UCLA Fowler Museum Exhibition: Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw

Vivid paintings of rural and urban life, striking depictions of Christianity from an Ethiopian perspective, unusually layered images of the political and military exploits of Ethiopian rulers…these are the innovative creations of Qes Adamu Tesfaw. The exhibition runs March 6 - September 18, 2005.

Sunday, March 06, 2005
12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
UCLA Museum of Cultural History
Westwood and Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90095

Adamu’s work ranges from the devotional to the popular and thus cannot be neatly categorized. Schooled in the philosophy and aesthetics of a fifteen-hundred-year-old tradition associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, he left the priesthood to turn to painting full-time, finding the freedom to venture beyond religious subject matter and to develop a style all his own. Come see this beautiful traveling exhibition, which presents thirty-five of the artist's finest paintings produced over the past forty years.

Sunday, March 6, 2005 12-5 pm
Opening Day

(Note: Qes Adamu Tesfaw will be on hand for opening day events.)

2 pm Lecture:
Expressions of Ethiopian Culture: The Paintings of Qes Adamu Tesfaw
Guest curator Raymond Silverman will introduce Qes Adamu Tesfaw, who will be visiting from Ethiopia, and discuss his the life and work.

3 pm Yared Liturgical Song and Sacramental Dance (Shibsheba)
Enjoy music and dance performed by choirs from local Ethiopian churches.


Saturday, March 12, 1-4 pm
A World of Art Family Workshop: Mural-Making with a Master
Join visiting artist Qes Adamu Tesfaw in painting an original mural in the Studio @ the Fowler. Free for members; $5 fee for non-members. Space is limited, reservations required: 310/825-8655.

Sunday, March 13, 3- 8 pm
Fowler on the Town: Little Ethiopia
Explore LA’s “Little Ethiopia” with local community leaders and Fowler staff. Neighborhood tour will be followed by a tasty pre-set dinner at a local restaurant. Exclusive to Fowler members. $50 per person; transportation from UCLA provided. Space is limited, reservations required: 310/825-8655. Membership information: 310/206-0306.

Saturday, May 7, 9:30 am–4 pm (Please note new date!)
Symposium: Arts of the Ethiopian Church: Past, Present, and Future
Join scholars of Ethiopia history and culture to consider the expressive traditions associated with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, including the visual arts, music and literature. The afternoon session will feature two roundtable discussions, one on documenting and conserving the artistic heritage of Ethiopia and another with local Ethiopian community leaders on sustaining Ethiopian culture and identity in the Diaspora

Painting Ethiopia is organized by the UCLA Fowler Museum in collaboration with the Institute of Ethiopian Studies, Addis Ababa University, and is guest curated by Raymond Silverman, professor of Art History and Afroamerican & African Studies at the University of Michigan. The project is funded in part by the Ethiopian Art Heritage Project, Santa Barbara; Manus, the support group of the Fowler Museum, and the Yvonne Lenart Public Programs Fund. In-kind support is provided by Packtra Pvt. Ltd. Co., National Promotions & Advertising, and Lufthansa Airlines.

Special thanks to Elias Wondimu, Tsehai Publishers and Distributors; Mesai Haileleul, Addis Art; Esseye Gebre-Medhin, Debre Hayq Ethiopian Art Foundation; Elizabeth Asrat, Ethiopian Community Association; Azeb Tadesse, James S. Coleman African Studies Center, UCLA; the Virgin Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; Saint Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; and Abune Aregawi Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Press Release:
Stacey Ravel Abarbanel,
For Immediate Use
(310) 825-4288  December 16, 2004

‘‘Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw’
Opens at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History Mar. 6, 2005

One artist’s bold innovations of the 1,500-year-old artistic traditions of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church will be on display in ‘Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw,’ at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History from Mar. 6 through Sept. 18, 2005.

