We are saddened by the news that Ethiopia’s leading artist Maitre Artist Afewerk Tekle passed away today Wednesday, April 11th, 2012. As life-time fans of this great artist, we are paying a brief tribute to his timeless, ever unique and legendary works of art.
Afewerk grew up during the Second World War, and as part of the initiative to rebuild Ethiopia, he and several other students travelled to Europe in 1947, whereby the young Afework decided to study mining engineering in England. Even though he had already shown artistic talents as a child, it’s during his stay at a boarding school in England that this unique talent was recognised and encouraged by his teachers. As a result, he switched his study major from engineering and enrolled in Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. He then went on to become the first African student to enter the Slade Schools of Art where he studied painting, sculpture and architecture. While studying there, he made several artistic pilgrimage through Europe.
Returning to Ethiopia after graduation, Afewerk spent time travelling all over Ethiopia and continued his study of the beautiful and diverse culture of his native land, which he reflected in his paintings throughout his long career. In 1954 he held his first one man show in Addis Ababa, that gave him the funds to continue his study tour in Europe, to Italy, France, Spain and Portugal and Greece for two years, where he mainly learnt designing and constructing stained glass art. He also made a special study on Ethiopian illustrated manuscripts in the British Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris and the Vatican Library.
Back in Ethiopia, Afewerk opened a studio in the National Library of Ethiopia. His growing recognition led to government commissions for murals and mosaics for many public and religious buildings around Ethiopia: including mosaics inside St. George Cathedral in Addis Ababa, the murual Last Judgement in the Adigat Cathedral in Tigray, and several of his designs were used on the national stamps. Most notably in 1958, he designed the beautiful and timeless stained glass windows in the Africa Hall of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. The three windows which face the visitor entrance at the UN headquarters, is one of the exceptionally talented artist’s greatest achievements and shows his mastery on a gigantic scale of a medium, covering an area of 150 square meters and represents the sorrow of Africa’s past, the struggle of the present, and hope for Africa’s future.
The years from 1959 marked an intensification and diversification of this remarkable artist’s creative talent. His reputation grew nationally and internationally, as his mastery over so many media was established. His drawings, paintings, murals, mosaics, stained-glass windows and sculptures, his designs for stamps, playing cards, posters, and flags all went to build up his position as Ethiopia’s foremost artist.
In 1961 Afewerk painted one of his famous works “Meskel Flower”. As we are huge fans of the artist’s works, it comes as no surprise that Meskel Flower happens to be the main image of EverythingAddis’ Twitter and Facebook accounts. Other notable works of the renowned artist include, Altar Cross (1959) at Royal Chapel in the Tower of London (England), The Victory of Ethiopia (1979) at the Hero Centre in Debre Zeit (Ethiopia), The Chalice and the Cross in the Life of the African People (1997) study for stained glass entered in the Biennale of Acquitaine (France).
During his tenure, Maitre Artist Afework Tekle has held exhibitions and lectres in the US, Canada, the Soviet Union, all over Africa and Europe. He had also won numerous awards and recognitions throughout his long and rich career. To mention a few, in 1977 his painting Unity Triptych won the gold medal in the Algiers International Festival; in 1981 his painting Self-portrait was the first work by an African artist to enter the permanent collection of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy; in 1997 he exhibited at the Biennale of Aquitaine winning first prize in the international competition; he was also nominated the Laureate of the Biennale which gave him membership of the French International Academy of Arts; in 1983 Afewerk became the first African to receive membership of the Russian Academy of Arts.
It’s also worth mentioning that the artist designed his Addis residence, known as “Villa Alpha” in 1959; he was inspired by his own cultural heritage, especially by the unique Ethiopian architectures of ancient Axum Obelisks, the medieval Castles of Gonder and the old walled-city of Harrar.
Rest in Peace. Maitre Artist Afework Tekle (1932 – 2012)
Staff Writer @EverythingAddis
Courtesy: MaitreAfewerkTekle.com, Wikipedia