What drives me to the art world is my childhood desire to create something out of found objects -- collecting small things that I found in my surroundings and using them to create something that could help me play with it. My work today is a continuation of the creative seeds planted in my childhood.
I grew up in a town called Dessie in Ethiopia. My work tells my own story, my ideas, my dreams and wishes and I endeavor to show stories of my Ethiopian community as well. Art is not limited to copying nature or a depiction of the story or social events. To me, art is a place where ideas flow without the limitations of time and space, where the flow of ideas is a core element of creativity.
As a visual artist, I follow what comes to my mind and I let my ideas freely flow until it blossoms. What I create is the result of my past story and my future imagination.
In our Ethiopian society and in my own family they did now want me to become an artist. They wanted me instead to focus my studies on becoming an engineer or another similar field of work. However, I knew deep down I was meant to be an artist and I kept pushing myself in that direction.
When I was very young I joined my elementary school art club and found that I was started fascinated by the process of creating a piece of art. I later joined the art club founded by the Ministry of Culture called 'Pallet Amateur Artists Club'. The artist, Syum Ayalew, was my drawing teacher who helped us prepare ourselves to take the entrance exams to join the Fine Art School in Addis Ababa. Later, at Addis Ababa University, I studied art and life as well, since living in a dormitory was very different from family life.
When I graduated from the University in 2004 with distinction, several friends and I got together and opened local art studios and hosted art shows in Addis Ababa, which turned out to be quite successful. I became a founding member of the "Netsa Art Village'" which is a place to practice and create art freely. I helped organize local and international workshops and other artistic events for them. After a few years, I left Ethiopia and moved to Poland to work on my Master's Degree in African Studies and Cultural Media.
I have participated in group and solo art shows in many countries: Kenya, Sudan, Zambia, Djibouti, Poland, France, Spain, Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, and the USA.
Since I came to the United States, I have opened my studio in Silver Spring, Maryland where I continue creating new work and teaching art to children. I have found that I particularly enjoy working with children who are living with disabilities.
This is Week 49 of Artists Tell Their Stories. Thank you for reading and sharing Akilu's story today. To connect with him and see more of his work, please click on the following links: