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A Journey through Aesthetic Realms

Ethiopian Art, Part 2 of 3

2021-01-21
Language:English

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In Ethiopia, most traditional costumes are made of Ethiopian cotton and woven into Gabi for men and Netela for women. A Gabi is a handmade cotton cloth worn over the shoulders and upper body, and a Netela is a handmade scarf-like two-layered cloth made of cotton with colorful borders. Each Ethiopian tribe or ethnic group has its own clothing styles and types. Thanks to the dedicated skills of Ethiopian women and girls, their traditional embroidery and handcrafts continue to stand out on the world stage. The most popular design is the Ethiopian Cross Motif woven in various styles. Ethiopian weaving and embroidery skills are not limited to costumes, as all kinds of natural materials can also be used to weave baskets, bags, dining tables, various decorative articles, and even houses.

One of the most iconic scenes in Ethiopia is villagers carrying mesob baskets on their heads. The highest basketry technique in Ethiopia is practiced by the nomadic Boran, the senior clan of the Oromo people. Their oholle baskets are made of grass, with watertight qualities, and are used as containers in daily life. Since ancient times, Ethiopian traditional art workshops have been passed down in families from generation to generation. This apprenticeship system has produced many great master artists.

For example, Aksum’s most celebrated contemporary liturgical or religious painter Berhanemeskel Fisseha, was trained by Haleqa Yohannes Teklu who was his grandfather. One of Mr. Fisseha’s most representative and famous paintings is “On the Third Day He Rose Again,” which depicts the glorious risen Christ surrounded by many souls saved while demons gnash their teeth in frustration below. This painting combines two subjects, breaking the traditional conventions for these themes. The origin of traditional Ethiopian painting relates to the narration of Bible stories. Despite various artistic revolutions, contemporary paintings still keep this unique aesthetic of story narration. Almost every traditional painting tells a story and gives details on the history of Ethiopia.

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