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The Africa Institute, in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Museums Authority, presents upcoming exhibition “Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery” at the Sharjah Art Museum in the Arts Area, Al Shuweiheen, from February 24 to June 16, 2024.

Drawing from astrology, religion and spirituality, the Ethiopian art form of telsem interweaves symbols, drawings and texts imbued with spiritual and philosophical significance. Shaped throughout the ages by the sociopolitical and cultural histories of Ethiopia, telsem—with its ancient inspirations and modern idioms—is used to address critical problems in the contemporary world such as climate disasters, war and poverty.

Despite the fact that it continues to be practised, telsem is often characterised as ‘healing art’ or ‘talisman art’ within western frameworks, a perspective that excludes it from many discussions of modernism. Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery, curated by scholar Elizabeth Giorgis, challenges such a one-dimensional understanding of modernism and offers us a rare insight into one of Ethiopia’s most compelling modernist art practices through the work of Henok Melkamzer.

More than 100 canvases are on view as part of Henok’s largest solo exhibition to date. Audiences can see a wide array of paintings, filled with dense, multicoloured patterns of vines, symbols, words and numbers. These visually stunning combinations are made using acrylic and canvas as well as traditional natural pigments. Henok’s practice provides the public with the opportunity to experience the many manifestations of telsem in current times.

Artist Interview

How do artistic practices traverse across generations? How do they continue to address critical conditions in our present moment? In the ‘Speaking of Art‘ podcast by Sharjah Art Foundation, Hoor Al Qasimi engages in a conversation with curator Elizabeth Giorgis and artist Henok Melkamzer to explore these questions and more. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Anghami.

About the Curator

The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Giorgis, Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, The Africa Institute.

In the below video, curator and art historian Elizabeth Giorgis tells us about some of the symbols and imagery that appear in Melkamzer’s paintings, such as faces, vines, suns and moons, to gain insight into reading telsem.

The exhibition will open between February 24, 2024 – June 16, 2024 at Sharjah Art Museum, Arts Area, Al Shuweiheen. For more details, click here.

The Africa Institute, in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Museums Authority, presents upcoming exhibition “Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery” at the Sharjah Art Museum in the Arts Area, Al Shuweiheen, from February 24 to June 16, 2024.

The Africa Institute, in collaboration with the Sharjah Art Foundation and Sharjah Museums Authority, presents upcoming exhibition “Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery” at the Sharjah Art Museum in the Arts Area, Al Shuweiheen, from February 24 to June 16, 2024.

Drawing from astrology, religion and spirituality, the Ethiopian art form of telsem interweaves symbols, drawings and texts imbued with spiritual and philosophical significance. Shaped throughout the ages by the sociopolitical and cultural histories of Ethiopia, telsem—with its ancient inspirations and modern idioms—is used to address critical problems in the contemporary world such as climate disasters, war and poverty.

Despite the fact that it continues to be practised, telsem is often characterised as ‘healing art’ or ‘talisman art’ within western frameworks, a perspective that excludes it from many discussions of modernism. Henok Melkamzer: Telsem Symbols and Imagery, curated by scholar Elizabeth Giorgis, challenges such a one-dimensional understanding of modernism and offers us a rare insight into one of Ethiopia’s most compelling modernist art practices through the work of Henok Melkamzer.

More than 100 canvases are on view as part of Henok’s largest solo exhibition to date. Audiences can see a wide array of paintings, filled with dense, multicoloured patterns of vines, symbols, words and numbers. These visually stunning combinations are made using acrylic and canvas as well as traditional natural pigments. Henok’s practice provides the public with the opportunity to experience the many manifestations of telsem in current times.

Artist Interview

How do artistic practices traverse across generations? How do they continue to address critical conditions in our present moment? In the ‘Speaking of Art‘ podcast by Sharjah Art Foundation, Hoor Al Qasimi engages in a conversation with curator Elizabeth Giorgis and artist Henok Melkamzer to explore these questions and more. Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or Anghami.

About the Curator

The exhibition is curated by Elizabeth Giorgis, Professor of Art History, Theory and Criticism, The Africa Institute.

In the below video, curator and art historian Elizabeth Giorgis tells us about some of the symbols and imagery that appear in Melkamzer’s paintings, such as faces, vines, suns and moons, to gain insight into reading telsem.

The exhibition will open between February 24, 2024 – June 16, 2024 at Sharjah Art Museum, Arts Area, Al Shuweiheen. For more details, click here.

Curator Interview

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