Women artists’ collaboration on March 8
An exhibition entitled Female Impressions in Art featuring the works of female artist who are members of the Association of Ethiopian Female Artists that was organized in cooperation with the Goethe Institute opened on March 7 on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The group exhibition consisted of 12 works by Birtukan Dejene, Ruth Ademasu, Kidist Berhane, Million Berhane, Rahel Ayele, Entihaj Abdella and Abezash Gebrewold.
The Association of Ethiopian Female Artists formerly known as Friendship of
Women Artists (FOWA) currently has 26 members. They organize panel discussions and informal gatherings to encourage members to socialize and collaborate on projects. The aim of the organization is to develop art by female Ethiopian artists by creating a strong network and providing a platform for international competitions.
Aynalem Gebremariam, vice president of the Association, stated that social problems women face and pressure within the family to pick more conventional career route discourage many female artists. “We want to encourage women to leave their homes and produce more work. Inspiration comes from exploration.”
The Goethe Institute has been working with AEFA since its conception in 1998, providing venue for exhibitions and supporting the Association’s projects. Julia Sattler, director of the Goethe Institute, stated their commitment to ensuring gender equality by creating a strong network and combine resources with many organizations in Addis Ababa. She emphasized the importance of creating a platform for female artists that can inspire other young women, especially in a male dominated field.
The Goethe Institute also organized a photography exhibit in last year on the occasion of March 8 entitled Inspiring Women in cooperation with AEFA. These works were part of a symposium in Gondar University on Friday March 9 that discussed the role of Female Artists in Ethiopia.
Aynalem described the pieces displayed as artworks that speak about women and celebrations of what March 8 represents for the participating artists. One of her favorite pieces, ‘Me’ by Rahel Ayele depicted a woman in a bright green headscarf looking gazing into the distance is surrounded by jebenas. Aynalem said the woman covered up but still visible, is looking towards the future wistful. “A woman looks in all directions. She isn’t focused on one thing alone. She thinks deeply.”
Rahel herself emphasizes the significance of the jebenas and pots in the background. Clay is both fragile and strong. This dual nature, she says, is a strong metaphor for female nature. “Women are treated like clay and resemble it in some sense”. Women are the ones who work with clay and make various useful objects. “The end result depends on the maker. How they will use the medium to create an object. I see my own strength in my work.”
Another artist Entihaj Abdella had two works on display. She describes these pieces as her take on modern Arabic calligraphy by reforming Amharic language script and shapes using Arabic techniques. “It is a play on composition and form to create something new”.
Entihaj previously worked in abstract paintings and graduated from Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts in 2002 and joined AEFA the same year. She had a solo exhibition at Goethe Institute in 2003. She believes being a female Muslim artist in Ethiopia requires courage. She herself has thus far refused gendered interpretations of her work. Many, she says, are surprised to find out her works were made by a Muslim woman. She insists women must break the glass ceiling in the arts world and overcome the traditional gender roles that have hindered so many artists.
Solomon Alemayehu, 34, a scriptwriter and film location scout, attending the opening expressed his appreciation for Million Berhane’s ‘Untitled’, a domestic scene of a woman knitting in her bedroom with two kittens playing with red yarn. Solomon loved the realism of the painting calling it ‘descriptive’ and ‘heart touching’. He added that appreciation for the arts is underdeveloped in Ethiopia and many need to purchase more art to develop the sector.
Rediet Abebe, 27, a visual artist, expounded the need for more platforms that display works by women. “When female artists are recognized the country benefits.” she stated. Aynalem agrees with the need for recognition and encouraged more women to join their Association. The exhibition will be on display at the Goethe Institute until April 30th.
Contributed by Hiwot Abebe