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Kebedech Tekleab: Creating an Ethiopian Narrative in America

In art on August 23, 2009 at 8:39 pm

serenitySerenity, 1993 © Kebedech Tekleab 

GetAttachment.aspxKebedech Tekleab is one of the foremost Ethiopian artists today. While her “interest on human conditions globally” has inspired much of her work, her own personal narratives and her love of literature, music, drama etc. are equally great sources of inspiration. Tekleab’s pieces have been acquired by the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and the Embassy of Ethiopia, among notable others. She is currently a professor of Foundation Studies at the Savannah College of Arts and Design in Savannah, Georgia.

Tekleab first collaborated with E. Ethelbert Miller, literary activist and author of the recent memoir The 5th Inning on The Handprint Identity Project–an exchange between artists and poets. What follows is a conversation between two artists and friends.

EM: When creating new artwork how important is memory and vision?

KT: I find this question interesting. If it deals with the issue of time, then memory and vision try to bridge the past, the present, and the future. It is true that there are times when creating new work one might depend on personal or social memories. The existing objective condition might also be the source of inspiration, or subjective ideas may serve to create visionary directions.

In my work, the demarcation of time dissolves, the new truth could be old and the past may exist in the present. It is the moment of personal discovery that marks time—either in the form of pure memory or in the active form of the present continuous.

For example, Robert Motherwell’s, “The Elegy to the Spanish Republic appears to be a piece that has a time print on it. It is about a specific social condition in Spain, however, it is also a phenomenon mankind has passed through. What is equally important and new could be the aesthetics itself, the concept of the art, the way Motherwell thought about his work in terms of what it is instead of what it means. The idea of what is abstract and what is real became sufficiently important for him that he defended his non-objective piece as something real.

More on Tekleab’s conversation with Miller.

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