Wednesday, February 03, 2016


When I was last in Addis, I set out looking for non-touristy art spots, i.e. avoiding the Mankushes and Asnis, etc. Turns out, that's a bit tricky.

Some habeshoch deflected me with, "ayee ... yihen'ma ferenj meTeyeq new". Ere!?

Finally somebody called somebody who recommended Habesha Art Studio, which turned out to be pretty close to Asni Gallery. TripAdvisor tells me that neighborhood is called Kebena (lekas Qebena iza new?!) I was obviously told directions as "Ras Amba Hotel aTegeb", which worked like a charm.

So I went to see Habesha Art Studio with a friend. You've to go down this tiny road, and down a korekonch. My friend opted to park his car while we were still in the paved section. We walked a some few meters off the paved street and knocked and knocked, at a gate labeled the gallery. Finally somebody opened the gate into what seemed like a regular residential compound, albeit a bit rustic.

To our left were a circle of people who all either stared us down (we did knock incessantly), or were bored by whatever discussion had ensued prior to our arrival, and reveled in the distraction we generously offered. I suspect the former.

We pressed on. I was thinking the whole thing had a bohemian feel to it. Past the circular assembly, we were guided into a dark room (how do they paint in there?) filled and lined with paintings in no particular order. It clearly wasn't meant for display. The kicker though was this ferenj lady discussing 'artistic expressions' and what not at the far corner with a guy who appeared to be one of the artists. All that digging and I find yet another tourist spot? Fail, Tobian, fail!

In any case, I should confess, I'm not a very artistically refined person. Consequently, the greatness of the artworks escaped me. This (bottom left)  was the painting (or something very similar) the artist had in front of him that day.

We were baffled.  We were told some of the artworks in there weren't for sale, as they were about to go on tour (oh wow?) The rest of the stuff wasn't priced, so when they offered to call another artist to help us we told them not to waste his time on our account, and departed. Weeks later, while on board my ET flight back, I was to browse through my Selamta and have my eyes pop when I came across a painting in style of those artworks destined for tour. The artist, I found out, is called Dawit Abebe (top right...his 'fro itself is a work of art iko). Among other tours, he's scheduled to show his work in Cape Town in 2016. Mad props, good man! Sorry I wasn't able to appreciate your work, but wish you success.

After the Habesha Art Studio stop, I caved and went to Mankush. I didn't like most of the art there either but I totally fell in love with the work of a person who signs 'Dimetros'. S/he paints typical Ethiopian town scenes with vaguely defined shapes of people who I imagine to be draped in neTelas. In one painting, I was convinced the scene was from Harar, even though I've never been there. The collection at the gallery were either warm (red/brown hue) or cold (blue, like the ones below), but somehow gave the impression they were all morning scenes. So I looked up Dimetros, and below are some paintings I was able to find from Ethiopian Artisans.

Alas, I was buying art for somebody else (their pick!) and didn't end up buying Dimetros' art either. But when I next plan to buy art for myself, I will sure be on the hunt!

p.s. Price range I was quoted for Dawit Abebe's work was ~25,000 Birr, and Dimetros for ~7,000 Birr. Min? I'm sure we all have worse ways of spending money.

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