Peace from the Village: New Art Installations in Addis
On the occasion of World Peace Day, Serenade Art House has dedicated an exhibition in two chapters to the celebration of peace. Thursday last week the first chapter and installation-only show, *Notions of Peace*, opened in the warm and friendly old-house-made-to-gallery Serenade Art House in Amist Kilo. Curator of the exhibition, founder of Addis Rumble, Karen Obling, had invited six artists from Netsa Art Village: Daniel Alemayehu, Helen Zeru, Henok Getachew, Leikun Nahusenay, Solomon Tsegaye, and Tamrat Gezahegne to create installations reflecting the artists own take on peace. The opening was a major success and perhaps one of the most well attended gallery openings this year. Artists, collectors, lecturers, creatives, family and friends of the artists, curator and owner of Serenade Art House, Yasser Bargesh, had joined the celebration of peace and this rare installation-only exhibition.
NETSA & PEACE
The selection of six artists from Netsa Art Village for this show was simple and obvious for two reasons: 1) The art collective houses some of the most talented and cutting edge artists in Ethiopia, and 2) The calm and peaceful atmosphere of the village is unique for Addis Ababa, and can hardly be found any where else in the capital.
Netsa Art Village was founded by 11 artists in 2008. Located in the remote and beautiful Ferendsey Park around the French Embassy, the art village is one of the most peaceful and pleasant places in Addis Ababa. The atmosphere is calm, fresh and inspiring, and the green area serves as an invigorating pause from the daily rumble of the city. The main idea for the first show has been to install the mood and spirit of Netsa Art Village in the gallery – to transfer the peaceful, pleasant and silent atmosphere from the park to Amest Kilo.
The focal point of the exhibition is a small-scale replica of a large dome used for exhibitions in the village. Built in the centre of the gallery the dome gives the audience a feeling of being in Netsa Art village, an opportunity to enjoy the sheltering, fresh, peaceful and green atmosphere of the park. From the main room in the gallery under the umbrella of the dome, the artist’s individual ideas and notions of peace reach out to the other gallery rooms and the outside space. While some installations transmit personal feelings of peace, others take up cultural and global visions, and yet others evolve around feelings of community and liberation.
The small and big stone sculptures in Daniel Alemayehu’s Rock of the Village walks peacefully around on the front lawn of the gallery. Made of rocks collected in the Art Village it came to life when Daniel had looked at these rocks for a fair amount of time, figuring out what to make of them. When he began seeing small figures and people in the rocks, the work took shape. None of the figures are alike, none of them are fixed, and the village keep growing as Daniel finds more rocks. The truly remarkable thing with this work is the fact that the sculptures are not fixed, that each sculpture is like a puzzle, where Daniel has to find stones that fit perfectly together so that they rest peacefully on each other. Rock of the Village is at once strong and fragile and installs a sense of community and intimacy in the outdoor space that is beautifully taken over by the silent villagers. The vulnerable and fragile assembling of the rocks and the harmonious installation of them on the lawn inserts frailness and duality in the work that makes it powerful and intriguing. If one sculpture falls the harmony is broken, reminding us just how fragile peace in a community is.
To Helen Zeru the ultimate feeling of peace is silence. In her work Silence she transfers her personal experience of peace into an alternative and intimate entrance to the gallery. Her aim was to create a space that can provide the audience with silence and a shielding feeling that illuminates a peaceful moment. She strained a robe from the entrance of the gallery compound to the entrance of the gallery and hung large pieces of clothe in three colours on the robe, creating an entrance reminiscent of a long tent. The audience had to walk through this new entrance to enter the gallery, which created a wholesome bodily experience as well as much amusement and excitement. Silence had the quality of evoking childhood memories for many visitors, as walking through this installation evoked a sense of playing among fresh and clean laundry, hanging to dry in the sun. “In my installation the artwork and the audience are mixed, as the audience step inside the work and interact with and experience it. The installation will be inadequate without the feeling of a person experiencing it.”
