10 August 2017

Ethiopia: Colors Behind the Curtain

"I post my paintings on Facebook but never thought for once that someone from overseas could come to buy them. Then one day, an American woman, who is a doctor by profession, came to my place and told me that she saw the painting on my facebook page and she liked it," says Solomon Tsega Zeab, a young painter who graduated from Tigray College of Arts in 2011 with diploma.

The woman, whose name he does not remember, came all the way to Addis Ababa and bought one of his favorite paintings for 4000 Birr. The painting was a portrait of an old small mud house which is on the verge of falling and an unfinished multi-story building, standing within distances in a place called Arat Killo at the heart of Addis Ababa. It is a realistic painting that shows both the old and newly emerging images of Addis.

Solomon has collection of his own creative paintings in his house that he never got the chance to show them at exhibitions for he could not access such events. Even if he managed to find people who own galleries to participate in their events or exhibitions, they put preconditions. They want 60 percent of the income from the sale of paintings displayed in their galleries, while the rest goes to the painter. Thus, he is forced to simply keep his paintings in his house and sometimes sell them cheap for individuals who happen to accidentally visit and show interest to buy. As a result his paintings still remain as colors behind a curtain.

"Reality is my motivation and most of my art works are realistic," he tells The Ethiopian Herald.

In addition he likes to express the bright side of life in his paintings. "Such works of art could inspire people to envision a better future for themselves and the coming generations. It could also be used to motivate people to make valuable contributions for the nation's progress towards sustainable development and economic growth."

On the other hand, Agegnehu Adane a lecturer in Alle School Fine Arts and Design of Addis Ababa University says painting art should also be understood as a very important tool to promoting the real image and advancement of a nation and the life style, culture and history of its peoples. "In this case, art of painting has been playing significant role both in Spiritual services and material life style of Ethiopians."

According to him, the art is improving from time to time in Ethiopia. Ever since it became one field of study in the modern education of the country, it has brought many changes in its sixty years. There are internationally praised artists who've contributed a lot for the world of art. There are still artists emerging and they are products of the school. The school is still training and graduating students. But the number of the students that joins the college are few because teaching materials in the field are expensive and due to budget limitations.

However, whether or not Ethiopia is really utilizing its artistic potential of painting towards promoting or advocating socioeconomic progress of its people's remains to be a question, he notes.

Solomon and many others like him still are looking for chances to share their painting works of art with the public and gain the necessary benefits. And Solomon argues that there is no or very little awareness about the significance of art and not that much concern or effort is there to promote the profession.

Over 100,000 graduates of higher educational institutes including the TVET centers are joining the skilled laboure force in Ethiopia as the numbers of universities kept on increasing. And the concern of sustaining the rapid economic growth through every developmental sector depends on how the Nation uses this educated man power. However, the understanding towards the crucial role of creative works of art on the efforts of development, particularly paintings, seems be unnoticed. Compared to other areas of studies available in Universities throughout the Nation, the numbers of art schools or departments are few and hence it need due attention.

Ethiopia

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