It is not often that one finds an artist audacious enough to immerse his artwork in a realistic portrayal of landscape and cityscape in the current Ethiopian art scene. Fitsum Tefera is all too aware of the prestige usually associated with a variety of abstractism. In fact he is not reserved from expressing his reverence of the great Ethiopian artists who went far on that road, some of whom his teachers. “When you spend a long time leading a life of an artist, you begin to yearn for alternatives in conveying your message,” says the 28 year old who does not find it hard to humbly admit he is a relative novice. “With maturity and much contemplation, there is a possibility that you might be prone to recede from depicting reality as it is.”
But not him. At least not yet. He is a nature aficionado whose love affair with landscape painting is tied with his childhood in Bale, an area in Southeastern Ethiopia famous for its gorgeous mountainous features. Born in Hawassa, the capital of the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples’ Region, Fitsum spent part of his childhood surrounded by those magnificent mountains in Bale. “We all are our influences in life or art,” he says. “I do other forms of art; I do portraits. But naturally I am disposed towards geographical surroundings.”
A graduate with great distinction from the Addis Abeba University, Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, Fitsum nostalgically remembers the day he passed the entrance exam to join the school as “one of the happiest moments of my life.” After leaving the school in 2011, he began to work at the National Museum Art Gallery as a curator during day time while spending his remaining time and energy to bring a harmony between his soul and nature on his canvases.
That means Fitsum is not always confined in his small studio located around Arat Kilo here in Addis Abeba to do what he loves doing. Often times he packs his small, portable canvases and hits the road to places where his inspiration dwells.
But it’s a passion that has a heavy price tag; the existing art market is not typically jovial about small canvas paintings, but he is not exclusively received with a heart rendering cold indifference either. “There is a misconception that an artwork is valued upon its size,” he told Addis Standard. Despite an undoubted boost in the market for art works since the past couple of years, it still doesn’t seem to have successfully outgrown its niche audience. Fitsum sees yet another problem on this arena. According to him, admirable as it is that there is a market ready to sprout an art scene, some young artists are falling victims to following what is money-making at a certain given time.
His paintings have been exhibited in a number of venues including Laphto Art Gallery, Alliance Ethio Franciase, Addis Art Fair, the Radisson Blu Hotel and at the Sudanese National Museum in Khartoum. Currently Fitsum is the fine art curator at the National Museum of Ethiopia.