College of Arts and Sciences

Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists


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Lives Through Art

May 26, 2007 - December 8, 2007

Documented more than fifty years of modern and contemporary painting in and near Addis Ababa, Ethiopia's capital city and a vibrant art center. The exhibition also offered an in-depth examination of the influence of the School of Fine Arts and Design on twentieth-century art in Ethiopia. The school, founded in 1957/58 under the patronage of Emperor Haile Selassie, is one of Africa's premier art academies. It has shaped and influenced three generations of Ethiopian artists and its history has also been shaped by the country's changing political climate.

The first generation of artists included in the exhibition benefited from the patronage of Emperor Haile Selassie. He supported the education of artists in foreign academies but also played a significant role in the establishment of the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School in 1957/58, where many of the same artists eventually were employed as faculty. A few of these teachers left Ethiopia in the early years of the Derg (1974-1991), the repressive Marxist regime of dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, as did some of their students. Other members of the second generation of contemporary artists in Addis Ababa studied in Eastern Bloc countries and returned to Ethiopia to teach or pursue their careers during the Derg years. The youngest artists in the exhibition, the third generation shaped by the Addis Ababa Fine Arts School, studied and launched their careers during the 16 years of relative freedom and creative energy since the overthrow of Mengistu's government in 1991. They are central players in the vibrant and expanding art scene that characterizes Addis Ababa in the first decade of the 21st century.

Featured Artists:

Agegnehu Engida Tadesse Mesfin
Afewerk Tekle Bisrat Shibabaw
Ale Felege Selam Heruy Geta Mekonnen
Skunder Boghossian Bekele Mekonnen
Gebre Kristos Desta Mezgebu Tessema
Desta Hagos Behailu Bezabih
Lulseged Retta Addisu Worku
Yohannes Gedamu Elizabeth Habte Wold
Zerihun Yetmgeta Elias Sime
Tibebe Terffa Tamrat Gezahegne
Abdurahman Sherif Tesfahun Kibru
Eshetu Tirenuh

Exhibition organized by the Samuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida

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