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Seriously Talented

I have had a chance to see her solo and group exhibitions a couple of times. Her works are memorable and evocative, with a sense of color and the subjects who are mostly tall, skinny and decorated women. You could see that she was an artist with an eye for beauty.
It was a great pleasure to get the chance to talk to the artist whose works I have come to like and admire. After one phone conversation, I met Martha Mengistu last Friday at her studio in her family’s compound around Eyerusalem Hotel, west of Addis. She is a pleasant person to talk to and there is a clear straightforwardness about her personality.
As the interview revealed, Martha was born in 1979 in Gullele area of Addis. From as far as she could remember, she loved painting. She always wanted to be an artist.
At primary school, she used to draw almost daily. She filled the pages of her exercise books with drawings and illustrations.
Martha didn’t like school very much and she wasn’t really interested in the long hours of attendance. The only bearable aspect of school was the hour of a day devoted to drawing, Martha recalls. She could think of little else but drawing.
Where did that interest come from?
“I don’t know. It is kind of odd. Because, I’ve never seen a painter before. Nor have I seen any paintings. The only thing that I remember was that my sister took me to an exhibition around Amiest Kilo while I was seven or eight. That was all,” she says.
She did her high school at Medhani Alem Secondary school. Classroom lesson wasn’t fun either but there was teacher who was teaching arts to a couple of students on private bases. She enjoyed peering through the window of the art class but she didn’t know the requirements to join the class. She was too shy to ask.
Despite not liking school, Martha managed to finish high school. The appeal of drawing was too strong and she got the courage to take formal lesson with the art teacher at Medhani Alem School. Marta credits that teacher with helping her to get started on the road to painting.
“It was him who gave me all the know-how and techniques of painting. He encouraged me to keep trying and to be creative. I could say he has been the most important influences on my artistic works,” she says.
It was after that she decided to join the Addis Ababa University, School of Fine Arts.
The first time around she has been denied admittance.
“The exam was hard. Not more than 20 students were accepted each year. But the chance gave me to know how the test was like,” Martha recalls.
In the second attempt, at age of 20, she brilliantly passed her entrance examinations and was accepted as student at Art School. She was one of the three girls admitted in that batch. She immersed herself in different artistic methods, styles, and theories and later specialized in mural arts.
“Ok, it was helpful but you do most things before you join the art school. Most of those who joined were able painters who have had training in other places before,’ says Martha.
Four years later she received her degree from the Addis Ababa University, School of Fine Arts in 2001.As partial requirement for their graduation, the batch has organized an exhibition at the Arts School. Many of her friends and teachers made suggestions and nodded their approval. Not later than a week after graduation, the batch had organized an exhibition at an acquaintance’s house. The house belonged to a certain expatriate and the exhibition stayed for fifteen days.” It was nice to see visitors smiling and looking at the art work and really enjoying it.”
With the acceptance of her first exhibition, which came as a surprise to her, she immediately set work on her next projects.
In 2002, she participated in a group exhibition at Hager Fiker Theatre where she and her friends has a large number of audiences. One person among the audiences was a curator the Alliance Ethio-Francaise. He liked her works so much that he invited her for an exhibition at Alliance, which she did months later with her a couple of friends. The exhibition was titled as “Woman’s Touch” and there was a lot of enthusiastic response. She demonstrates her ability to catch each woman in a characteristic pose, thus giving the group an air of informality and naturalness; each individual is clearly portrayed, yet all are linked in a well-balanced pattern in line and color.
People liked the works. They sold well. Everyone, it seemed wanted to see her, hear her. Newspaper and magazine writers called her for interviews.
The then director of the Alliance, Lucian asked her to present a solo exhibition. After four months, she did around 30 or 35 works. She presented the works in a solo exhibition entitled “Beauty. It was a huge success.
In the same year, she sent her works to be exhibited at Hamburg University in Germany and in 2004 she has had ten minutes television program coverage from Finland Cultural News Station.
Another of her major solo exhibitions was “daily life” that she held at Alliance Ethio- Francaise in Addis Ababa. Her paintings depicted women in their daily life. “I always try to represent beauty, internal or external, as I see and feel it. This is I think, what gives to my canvass and their subjects, their unique and attractive characteristics: this is what defines my style,” she says. She participated in an exhibition during the 2006 edition of the International Women’s day with works that portray the daily activities of women as their contribution to political and social-cultural development.
Her works exhibits her multifarious gifts: her patience, her draftsmanship, her minute attention to detail. They go beyond a simple likeness to capture the story of their life written in their faces, their postures, and their gaze.
A new day
In this painting, the richness of creation is symbolized by the slender women and the verdant landscape against which they pose. Luxuriant color, glowing light and shade, sensuous brushwork, and an elegant composition all serve to further the beauty of the paintings.
Martha’s works have been displayed in galleries and public spaces, as well as postcards. . One of her favorites works Adey Abeba (Meskel Daisies) is hang on the wall of Irish Embassy’s meeting room. The Embassy owns five of her other works. Another of works, “The New Year” has been featured in the Ethiopian Airline’s New Year card.At the exhibition organized by the COESA in Kusaka, Martha was recognized as the best feminine painter of Ethiopia.
The talented Martha keeps on paintings from absorbed and remembered things as well as from sketches all with reason and purpose.

