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Artist Bayew Atiye shares the diversity in culture and lifestyles in Ethiopia

Published: 2014-08-16 05:11:45

Article ID: 3

By Ebony Iman Dallas


After a whirlwind first day in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, I woke up energized and excited about my day ahead. Today, Dereje’s friend Elias agreed to join me on a day trip to Debre Zeyit, Ethiopia to meet the artist Bayew Atiye. This 40 kilometer (25 mile) trek may not seem far, but considering we transferred twice and ended up in a taxi for part of the way, I was very thankful that he took time to help me navigate.

The drive was so beautiful. Passing through the lush green countryside was an incredible contrast to the busy streets of Addis Ababa. We passed through farms, a developing stretch of railway and a huge industrial park right in the middle of the countryside. Its name, written in large Chinese characters, was tucked just behind high flying Ethiopian and Chinese flags. Witnessing so much growth in this region, I pray opportunities spill across borders.

“Debre Zeyit!” the driver yelled as the bus slowed to a halt as we had reached our final destination. Our bus stopped in front of a line of shops waiting for tourists and guests to arrive.

Then, we spotted a familiar smile.

“Hello Ebony and Elias. I was here waiting for you since 3 pm,” said Bayew.

I looked at my watch which read 5:30 and felt remorse as I was the cause for our delay. I left important paperwork for Bayew at the beginning of our trip that I had to return to my hotel room to retrieve. His warm smile communicated that it was okay, then he led us to a 3-wheel, blue taxi which I’d only seen previously in Bollywood films. We piled in for a trip around town to view his art.

The first stop was a grocery store where many of Bayew’s paintings were on display.

Colorful scenes included Lalibella, a holy city known for its rock cut churches, and others highlighted diversity in lifestyle and culture within Ethiopia.

After viewing these pieces, we went horseback to a restaurant with original pieces on display. This included a wall he created by hand then painted to separate patrons.

We sat down for a cup of coffee with the owner of the restaurant then continued on to Elame Lodge where Bayew’s art literally fills its walls.

Zemedkun Koricho, the owner and Bayew’s best friend, greeted us and took us on a tour of his new hotel.

From the warm smiles of grocery store workers to the restaurant owner and Zemedkun explaining their partnerships with Bayew, we knew that both he and his art are well respected in the community.

The sun was now low and thunder promised the rain as we piled into the little blue taxi. This time on our way to Bayew’s home.

Like the surprise painting Bayew presented to me, many of his paintings were painted on goat hide then stretched by leather strips to a wooden frame.

Others were painted on canvas, and another painted on wicker, woven in disc form.

Bayew’s wife brought us coffee followed by Shiro Wat, a stew made from chickpeas. We ate until we could eat no more then had another cup of coffee marking the end of our meal.

As a part of the International Art Exchange project, Bayew created a painting in response to his partner Wahiib, who lives in Somaliland/Somalia.

He presented his painting then explained that Wahiib’s drawing depicted men cutting down trees. This reminded him of growing up in a place “where mothers carried piles of sticks on their backs.” This, to him, represents the women’s sacrifice which he depicted in his painting of four women carrying piles late into the day on their way home.

This painting, along with Wahiib’s will be on display August 20 at Maan Soor Hotel in Hargeysa.