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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Art Appreciation’s Never-ending

The crowded lobby of Sidama Lodge offering different art to suit every taste, on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, with works by various artists including, from top left, Osman,Adamseged Michael, Kidist Brehane, Teferi Mekonnen, and Nebiyu Assefa.
Upon entering Sidama Lodge, located on Cape Verde Street around Bole Rwanda, one meets the work of Fitsum Wubeshet, a local artist participating in his fourth exhibition at the lodge.

The general theme of his work on show depicts desolate scenes of seemingly abandoned umbrellas over wheelbarrows, and stationary bajaj taxis, seemingly going nowhere in a dust blown sunny scene. He charges 4,000 Br for each of his four artworks on show.

“I determine the price according to my feeling of how good it is,” Fitsum told Fortune. “I try to say something with each piece.”

Along with his participating colleagues, of which the official number is 25, but Fortune counted a total of 28, there is a lot to say. Between them all, there are a myriad of styles and themes, ranging from the traditional to the abstract.

Alison, from the UK, visited the exhibition with her mother and daughter, on Wednesday, March 2, as she and her husband had just moved house and were looking to decorate it.

“There is something for everybody’s taste,” she told Fortune. “There are landscapes, abstract works. If my husband and I could only agree on which ones we like, we would buy them.”

Wednesday being a national holiday in celebration of Ethiopia defeating the Italians at Adwa, in 1896, it is fitting that two artworks by Tibebu Kumsa depict battle. His contribution to the exhibition totals six, of which “Adwa” shows a whole troop of men going into battle.

His style is put on the plaque as “scratches on paper;” the background is often black with white scratches with colour on showing the figure, like that of a priest, almost totally in shadow (black) with a little light and colour showing his form.

Unlike Tibebu, most artists contributed between three and five pieces to the exhibition, the lodge’s fifth in the three years since it first opened its doors to travellers seeking exclusive self-catering accommodation, in October 2007. For the occasion, the entire bottom three floors and staircases are covered in the around 100 artworks.

“When we first started, the participants numbered only six or seven, but we have enough space, so we thought, ‘Why not make it bigger?’” Birnesh Abraham, owner and general manger of the lodge, told Fortune. “The idea behind it is not to sell as many as possible. We wanted to create a platform where people can see and appreciate the artworks.”

Aside from the exhibition, Sidama’s interior serves as a gallery. The lodge owns some of the artworks on its walls, but the others are on show and for sale, and merely replaced by another, once sold.

For the privilege, the lodge takes 10pc of the asking price, determined by the artist; but for the week-long exhibition, it is 15pc.

“It is not a lot, it is fair,” said Fitsum. “We do not have another display space.”

However, the money made from facilitating the selling goes towards educating and healing, if necessary, 18 orphans in Yergalem, a village located near Hawassa Town, where Birnesh originally hails from.

The pieces forming part of the exhibition, which opened on Tuesday, March 1, are not expensive, with the highest, an “Untitled” work by Asenake Melesse being priced at 8,600 Br.

By Thursday, about 13 had been sold, according to Henok Tadesse, duty manager at the lodge. “However, the idea is to support the arts and introduce people to local paintings,” he told Fortune.

Yet, it is about more than art, according to Birnesh.

“It is about Ethiopian culture, how people live in the rural areas,” she said. “At first, more foreigners showed interest, but nowadays more Ethiopians are having a look. Addis Abeba does not represent the reality of the country and I encourage themes from the village, and works by women.”

Kidist Berhane is such a woman, whose three works on show depict the “Evangadi” dance of the Hamer people in the south. It is colourful and festive with beads joyously swinging up and down with the jumping movements of the dancers, kicking up the dust.

Another female participant is Meron Ermias, whose themes centre on women with traditional clothes and objects, like musical instruments or household items, in bright colours, even glitter. Seblewongel Gelan shows four portraits of heavy lidded, long necked modern women, yet resembling the old-school style of flat cartoon like figures most often seen in local religious paintings, like the work of Getachew Beranu.

Despite the traditional style, Getachew’s subject matter is modern with chaotic, jolly market and nightclub scenes. Similar is Nebiyu Assefam’s style, while his themes centre more on traditional, household scenes from a village, like “Shuruba” that depicts three women happily braiding their daughters’ hair into cornrows.

The theme is mirrored by Girma Bulti’s lone woman braiding a younger one’s hair. His style is more realistic and his works are very busy and colourful. Such a wide variety of artists exhibiting their work together raises the question of how they are selected.

“We all know each other,” Abyalew Assefa, a friend to Birnesh and organiser of the exhibitions, told Fortune in explanation. “We select each other.”

His “Morning” depicts a lone figure carrying a bucket down a cobbled street in the early morning past houses with sloping mountains in the background; a traditional, yet contemporary scene, which is mirrored in “Addis Ababa and Rain” depicting the city’s cars caught in a rainstorm.

The themes of the works on show of Afera Teklu are centred around dwellings, if not a cityscape. Both his works are “Untitled,” with one depicting a shanty house on a street, laundry in the wind; the laundry drying on the washing line in the other piece are created entirely out of tiny squares of varying but similar enough colours to create, only from a suitable distance the idea of laundry in front of a building.

Seyom Ayalew’s three framed watercolours of his “Harar Impressions,” show a people mixing the traditional, in their clothes, with modern living in an Ethiopian Town, while Abiy Eshete’s groupings of three or four figures, the tallest with a human face, the others shorter with masks for heads, against an explosion of light in simple, light studded background.

The other participating artists are, in no particular order, Beruk Mamo, Adamseged Michael, Girma Seboka, Aklilu Temesgen, Abera Mehari, Markose Bekele, Nitsusew Terefe, Robel Berhane, Biru Worku, Seifu Abebe, Osman, Teklemaryam Zewde, Joseph Habtemariam, Teferi Mekonnen, Wondwossen Beyene, and Zekeros T. Haymanot.

Yet, the appreciation lasts for too short a period, in the opinion of some, being only five days, to end on Sunday, March 6.

“The artists decided this,” Birnesh told Fortune. “This is how it is done in other galleries, only one week or so.”

Last week the, lodge certainly looked just like a gallery, even though it really is so, everyday.