  1. Ayele Bekerie
    August 7, 2009 at 2:52 pm

    Dear Arefe,

    Great story. I am mesmerized by Martha’s unique artistic expression of beauty. I say unique because her creative visual expression deempahasizes the iconic Ethiopian ‘eyes.’ Verticality, teyimenet and sisterhood define her remarkably beautiful and pwerful work. I hope to see more of her works soon.

  2. Seife
    August 7, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I love those beautiful faces with a little bit attitude on them. I like her style.
    good story Arefe

  3. ETENU
    August 7, 2009 at 7:54 pm

    Martha, what a talent. You look humble and so beautiful. Ye Ethiopiyawi ewentenga melik newe melkesh. So natural, Yeteyem Konjo. What really impressed me is your talent. My daughter an artist as well, more abstract drawings in her case. You artists are born gifted and talented,keep up your good work.

  4. correction
    August 7, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    your delicate strokes traces light and perfume to the source. whch is my beloved country Ethiopia. u’re the epitomy of the ethiopian woman: regal beauty, disarming presence. Martha, u’re so magnificent. God bless u. wishing u fame and fortune, much happiness.

  5. M
    August 8, 2009 at 12:39 am

    Marty, Martisha, Martini. I just love these ethreal beings you captured for us. It is so wonderful to see such creativity coming out my homeland. Thank you Arefe. Thank you Martha. God bless you all.

  6. ankami
    August 12, 2009 at 11:10 am

    I would like very much stay there last Fraday. Thanks for all my friend.

  7. zati
    November 10, 2009 at 1:33 am

    i love you marti you are beautiful from outsied and inside.
    you are so talented god bless you nd your work.

  8. Conny
    December 4, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Note to Martha: You remind me slightly of illustrations of children’s fairy tale books in the 70ies, but on an elevated level and of Klimt.
    Congratulations to your own unique style!
    Another admirerer
    P.S. I would love to see more of your paintings, where and when is that possible?

  9. Martha
    December 7, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    Thanxs 4 that Conney. Where u live ?

  10. Wolde-Gabriel
    January 10, 2010 at 8:49 am

    Martiye I just wonder where you are and what you do. You disappeared so suddenly. I hope that wherever you are you continue to fill the world with beauty trough your paintings and your personality. Much love.

  11. Najat
    March 13, 2010 at 6:21 pm

    I love your paintings, so special and delicate.. Is any of ur work on sale to the public? How can I buy one ..?

    Love all ur work….

  12. martha
    March 21, 2010 at 12:32 pm

    thanxs 4 that.where u live nejat.

  13. Enity
    March 22, 2010 at 5:44 am

    Go MartishO!

  14. April 8, 2010 at 1:09 am

    Martha I have been seeing your paintings. They are beautiful and very original. You are talented and gifted. Where do you sell your paintings at in Addis? Is there a place? would like to own your beautiful work of art Please let me know.


  15. beza
    April 8, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    marti yena konjo i like your job wow betam yameralu
    u so nice and good girl
    yeseten lij tenekarea asayeteshal betam letedegefi yegebal
    betam betam new yemewedesh bezihu ketiye berchi
    i like it all paints

  16. martha
    April 22, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    All thanxs any person if he contact me send to me my email address martistudio@yahoo.com

  17. Saba Melbourne
    October 7, 2010 at 2:08 am

    Hi what a talent I don’t have enough word to express my feeling how much I love you work and personlality what a package you got the gift from god keep up the good work we all proud of you and specially to get to know you as a person love you xxxxxooooo

  18. Meron
    June 29, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    How do we (fans of her work) get intouch with her. Does Marta have a website or a Faceboook page? Please let us know.


  19. Tsega
    July 27, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    I really love your work, I’m really proud of Ethiopians such as yourself who do exceptional work.
    Keep up the good job!!!

  20. mahlet e
    May 10, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    omg i love your pir good job i wish u all the best…………..

  21. Alemayehu
    September 8, 2012 at 8:16 pm

    I know Marta briefly before she joined the Fine Art school while she was still studying drawing with Ato Tesfaye, at Medhanealem Com. Sec. School more than a decade ago. Years later I have started noticing how great she has become in time, hard work and education on a couple of exhibitions, and ET’s calendars. Between her, and her becoming an all time legend that puts her mark in Ethiopian art is only time. I wish you all the very best. Keep pouring your colors!!!

  22. December 22, 2013 at 10:33 pm

    Reblogged this on fitsumtilahun and commented:
    A talented Ethiopian artist. I was able to see her first solo Exhibition at Alliance Ethio-Francaise..her works are magnificent…. she portrays regal Ethiopian beauty, sisterhood and unusually tall necked women in her works..and most of her works are colorful and Vibrant. Had i not been just a high school l student by then i would have bought one of her works… May she keep on shinning .

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