A Portrait of Teshome H. Gabriel, 1939-2010

The family of Professor Teshome H. Gabriel, who died on Tuesday, June 15, has shared a brief biography of the Ethiopian-born scholar of Third World Cinema who found a home at UCLA.

"What I am seeking to do, I would say, is validate the notion of the academic citizen, by which I mean an academic who has some relationship to the wider communities that surround us and which overlap with other arts and disciplines."  — Dr. Teshome H. Gabriel

Professor Gabriel

Born on September 24, 1939 in Ticho, Ethiopia, Dr. Teshome Habte Gabriel was a true academic citizen. He often referred to himself as a simple baalager, meaning country boy, however he was a renowned international scholar; a critical thinker with a compassionate and generous spirit.

His life represents a series of experiences in education – as a learner and a lecturer – beginning in Ticho and continuing at the General Wingate Secondary School and the "Commercial School" in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. He then enrolled in the University College of Addis Ababa (now Addis Ababa University) where he emerged as a student leader. Weaving activism with academics, he served as student body president from 1960-1962 and represented Ethiopia at student conferences in Moscow and Hawaii.

In 1962, his academic journey brought him to the United States as a student at the University of Utah studying political science and educational media. Teshome went on to complete both a Master of Fine Arts (1976) and Ph.D. (1979) at UCLA, with a focus in cinema and its relationship to the world. He found a home at UCLA, serving as a professor in the School of Theater, Film and Television for over 30 years until his untimely death on June 15, 2010.  

Over the years, Teshome's talents and teachings have impacted and inspired countless students and faculty. His professional accomplishments include his extensive writings, translated into multiple languages, on memory and cinema, theories of Third Cinema and the aesthetics of nomadic thought in cinema. His groundbreaking, seminal work entitled "Third Cinema in the Third World: The Aesthetics of Liberation" was one of the first books to theorize cinema in Africa and the rest of the Third World.

In the words of his colleague and dear friend, Vinay Lal, Teshome was a "friend, master storyteller, scholar and humanist par excellence." He will be remembered as one of the foremost theorists of film and social change, a revolutionary scholar, a profound artist, and a tremendous human being. Teshome was renowned for his humble and joyful heart, which will always remain his most endearing quality.  His passing is a profound loss reverberating from Los Angeles to Addis Ababa. He is survived by his wife Maaza, daughter Mediget, son Tsegaye, and countless family and friends.

Published: Friday, June 18, 2010