossen said. “I knew after reading the script that I had to get involved because I had never seen or heard anything like it, and here came opportunity to be able to tell this unique story in an unfiltered and unmasked manner.” He added: “On top of this, to be able to film this in Africa gave me extra motivation. There was no way I was going to be able to turn down what could be an opportunity of a lifetime.”

Has Wondwossen been to the Green City in the Sun? “I have never had the pleasure of visiting Nairobi,” he said. “I am looking forward to it.”
You can learn more about the project at, where the filmmakers have launched campaign to raise $40,000 towards the production of the film.




















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