Abel Tilahun Capturing Paradigm Shifts Through Odyssey


Abel Tilahun is an international artist whose marque is through archaic and emergent art forms with depth.


Tilahun was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 1983 and grew up in an artistic environment. His mother is a professionally trained clarinetist and his father is an engineer who enjoys painting. He earned his BFA in Sculpture from Addis Ababa University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design in 2006. After moving to the United States, he earned his master’s degree in Fine Art from Adams State University in 2010 and was recognized as the Cloyde Snook Scholar of 2009–10.]

He has been showcasing his art throughout continents within ubiquitous themes. From his 2006 Undergraduate Thesis Show at Alle School of Fine Arts and Design to the 2014 Interface Effect which was curated by the renowned independent curator Meskerem Assegued at Alliance Ethio-Francaise and with other shows in between, he has been introducing his audiences and art enthusiasts’ ways of expressing an epoch of both the cutting edge and the long arc of history.

Torn building

This year, Artist Abel brought another piece themed “Odyssey” to the grounds of Alliance éthio-Française on January 3 to be shown till January 24, 2017.

We went there with an open mind to the point of no depictions pre drawn in our minds to relate with what we were there for. Quite a number of people showed up for the opening and they were all hyped for what was about to be unveiled. The appellation “odyssey” had such a profundity by itself for us onlookers to build our anticipation through.

Odyssey has meant any epic journey ever since Homer’s epic poem. So that much we knew, it was about some journey. But what journey? After the evening officially started, followed by a welcoming speech, an exposé to the rest of the evening by Meskerem Assegued and later on Abel himself, we scattered to corners to catch up to the journey he has been travelling to meet the art of outward paradoxes speaking of internal nadirs.


Wandering around, from what he did with “injera”, characterized and backed by neon lights creating another image, the brain figurine that we get to wonder through as an outsider to the very journey through the vast space, it was quite a peregrination.






Later on the evening we were able to meet the mind, the eyes and soul behind the wheels of Odyssey, Abel Tilahun. Here is what you need to know About Odyssey from the very point of the proprietor’s view.


A.I . If you could describe “Odyssey” in 140 characters?

Abel: Odyssey: Journey to an unknown place/future in search of wisdom/progress. The show both expresses this optimism & problematizes the notion.

A.I What themes do you usually pursue?

Abel: An over-arching theme of my work is the relationship between the cutting edge and the long arc of history. This show addresses the paradoxes of innovation, with a birds-eye view on the gravity of the contemporary moment as well as the continuity and patterns within human history. At the heart of my work is the intrinsic value of the human experience across time and space.

A.I. Describe a real-life situation that inspired you to do this piece or what was your inspiration behind this particular series or collection in general?

Abel: My works are the result of long-term research. In Odyssey, the significance and the historical background of moving pictures is a prominent theme. I was also inspired by the collapse of information hierarchy within the immersive media landscape today. Using culturally significant symbols such as injera, which we perceive as timeless, I have created conceptual and visual contrasts with the cutting-edge innovations of today.

A.I How long did it take you to finish your piece? Is it an ongoing project or is it a one time show?

Abel: I’ve been working on the pieces in Odyssey over the last two years. I keep my studio active at all times, and hope to have another exhibition soon.

A.I For which particular audience did you create this piece?

Abel: I’m not only interested in the audience of today, although they are important to me. Great art transcends time. Great art speaks to a whole gamut of audiences spanning the globe and across time. Reaching this broad spectrum of audiences is my aim.

A.I What Role does this collection have in our society?

Abel: Art has the potential to help audiences see familiar things in a new way. I hope my work will promote contemporary art in Ethiopia and encourage art appreciation. I also hope I will be able to help put Ethiopia on the map within the international contemporary art world.

A.I What is that one scene that you want your audience to capture? What is that one thing you want them to get out of your work?

Abel: After seeing my artwork, I hope the audience will pay attention to the paradigm shifts occurring in our world, and mindfully participate in them. I hope my audience will maintain a firm grasp of the importance of the past and a compassionate view towards how we can shape the future.

A.I what were the challenges you faced in creating the art piece?

Abel: There are challenges in every aspect of the process, but the most amazing thing with art is that each challenge gives birth to new possibilities in the artwork, making it stronger than the original intent.

A.I Anything you would like to add?

Abel: By the grace of Egziabher, Odyssey has been a great success. I would like to express my appreciation for the diverse audience in Addis Ababa and their overwhelming support. I would also like to thank Zoma Contemporary Art Center for their many years of support and for enriching the contemporary art culture and awareness in Ethiopia and the world. I’d also like to thank my support network of friends and family who have worked tirelessly to help make this show possible. And thank you, Addis Insight, for your interest in my work.


With all that being said, don’t miss out on the great show that’s still showing at Alliance éthio-Française but only till January 24, 2017.

Visit Abel Tilahun:






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