Kebreab Demeke

Kebreab Demeke

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Oslo, Norway

2017 – MFA Art and Public Space from Oslo National Academy of The Arts
2010 – BFA specialization in painting from Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa University

What is your expression?
I work in a variety of mediums: painting, printmaking, digital collage, performance, and installation.

What inspires you?
My inspirations and research evolve around the idea of Changes in cultural and political life, as well as history, identity, and collective memory

How would you describe your art?
My works aims to narrate collective memory and transcribe existent and forgotten knowledge across time. Growing up in Ethiopia, I witnessed shifts in national identity, social life, as well as conflicts within. Imported political ideologies, plus cultural and economic pressures, have influenced these shifts over time. The alterations may be traced back to 1896, following the Battle of Adwa. The devastation at the Battle of Adwa prompted Ethiopia to rapidly modernise its society in order to protect itself from another war. As of now, the project has not yet been achieved enough, failed, or is still in the making!? As a visual artist coming from Ethiopia, I’m fascinated by the process and transformations that have transpired since 1900, or what is known as Modern Ethiopia.

My artworks highlight historical archives as well as personal experiences, notably in the areas of education, ethnic identity, and gender roles. My artistic approach places a strong emphasis on identifying and contrasting traditional Ethiopian values, knowledge and thinking with modern values, knowledge and thinking. I incorporate old and new techniques and materials in my artworks to relate to the subject I am dealing. Painting, digital collage, printmaking, hand drawing, machine drawing, and laser cutting are some of the techniques mostly use in my work. In my work visual contrast and the creative process are also important components to the end product. Brighter colors, sharp lines, symbols, and historical images are usually used in my composition. My works are demonstrated on different materials like canvas, cardboards, and papers.

Why did you end up living in Oslo?
I think it is fate that I ended up where I live today. I never saw myself living in Norway until I was admitted into the KHIO master’s program in 2014. Since then, I’ve had various personal and professional reasons to create a studio in Oslo, Norway, and work from there. The most important reason is that working conditions for visual artists are far better than in Ethiopia, where I came from. I am grateful for the opportunity that the system provides for culture practitioners. Despite the fact that I have myself only received very little funding, it warms my heart to see the artistic community getting the attention it deserves and hoping that it will improve for the better. Another crucial factor to consider living and working from Oslo is the stunning nature and the most peaceful society of Norway.

What do you like about the artscene and the town?
I appreciate how variety of institutional frameworks are organized for artists to across and evolve through. This includes the grant schemes, the exhibition, educational and working space accessibilities both, national and regional levels. Furthermore, as an Oslo habitant, I appreciate the support scheme for project expenses and subsidized working space by Oslo commune.

What could be better in the local artscene?
The studio space I have compared to my desire and the size of my project is incomparable. I wish to get affordable and moderate size studio space     to accommodate all workshops and materials I use for my artworks.
In the local art scene, diversity should be encouraged, and the system should be more inclusive. That way, I believe there will be a chance for artists like myself to access grants to enable us to perform to the best of our capacity. This will also improve to enable artists like myself give public presentations and exhibitions locally and internationally.

What are you currently working on?
At the moment, I’m working on two projects: Marxist modern and Abro menor. Marxist modern examine the 1960s Ethiopian Student Movement. The research project examines how imported ideas, notably radical left ideology, alter Ethiopian society’s cultural and political behavior, particularly on interethnic relations. The other project Abro-menor, is an Amharic term that translates to «living together. The project’s purpose is to develop an artist-run mediation platform. It would also attempt to provide a space for constructive discussions and collective reasoning on Ethiopia’s present socio-political issues.

What are your ambitions and plans for the future?
In the future, I intend to hold an exhibition and presentation of my completed works on different venues. Also, I have an ambition is to learn and work on additional skill of medium such as video to maximize the ability of expression within my own projects.

Who of your colleagues deserves more attention? 
Robel Temesgen (b. 1987, Ethiopia) is currently a Ph.D. fellow at Oslo National Academy of The Arts. He lives and works between Addis Ababa and Oslo