Zerihun Yetmgeta is an internationally recognized Ethiopian artist. His paintings and mixed media pieces combine elements of contemporary art with traditional forms of his native Ethiopia, particularly from the icons and scrolls of Ethiopian Orthodox art.
Yetmgeta artistic practice started early, at fifteen he won first prize in a national art competition, known as the “All Ethiopian School” competition. After completing high school, he attended the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in Addis Ababa (1963-1968). While attending the university, Yetmgeta shared a studio with Alexander Boghossian, known as Skunder Boghossian. Boghossian, along with Gebre Kristos Desta and Karl Heinz Hansen (his professors at the School of Fine Arts), have been cited as major influences in the artist’s development. Yetmgeta has taught at the Alle School of Fine Arts and Design since 1978.
In the aftermath of the 1974 Ethiopian Revolution, when the Emperor Haile Selassie was overthrown, many artists went into exile. The socialist military rule of the Provisional Military Administrative Council (known as the Derg) that followed, established repressive practices toward the arts, mandating the use of social realism and censoring subject matter. Yetmgeta, however, chose to stay in Addis Ababa. Since the end of Derg rule, Yetmgeta has enjoyed international prominence and has exhibited widely.
1st Prize, All Ethiopian School, Addis Ababa, 1958
Represented Ethiopia in the 4th Havana Biennial in 1991, themed: The Challenge of Colonization
Prix de la Biennale, Dakar Biennale, or Dak’Art ’92
2nd prize at the Kenya Art Panorama, French Cultural Center, Nairobi, 1994.
While attending boarding school, he was nicknamed “the Scientist” because of his eagerness to work with his hands and create things. When, at the age of eighteen, he won the first prize in a national art competition, he knew his destiny was to pursue his life as artist.Many of Zerihun‟s work reflect major national and international issues.
He uses paper, canvas, skin, wood and other material to express his vision and feelings. His works by the end of the century include work of art, framed on pieces of wood from weavers‟ tools and strips of parchments designed and prepared by him for his creativity thought.
Zerihun stands on a stage like no one before him, a proponent of 20th century Ethiopian art and contemporary Ethiopian creative genius. His success as an artist and his commitment to his unique artistic vision have sustained and preserved the tradition of Ethiopian modernism even during the most difficult times.
Zerihun’s works themed “For Peace”will be showcased November 18 2016, 6:00 PM at Alliance Ethio-Francaise.