The official opening of Origins at Friendship Park took place on February 4 and was co-hosted by the Addis International Art Symposium and the Office of the National Council of the Grand Renaissance Dam of the Ethiopian Federal Democratic Republic.
It was an art event that encouraged artists from 17 different countries to showcase their artistic interpretations of how nature and people came to be, focusing on the beginnings of nature and humanity.
Before they were given two months to express the idea of Origin through their creative artistry on the small boats that are typically found on Lake Tana, 25 artists from different parts of the world, ranging from South Korea to Europe and Africa, were taken to see and explore Lake Tana. The artists came from countries such as South Korea, Europe, and Africa.
While simultaneously engaging in public diplomacy, artist Tamirat Siltan, the founder of the International Art Symposium, recounts how the idea of “Origins” came to be.
“The reason we chose the idea of Origin is to show how the Abay River has its origin in Ethiopia through the art of artists who came from countries where the river flows and artists from other parts of the world as well,” he said.
It has been approximately eight months since the procedure for the Origins show began its preparations with the screening and selection process, according to Tamirat. The application deadline was September 30, 2022, and out of the thirty artists who submitted their work, a total of 25 winners were selected to represent 18 nations, including Ethiopia.
The curators of the symposium did not want to display a typical painting on a conventional canvas because that is what the artists normally create in their everyday lives. Instead, Tamirat claims that they intended to construct a large number of the “Dengel” boats that are typical of Lake Tana and then give these boats to the artists so that they could paint on them.
These artists were also taken to Bahir Dar before they were given the boats to paint on. While they were there, they were given a historical tour that began at the beginning of Abay and went all the way to Lake Tana and the islands.
When they got back to Addis Ababa, one of the things they did was visit museums so that they could gain a deeper understanding of the country’s history and gather inspiration for their work.
“Everyone created a piece that resonates with what they saw and understood in relation to the tour they received and the many histories they learned,” Tamirat said. He says the artists depicted the Abay River, Lucy, and coffee, among others that they related to.
In addition to the artwork, there was a panel discussion at the Ethiopian Academy of Sciences that lasted for an entire day and was focused on the Abay River. The conversation was moderated by Yakob Arsano (PhD), an associate professor at Addis Ababa University (AAU).
The lecturer discussed his perspectives on the governments’ stances on the shared use of the river, focusing specifically on the perspectives that exist on the shared use of the river between Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
“This project was not only focused on the art and the concept behind it but also on the sharing of knowledge and experiences as well as strengthening the bonds between people from different places, which I believe it was able to achieve,” Tamirat stated.
The Ethiopian Academy of Sciences is hosting a public exhibition for the following month.
Tamirat established the symposium after identifying a need for well-run international symposiums in the nation. It helps develop a bridge of cultural exchange between the countries that are participating by displaying the works of a variety of artists from all over the world and by showcasing the works of those artists.