Experimenting with photography
Sebastian Cailleux, French photographer and traveller has launched an exhibition at Alliance Ethio-Française the Ecoled’Art Au Village (EDAAV) exhibition. Cailleux is founder and president of EDAVV, an NGO that works on education and culture in 23 countries around the globe.
The exhibition is part of a children’s art workshop with EDAAV with kids ages 3 to 15 on the theme of ‘Addis’s Skyline’ and will be led by LeikunNahusenay.
Cailleux was part of the experimental photography collective, along with artists EyerusalemAbera and LeikunNahusenay. The collective had traveled around South Omo, visiting the Konso, Ari and andKaro ethnic groups. This was the first exercise of what came to be known as École d'art au Village (EDAVV).
EDAAV works with children introducing them to the culture and history of other countries and encouraging them to explore these themes through art works. Local artists are engaged in this process that also involves teachers and school administrations.
The initial tour where they witnessed indigenous artistic practices working with locals utilizing different media like pastels encouraged the workshop to go global. “I returned to Paris and reviewed the photographs we took. Wow. I thought we got something. This is something we must do,” says Cailleux.
The first workshops aimed to connect the historic city of Gondar and the Fasilades palace with the palace of Versailles in Paris. This cultural partnership was prompted by Cailleux’s daring endeavor to contact the palace of Versailles. Students in both cities went of field trips exploring these notable sites and then learned about the other countries and the locations’ historical significance.
“I am what you would call a great traveller. I don’t joke. I make my visits official. I get the proper stamped paperwork. People say don’t go to these places. The travel guides we are read tell us not to go there. These people are dangerous. But our experience is completely different.”
An important element of EDAAV’s work in connection with education and the arts was to ensure that their activities with children follow local curriculum. Artists work with teachers to design a comprehensive plan, ensuring the artistic process, which tends to be more fun, is in line with the knowledge the children are required to acquire. “This is the concept of sharing. That’s what we’re trying to create.”
An interesting element of EDAAV Cailleux mentions is the patronage of Claude Picasso, grandson of renowned French cubist Pablo Picasso. EDAAV follows Picasso’s statement that he had to relearn how to draw like a child again, leading to his creation of more abstracted pieces. Children have a reckless abandon that allows them to draw intuitively and instinctively, without care for the viewer.
EDAAV will celebrate 10 years since establishment, prompting this timely exhibition at Alliance Ethio-Française, this week.
The exhibition includes pastel and digital drawings from children. The drawings depict historical places like Axum, Lalibela and Gondar, religious scenes of the holy trinity or Ethiopian crosses or other Ethiopian landmarks. Both Ethiopian and French children created these works.
According to Cailleux, EDAAV was the first to introduce digital art to these remote areas of the country. Having resided in Ethiopia for several years, and living in the NAS Gedame studio space along with a few Ethiopian artists that marked the beginning of the Trinity collective, Cailleux is well known in the Ethiopian artist community.
Addis Ababa will see much of Cailleux and his work this December. Aside from the exhibition commemorating EDAAV, there is also a show at Fendika called ‘All About Women’.
‘Portrait in Self Portrait’ is a series of photographs Cailleux has worked on with painter SelomeMuleta for the past 2 years.
The 11 pieces in the main room show Selome. These multiple exposure photographs are a layering of portraits of SelomeCailleux had taken layered with pictures of Selome’s own paintings. Her large bright eyes entice and, alternatively, interrogate the viewer. The others appear to be caricatures-mimesis of Selome’s identity as an artist. This turns back the eyes from the viewer into the self; it becomes introspective.
Selome herself looks at these works as outside of her identity and artistic works. Even though her image is the center of every piece in ‘Portrait in Self Portrait’ and her self-portraits and geographical drawings layer almost every piece, her initial intention has been erased or appropriated by Sebastian’s. It is removed from her and become something new.
‘It’s All About Women’ also brings the works of EyerusalemAbera to Fendika. Having made her home in France for nearly a decade, it’s been a while since Eyerusalem’s pieces graced Addis’s galleries.
The inner room shows Eyerusalem’s ‘Women in Construction’, pop art photography of female construction workers in Ethiopia. What began as a documentation project through photography,later morphed into pop art creating icons.
Eyerusalem employs pop art to erase details, brightening the shots with primary colors. She has created icons of womanhood and hard work. “These women are building a country,” she explains.
These works have been well received by the audience. While the topic is becoming more common, her method of execution is novel. Eyerusalem had spent time with these women, going to their homes and creating friendships. The pictures are not just snapshots of them at construction sites. We see them linking arms and posing, applying makeup and smiling candidly.
“This is the perfect time to tell this story. Even if people didn’t like what they say I still have transmitted my message,” she explains, referring to the social and political changes regarding Ethiopian women in recent months. These pop art pieces have made these women icons, and therefore timeless.
Eyerusalem, having been a founding member of Trinity, also works with Cailleux on EDAAV’s artistic education projects.
“I enjoyed being so close to children, introducing them to my country. They’re very curious. They want to learn. We are creating connection between children around the world. I have learned children everywhere have a lot in common.”
EDAAV has had activities in Ethiopia every year for the past decade, working with several artists and engaging nearly 20 children every year in Gondar alone.
Cailleux will be a big element of two more exhibitions in the coming week. ‘NegePiassa’ at Guramayne Gallery along with photographerHaymanotHonelgne and curated by MiftaZeleke – a study of the future state of Piassa area and ‘Inks and Woodcuts’ - orthodox church inspired paintings and woodcuts at Taitu Hotel Gallery along with artist LeikunNahusenay.
The relationships Cailleux maintains with artists he meets and the influence they have on each other is evident. His approach of sharing ideas and skills, learning more about the other’s culture leads to the creation of more art pieces. While Eyerusalem has worked with him since 2009, Selome is just beginning. He points out that Selome is now the same age as Eyerusalemwhen he first met her. Haymanot is a young emerging photographer who also works in fashion and design. He has interest in young artists, encouraging their craft and eagerly collaborating on projects.
These four exhibitions will be on display throughout December, a must see for those interested in seeing artistic interpretations of Ethiopia’s past, current, future possibilities through the eyes of visual artists invested in the country.