The Ale School of Fine Art annual graduate art show opened on Thursday at the school’s gallery to a large audience. Director of the school Agegnehu Adane and associate professor Bekele Mekonnen opened the exhibition to artists, art lovers and the families of the graduates. The exhibition showcased the works of undergraduate and postgraduate students’ final projects.
The school’s students presented installations, paintings, fashion design and inventions. A 2.8-meter long stretch of canvas fabric prominently hanging from the ceiling depicted a dark and forlorn human figure stamped with QR codes. Liyou Kebede’s bachelor’s project titled ‘Emotional Detachment’ is an exploration of the emotional erosion created by technology. The domination of material objects over emotional presence or fulfillment, she says, has put our humanity in danger.
Birhane Tesfamariam’s ‘The Vibration of Embilta’ visualizes the experience of the sonorous sound created by the musical instrument ‘embilta’. Alemayehu Darsema’s ‘Shuffling out of Schizophrenia’ is a frenzied green-scape that explores mental illness. Ebisa Keju’s mixed media pieces investigates the influence of cheap Asian manufacturing to the environment and the goods sold at local markets.
Central installation piece by MFA graduate Hailu Kifle entitled ‘Memory of the Red Terror’ was a strong attraction in the exhibition. Three large official seals of the Derg, MEISON (acronym for All Ethiopian Socialist Movement), and EPRP (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Party) are displayed. The Derg seal menacingly hovers above the MEISON and EPRP seals that lie facing each other on a blood-red fabric. The size differences and their spatial placement create a fascinating conversation about the history of these political organizations and their respective roles during the Red Terror.
According to Hailu, the installation is an exploration of the concept of collective memory. The shared narrative that society forms of historical events in order to contextualize and make sense of the present may not necessarily be objective, he says. The installation brings these seals of old to the present day and question how decisions made in the past have informed the current situation.
Hailu was especially critical of the Red Terror Museum in Addis Ababa, stating the exhibition was one-sided and selective. The role EPRP played in exacerbating the Red Terror and the propaganda of MEISON that propagated the rhetoric of the Derg is not presenting enough, he says. Smaller and regular sized seals also hang in the installation, reminding one of the many other variables during that fiery part of Ethiopian history.
A few interesting inventions were also on display including a portable coffee vending cart inspired by the many women selling coffee on the streets of Addis a printmaking machine by Mastewal Getnet and Kasma Design by Fikir Mesfin. Kasma is a wood waste recycling project that combines the west with fiber (qacha), cotton, grass, mesh wire and yarn. The composite, depending on which element it is composed of, is flexible and textured and can be utilized in various design projects.
Gizaw Seyoum’s MFA work ‘Queue (Self)’ explored the ubiquitous and unavoidable queues of Addis Ababa. The combined issues of rapid urbanization, overcrowding and lack of transportation have led to interminable taxi lines. Although the issue is pressing, the little attention the problem has been given by the city administration as well as the lack of conversation about this issue have resulted in a quiet complacency among residents. Gizaw has installed multiple umbrellas in tight formation, offering a bird’s eye view of the queue. Time, energy and repetition are common themes of his installation. Gizaw adds that queues aren’t limited to transportation. Bank, government offices, gas station, protests (peaceful or otherwise), oil and sugar queues are also to be considered. Time and energy spent in line and how often one has to repeat this ritual are up for conversation.
The exhibition was attended by many people and should continue to attract the interest of many art lovers in Ethiopia. The show will be open for the following month.