To Henok Getachew peace is experienced and performed in close relation to the arts. In the first room of the gallery his work Liberation unfolds and fills up the space paraphrasing one of the well-known metaphor for peace, the white dove. A large-scale painting of the artist’s is cut to pieces, each piece resembling a bird (dove) that are liberated from its (canvas) cage. The room is filled with canvas-birds that fly around in circles in the room, out of the window, into the other rooms, leaving their now empty space at the canvas to create stunning shadows on the back wall. To Henok the free birds symbolize the liberation of concepts and ideas in all forms or meanings that has been trapped in e.g. the frame of the canvas, and finally set free.
Leikun Nahusenay takes over the bathroom of the gallery creating a peaceful and invigorate chess photo installation, Rest in/and Peace. The installation consists primarily of small photos carefully selected and arranged by subject and nailed to the wall. Although rich in content and props, the installation has a minimalistic stance to it, by e.g. giving light from a single light bulb and hanging empty frames on the wall. The wordplay of Rest in/and Peace refers to the common way of honouring the late by saying Rest in Peace, while Rest and Peace used to be a common salutation for the Rasta Farians. Optimized with Selamta Magazines (Selam means peace in Amharic) and newspapers featuring the recent loss of PM Meles Zenawi and the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Leikun honours the late and presents them with a respectful and peaceful greeting.
In addition to being the mastermind behind the central dome, Solomon Tsegaye has created one of the most labour-intense, detailed and impressing pieces of the show, Harmony & Diversity. The installation is a great globe pieced together by a variety of random small and big round parts suspended from a plate in the ceiling, resembling a sky. It is a replica of our globe communicating the idea that we each play a part in the universe and are interconnected to each other and the whole. To Solomon finding our place in this whole is finding peace. With each small part of this work being colourful and noisy, assembled to the whole it installs an immediate feeling of silence, awe and harmony. It shows the interconnectedness of the world, and takes the importance and need of peace to a universal level. Walking around this at once noisy and quiet globe and exploring its parts and construction is a peaceful bliss that summons the very idea of peace.
Tamrat Gezahegne reinterprets colours, forms and moods known from Ethiopian culture and life into an intimate and almost sacral room in Grail of Life. With elements from religious holidays, traditional festivals, the Ethiopian flag and ancient Ge’ez manuscripts Tamrat translates elements of traditional culture into a new playful and colourful contemporary context. From the dark corridor one enters a lit room with a multi coloured and patterned table set with painted and patterned plastic cups and a big water-jar covered with fabric in the middle of the room. Various Amharic letters are cut out in fabric and glued to the wall, as are two cow-craniums plastered with fabric in symmetric pattern. One senses the strong attachment to traditional culture in Tamrat’s work, as he at once installs an almost sacral feeling as well as a childish innocence in this subtle interpretation of traditional culture into a vision of peace.
The Netsa Art Villagers present six thoughtful, ambitious and visionary installations contemplating on the theme of peace. Each individual installation reveals the artist’s personal ideas and visions on peace, and provides the audience with a context that engages body and mind in new artistic variations of peace. The quality of the works is high and the artists present the viewer with subtle experiences and positions that evoke contemplation and meditation on the very subject of peace. Each of the installations stands strong individually, but presented together they become even stronger and eloquent, and are taken to the next level.
Besides these six installations one room is dedicated to video art. In collaboration with PUMA Films4Peace, a selection of curated short films is on display at the gallery presenting a global outreach on the theme of peace. The videos are made by artists from around the globe and broaden the scope of the exhibitions by presenting the audience with global views on peace. The videos are on display for app. one week, after which the participating artists will present selected video works.
For review of the exhibition in the Ethiopian Reporter, please click here.
Daniel Alemayehu was born in Addis Ababa in 1956. During Derg time he was based in Khartoum, Sudan where he attended painting and graphics design courses at the Khartoum Children and Youth Palace for several years. He obtained a certificate in video and photography from Master Fine Arts and Vocational Training Center in Addis Ababa in 2002. Daniel is one of the founding members of Netsa Art Village and has had solo exhibitions locally at the National Theatre Gallery, in Asni Art Village, the Goethe Institute, and Asni Gallery. He has participated in numerous group-shows in Addis Ababa as well as internationally at e.g. Old monastery Gallery in Cologne, Nairobi National Museum and recently in Luxor.
Daniel spends most days working in the Art Village and gets his inspiration from the peaceful surroundings of the green park. His work reflects experiments within sculpture, painting and mixed media, and he often uses multiple untraditional materials and colours when working on the canvas.
