Best of Addis 2012
The task of identifying the best artistic and cultural experiences in Addis in the past year turned out to be much more challenging than expected. Not because there were not a plethora of events to cherry pick from. There were, and many of them were as such interesting but also fairly safe. Only few of the events were really creative and managed to set new standards for what can be done within arts and culture in Addis. In the end, we settled on the ones presented below in random order. Revisit them and let us know what were your 2012 Addis favorites.
Dawit Abebe: X-Privacy
Dawit Abebe is one of Ethiopia’s most promising young artists and his solo show at the Alliance ehio-francaise galleries in October was refreshing, well-thought and most of all complete. There was a sofisticated red line throughout the show that featured works on canvas and paper in several sizes as well as a large installation. A truly breathtaking wall-size canvas in one end of the gallery stole the attention of the crowd and so did the installation in the other end. Abebe’s pen and palette is at once rich and rigorous, minimalistic and melancholic, and his almost cubistic humans inhabit the canvas with confidence.
The third edition of the Selam Festival showcased some of the best contemporary Ethiopian music. Veterans of the golden age like Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete along with new talents such as Yeshi Demelash created some magic moments in the Ghion park in December. As did international stars like Timbuktu, while the performances of new Ethiopian rock entities like Jano and Janinites showed that there is still a lot work to be done before Ethiopia can claim to be the home of a rock scene.
Fekat Circus: LAB-ART
In 2012 Addis Ababa was enriched with a new space for culture and performing arts: the Fekat Circus‘ LAB-ART. Fekat Circus is a non-profit organization aimed at promoting arts as an agent for social change and development. The LAB-ART is located in a beautiful old compound around Piassa and is a space for teaching children and adults about circus arts, for hosting exhibitions and performances. The Fekat Circus, the people, the project is purely magic. The Fekat spirit spreads smiles as medicine and circus training as empowerment of children, and the Fekat crew deserves applause for how far their hard work, talent and believes have taken them.
Examples to Follow: Expeditions in aesthetics and sustainability
There is great potential for art and artists to create awareness on and come up with alternative solutions to some of the problems that contemporary Ethiopia faces such as environment issues. However, it is rare to see an exhibition in Addis that pinpoints such difficult and problematic topics. Nevertheless, the ‘Examples to Follow’ exhibition at the Modern Art Museum and the Goethe Institute in May showed that such endeavors are both possible and necessary and it was really refreshing and inspiring to see a thematic exhibition in Addis arranged around a subject that is on everyones lips these days: sustainability. ‘Examples to Follow’ furthermore did one very important thing: it caught the attention of school-classes, creating an important link to the future cultural consumers of the city and reaching out to the local community. Although the exhibition is neither organized or produced in Addis and only a handfull of Ethiopian artists were represented, it can be an inspiration for local artists and curators on how to organize thematic exhibitions in Ethiopia in the future.
No, there was probably nothing particular new over the performances at Fendika asmari bet in 2012. But the venue is still the most reliable place in Addis to go to experience the wide palet of Ethiopian music and dance. From the exhilarating performances of Melaku and his Fendika or Ethiocolor ensembles and dancers, over classic asmari performances to young talents and old veterans like Alemayehu Fanta. Yes, it does get crowded, hot and rowdy there at peak nights but a visit to Fendika is never a disappointment.