Adamu’s paintings range from the liturgical to the popular, and reflect his unique career as an artist working for an urban art market in Africa. Born in 1933, he learned to paint as a boy while studying to enter the priesthood. At the age of 30, four years after being ordained and therefore bestowed with the honorific title “Qes,” he left the clergy and moved to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital and largest city, where he dedicated himself to painting full-time.

In Addis, Adamu found freedom to venture beyond religious themes and to develop an individual style. His subjects range from vivid images of rural and urban life in Ethiopia to striking depictions of Christianity from an Ethiopian perspective, and the political and military exploits of 19th- and 20th-century Ethiopian rulers. But it is Adamu’s unconventional approach—including unusually layered, truncated and fused images and seldom-considered perspectives—that marks the work of an extraordinary painter who has transcended the confines of his artistic education.

Guest curator Raymond Silverman initially encountered Adamu’s work in 1991, while viewing paintings at the Institute of Ethiopian Studies in Addis, a major repository of Adamu’s work. Struck by the artist’s unique style, Silverman has been instrumental in bringing an awareness of Qes Adamu to the U.S., including ‘Painting Ethiopia,’ his first solo show and West Coast exhibition.

“I will always remember my first exposure to Adamu’s monumental paintings—their vibrant and unusual color palette, the unexpectedly bold and even quirky compositions, and their intensely personal vision of religious and historical subject matter,” says Marla C. Berns, director of the Fowler Museum. “It is an honor to join Raymond Silverman in bringing them to the world’s attention.”

The exhibition opens with a large mural created in 2004 depicting a typical rural wedding. The first gallery features works of religious expression, and demonstrates Adamu’s unconventional treatment of particular subjects, even within the framework of religious imagery. For his ‘Holy Trinity,’ for example, Adamu has dramatically conveyed the idea of the oneness of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit by blending the three into a single entity.

The second section of the exhibition includes depictions of Ethiopian historical events such as the famous 1896 Battle of Adwa, between Italians and Ethiopians, and the 1965 visit of Queen Elizabeth, who was received by noted Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. A final section of the exhibition features scenes of everyday life, including games, ceremonies, and market life. Video and photography featuring the artist in his home and studio provide personal and professional background.

Adamu’s work has been exhibited in ‘Adamu, Kidane, Qanna: Three Painters from Ethiopia’ (1998) at the Leighton House Museum in London, ‘Ethiopia: Traditions of Creativity’ (1994) at Michigan State University, and in ‘Saints on Horseback: Art and Legends of Ethiopia’ (1996), an exhibition of work from the collection of his patron Benedetta Riva, shown at a private gallery in Rome. Next year he will be featured in ‘Ethiopia: Icons of the Past, Images of the Present’ at the Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida.

An illustrated book entitled ‘Painting Ethiopia: The Life and Work of Qes Adamu Tesfaw’ by Raymond Silverman with contributions by Neal Sobania and Leah Niederstadt will be published by the Fowler Museum in March 2005 (paper, 200 pages, ISBN 0-9748729-2-X).

In conjunction with this exhibition, the Fowler is exhibiting a selection of approximately thirty-five photographs taken in Ethiopia by historian Neal Sobania and art historians Raymond Silverman and Peri Klemm that illustrate the richness of Ethiopia’s ethnic and cultural diversity. Titled ‘Ethiopian Crossroads: Photographs of a Land and Its People,’ the exhibition will run from Mar. 6 to June 12, 2005 in the Fowler’s Goldenberg Galleria.

The Fowler Museum, part of UCLA’s School of the Arts and Architecture, is located in the north part of the UCLA campus. Admission is free. . For more information, the public may call (310) 825-4361 or visit www.fowler.ucla.edu.


Special Instructions

The Fowler Museum is open Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 p.m., and on Thursdays, noon until 8 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

Cost : Free and open to the public; parking is available for $7 in lot 4.

For more information please contact:

UCLA Museum of Cultrual HistoryTel: 310-825-4361