Ethiopian Art

Ethiopian art has traditionally reflected Christian themes and often still does, but many artists explore other themes as well. The Ethiopian people also make art and crafts such as colourful baskets and textiles. Art is typically bright and colourful and often depicts local people engaged in daily activities, religious themes, or places of interest.

Photo: Achilli Family | Journeys

Interest in Ethiopian art has increased recently and artists are finding a market for their work both at home and abroad. Tourists interested in art can find art galleries in Addis Ababa and can also visit Gebre Kristos Desta Center, a modern art museum in that city.

Gebre Kristos Desta is a highly respected modern artist who died in 1981. In 2005, a large number of his works were returned to Ethiopia from Germany, where the artist had spent the last few years of his life. Admirers of his work wanted the public to be able to see the paintings and created the museum to showcase his collection as well as the work of other artists.

Shoe Shine Boys by Gebre Kristos Desta, 1967Gebre Kristos’ abstract art was controversial in his time as it was very different from traditional art in the country but he opened the door for other Ethiopian artists to try new techniques and explore new themes. His work explores social issues, including famine, and the national consciousness. The museum is a way for his art to reach a wider audience and younger generations.

Shoe Shine Boys by Gebre Kristos Desta, 1967

Jewelry is another Ethiopian art form. You can find antique silver jewelry as well as new jewelry pieces that have colourful beads and other substances such as amber. Antique Ethiopian silver jewelry typically has design elements from African and Middle Eastern cultures.

No discussion of Ethiopian art would be complete without mentioning the beautiful hand-woven fabrics and textiles produced in this country. Often, the designs reflect those found in the bright borders woven into the hems of traditional Ethiopian dresses. Today, you can buy pillowcases, scarves, table runners, and other items, providing Ethiopian artists with a source of income and giving yourself a little piece of Ethiopia.

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