Message from the artist
‘A call for the advancement of art in Ethiopia’
Art in its multi-faceted dimensional expression is part of the evolving human history which is the fact we share with the rest of the world. I believe, this evolutionary transition is a continuation from God’s naturally instituted environmentally beautified original design commanding human’s way of life, beliefs, and practices. Starting with drawing what they see in their surroundings, human elevated art reflecting on the original design and develop their creative imagination inclusive of their emotions which they start to express in many artistic ways. This through time becomes a multi-disciplinary art field of studies. In this evolutionary journey the discipline and work of art has been advancing.
However, I feel the advancement of art in Ethiopia through time seems stagnated mummifying what had been started by our ancestors. This is visible especially when it comes to the many functional arts exhibited in pottery, the different handmade wooden bowls, vibrantly colored incense holders, and beautifully crafted furniture made of bamboo that are some examples among many known to me the same for years with no change in form, shape, material, and other aspects of artistic features. Leaving the study for researchers, I believe zero attention is provided to nurture indigenous art and poor policy effort to strengthen art education are one of the units of analysis towards the solution to advance art in Ethiopia.
The education policy does not strongly support the growth of art education bottom up from elementary to high level. Despite the increasing numbers of private schools and colleges for science and business, the investment on art education by the private sector let alone by government is almost non-existent. The ‘non value addition’ societal attitude and poor attention provided by policy makers for art, although we have rich art heritage inherited from our ancestors and the fact on the contribution of art for economic development are may be top of the factors responsible that are retarding the different dimensions of growth in art. These all can be another analysis areas for researchers in search of the solution for are to properly play the role of social asset. The timeless art works and architectural designs of Michelangelo privileged Florence a status of timeless beauty and a tourist destination strongly supporting local economy.
Recently I got the chance to share my experience to the expectant graduates of AAU, School of Fine Arts, Theatrical Art, and Literature as part of my company’s social responsibility program. Due to the limited job opportunity in the market and limited market potential for art works, we have been witnessing so many beautiful art minds wasted joining non art industries to win their bread. How many galleries are there? Is there any effort made on behalf of the organ assigned for the development of art to acquaint fresh art graduates with the audience? This is another intervention area to advance art in Ethiopia.
It is fortunate for us artists to witness an art appreciative government with the coming to power of the new administration. We should capture the moment to influence policy for the best interest of art and artists. The essence of my message is a call for cohort effort of citizens spearheaded by artists to see Ethiopian art as a discipline not as a few credit hour courses. We should lobby the growing private sector to invest on art education as they have been doing on other disciplines. We should lobby government to understand the many contributions of art as social asset in and as one of direct and indirect engine of economy. Solid emphasis has to be provided for art education, venues of art exhibition, galleries, support for artists, and legal framework on preserving art works. There are many artistic intervention areas to make Ethiopia as art center of Africa.
It is a downward disgrace for us failing the legacy of our ancestors who build the foundation. This is my call for all Ethiopians; let us not miss the blessing from the government of PM Abiy Ahmed for the advancement of art in our beloved country. For all fellow artists; let us work and inspire the future.
Artist Fitsum Woubshet
Owner and Manager
Fitsum Wub Art Studio