Art for a Good Cause!

\”The task of Leadership is not to put greatness into people but to elicit it. For the greatness is there already.\” – John Buchan

Association of Women in Business (AWiB), a dynamic networking group, is organizing a campaign of developing a community through the great works of art…not to put greatness into the community but to elicit what is there already. As Buchan states; that’s the hallmark of great leadership. AWiB, espousing this greatness in leadership strives to bring out the best in others and to show the way for those less fortunate. Our “Art for a Good Cause” campaign has two facets:  to inject much needed finance for the expansion of two women start up businesses and to advocate the benefits of creative thinking through the art world in our community.

Our community is changing rapidly and we need to stop and think how we bring about these changes and their effect to this fragile fabric of society.  AWiB can’t think of anything else but to integrate Art in this magnificent changing scene.  Even though art could be taken as generic to mean dance, music even literature. For the purpose of our discussion however, art is taken to be painting.

Van Gogh, Picasso, Matisse, Monet, Michelangelo, Da Vinci, William Blake, Georgia O’Keeffe come to mind when we think of famous artists. How about our own: Afework Tekle, Skunder Bogassian, Gebre Kristos Desta, Wosene Kosrof, Desta Hagos, Lulseged Retta to mention but a few.

AWiB’s main goal is to develop strong women leaders in our country who would be pillars in building a nation. Art by many is considered to be human’s highest achievements.  They comment on the artist’s attempt to create something from nothing and how the painting touches the viewer’s soul.  Art helps us to be creative and creative thinking is most crucial in human development and nation building. Art in all forms nurture creative thinking and imagining, problem solving, creative judgment and a host of other mental processes.  Those who are fortunate enough to be introduced to the world of art at early stages of development excel in life and become solid citizens. Unfortunately, that is not the case in our nation. So, AWiB has organized this campaign to prompt others to think of a better way of developing a community through the world of Art. AWiB is working in collaboration with Makush Art Gallery and the owner, a great business tycoon who made great strides in developing art as a commercial form in our city, Tesfaye Hiwot.  You can read more about Tesfaye Hiwot and his immense contribution to the art community on our website. Why art and why now, one might ask?

“The arts are one of the main ways that humans define who they are. They often express a sense of community and ethnicity. Because the arts convey the spirit of the people who created them, they can help young people acquire inter- and intra- cultural understanding. The arts are not just multi-cultural, they are transcultural; they invite cross-cultural communication. They teach openness towards those who are different from us. By putting us in touch with our own and other people\’s feelings, the arts teach one of the great civilizing capacities – how to be empathetic. To the extent that the arts teach empathy, they develop our capacity for compassion and humaneness”. Dr. Neryl Jeanneret, Faculty of Education, University of Newcastle

Art in our community is not widely appreciated or owned. There are about 500 artists in Addis and 20 art galleries. These galleries do their best to raise awareness but considering the median income of our citizens, most art works seem to be out of reach. The 500 artists with the exception of few with thick skin and an unbelievable skill for survival, many languish in their frustration not able to help themselves and their communities by bringing their God given talent to the public at large.  A few commit suicide and many become substance abusers and going deeper in the whirlpool. Because there isn’t a cohesive group that leads a common agenda, their wish falls on empty promises.

The greatest predicament of these talented artists is lack of formal education. Every major exhibition asks for the sheepskin from a good school. Most talents are innate and education, however, useful could be expensive and not doable to many. AWiB hopes to start a dialogue and create awareness of these extremely talented but starving artists. The community needs to support many more galleries as well. All art exhibitions if frequented by many, demand would detect talent and the owners of galleries will choose to bring the larger pool into the equation. Education is extremely important as one of the four artists featured when asked the importance of education answered, “Yes it is important. It helps me collect my water so it would flow efficiently nurturing all instead of flowing every which direction. But when I am created at a time that I am not supported to tap into this education, all I have is my God given talent and I beg to be heard”.

This campaign features four talented artists’ works:  Estifanos Negatu, Chernet Degu, Abraham Abebe and Elias Areda. We tell you their stories and what we offer you through these precious souls. Their works are available for a nominal investment of 300 birr a ticket to win one of their works.  Art as an investment; art as in developing cultures; art as expanding our creativity and building a prosperous life; art as an instrument to compassionate being; art as fun and art as a form of sophistication. We introduce you to fantastic works by gifted artists for a lot less than you would have done on your own. You have fifteen chances to win!!!

Estifanos with his dreadlocks, handsome face and a tall stature looks more like the monks or “bahitawis” he depicts in his paintings. He grew with a controlling father getting a large dosage of religious education that helps him a greatdeal in his works. But when he realized his talent and wanted to pursue it, the father wouldn’t hear any of it. He left home, became homeless and struggled to survive turning every trick in the book and made it finally. Today he has his own art studio that also serves as a residence and puts his wonderful creation to use. He says he is inspired by music and movements and his best time to paint is early in the morning perhaps with the help of morning bird’s songs.  His paintings are mostly religious based but to show the complexity of the artist, they turn into dancing women from south and Harar — his mother’s birth place. His vision is to create a genuinely caring movement that is inclusive of all the wasting talents.

Chernet Degu is a product of unintended union from a wealthy father but a poor woman. He grew up justifying his existence and looking for love he never had. In order to live out his desire—to be an artist, he had to survive harsh environments. His focus is very traditional using all available material locally.He uses tibeb, local music instruments and tells local stories. His beautiful paintings are collages of all valuables our nation amasses.  His works mostly are half revealing– half face or half body. He says our culture doesn’t tell but half a story. He says he wants to show that in his paintings and is always looking for the love that seems to elude him. But Chernet is a generous soul. When he heard what we wanted to do, he gave us one of his most precious paintings that will be one of the prizes. We told him he is lovable and asked where did he get it? He says he gives love to others but still waits for his share to come to him. AWiB thinks otherwise. You don’t give what you don’t have. Hopefully Chernet will reflect realistically.

Abraham Abera is self assured, very confident artist. His confidence must have emanated from his upbringing. He realized his gift at a very young age and an art teacher in elementary school encouraged him to do more work and guided himin his work. That left an impression on him and a desire to develop more. He camefrom a supportive family that nurtured his talent. His older brother paid for his art education.  Abraham’s paintings are cityscapes and Mercato is his fertile ground for the creative work he does. His role model is Monet and he is a successful artist. His works tell our neighborhood stories that bring nostalgia to any viewer.

Invest little today, earn many folds tomorrow–all these art works will certainly go for thousands of Birr in a year or two; invest little today and watch a community develop tomorrow; invest little today and increase your capacity to think creatively tomorrow.

Join us in initiating a creative way of giving back to our community that sustains us all—the moral compass of AWiB. Please call for more information of how to connect to this amazing venture at 0925-914835 or visit our website: www.awib.org.et. Drawing date is on January 10 at the Hilton Hotel at our monthly meeting.  The winner of each round gets to choose from the prizes available. You don’t have to be present to win. AWiB will notify all winners at a later date and avail the prizes when all winners are available.

Happy Discovery!

AWiB Leadership—Nahu S. Girma