Helen Zeru was born in Addis Ababa in 1987. She studied economics at Bahir Dar University before enrolling at Addis Ababa University of Fine Art from where she achieved her BFA in 2008. After her graduation she studied photography with DESTA for Africa foundation for one year. She is an active member of Netsa Art Village, works as a studio artists and freelance photographer, and as an art-therapist for several local NGO’s.
Helen has participated in group-exhibitions at the Alliance Francaise, the Goethe Institute, National Museum, National Theatre Gallery and the Netsa Art Village, Laphto Gallery, and she recently had her first international appearance at a show in Berlin.
Helen works with photography, video art, performance, painting and charcoal drawings. Her works often start as reflections of personal and emotional themes, and ends up entering a broader social context, touching upon relevant and pressing issues in society.
Henok Getachew was born in 1984 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Before studying art, Henok attended Debub University to study Physics. In 2003 he enrolled in the School of Fine Arts and Design at Addis Ababa University. After studying with notable Ethiopian artists such as Mezgebu Tesemma, Tadesse Mesfin, Negatu Tszehay, Bekele Mekonnen and Abdurahman Sherif, he graduated in 2008 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art Education. Henok received two honourable mentions and a scholarship for achievement from the Ethiopian Association of Japan. He has since had numerous solo and group exhibitions, continually enlarging his artistic boundaries.
Henok experiments with painting, video, photography, and as a performer. His subjects include the continual decline of the city, the almost insoluble traffic problems, prostitution and the moral decline of society. He gets ideas through experimenting with different materials: tested and found capable of expression, they become mouthpieces for the inner artistic world of his imagination.
Leikun Nahusenay was born in Addis Ababa in 1983. He achieved a Master of Fine Art from Addis Ababa Fine Art School, and works as a studio artists and fine arts photographer in Nas Gedame studio and Netsa Art Village. In addition to this he teaches photography and makes art-workshops for children.
Leikun has had several solo and group exhibitions in Addis Ababa, one of the most notably being Draw me a Castle at Alliance Francaise in 2012, with photographer Sebastian Cailleux, Eyrusalem Aberas and French artist Jean-Paul Le Piouff. In 2010 and 2011 he participated in the Portfolio Meetings for up-coming African photographers in respectively Addis Ababa and Bamako, Mali.
With a MA in Fine Arts and extensive photography experience Leikun experiments and play with various media. His work is always processual and in progress. He seeks to connect art with life in whatever way his position in time and space makes it possible.
Solomon Tsegaye was born in Addis Ababa in 1980. He studied studied architecture and urban design at Ethiopian Institute for Architecture, building and Construction and achieved a bachelor of science in 2005. Solomon is one of the founders of Netsa Art Village, and his work has been on display in group shows at the Alliance Francaise, Netsa Art Village, Goethe Institute and the National Theatre Gallery, and he has had a solo-show at the National Theatre gallery.
Solomon is an artist and architect and the mastermind behind the great exhibition-dome in the Village. His work often reflects a mix or blurring of the boundaries of his two professions. Experiments with symmetry, construction and accurate calculations are often recognizable features in his work, as are mixing of various material, media and colours.
Tamrat Gezahegne was born in Addis Ababa in 1977. He graduated from the School of Fine Arts and Design, Painting Department in 2000. He was one of the founders of the Netsa Art Village and the green park is his studio. Tamrat’s works has been presented locally at Lela Gallery, Asni Gallery, Netsa Art Village, Alliance Francaise, The Goethe Institute, German House, Zoma, Sheraton, US Embassy, Gedam Sefer, and Atelier. He has participated in various international shows such as the Bastakiya Art Fair Dubai; the ARCO, Madrid, Spain; “Continuity & Change”, Harn Museum, University of Florida, USA, as well as shows in Luxor and Berlin.
Tamrat’s work has a playful and at times almost childish character. Bright colours, meticulous pen-strokes and details are in focus, and he often plays with Ge’ez or Amharic texts and traditional motives. His work is always related to traditional culture be it colour, motives or beliefs. Painting is like meditation and contemplation for him, and he is constantly seeking new ways to reflect on and feel other lifestyles, disciplines and cultures through his art.