Mark from Womersleys has been helping Ethiopia's Heritage Watch, which is formed from a diverse group of private citizens from all walks of life, with many nationalities, professional backgrounds and varying hobbies but with one common passion; they all care about Addis Ababa’s heritage buildings.
Working with the artist community of Addis, Heritage Watch is proposing, as part of a current programme entitled: Public Art in Addis Ababa, to provide workshops, galleries and meeting places for artists groups within a new hub created by refurbishing threatened and disused historic buildings.
Within Addis Ababa, the capital and largest city of Ethiopia with a population of 3 million, there are important historic public and private buildings which could be refurbished for the benefit of the community and the city and this proposal makes an important step towards this.
Addis is where the African Union and the UN Economic Commission for Africa is headquartered. The city is populated by the different regions of Ethiopia and settlers from all over the world. This settlement began to grow in 1886, when the imperial palace moved from Entoto. All Ethiopian ethnic groups are represented in Addis Ababa: the Amhara, Oromo, Gurage, Tigrayan, Silt'e, and Gamo. It is the home of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies and the Ethnological Museum. The city also has numerous public universities and private colleges including The Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts and Design.
Development pressures are huge within this rapidly expanding city, these pressures have resulted in the loss of and threaten other the historic areas of Addis, which define its character and its national historic sense of place. This fact coupled with the artistic community being underrepresented in a such a large city suggests the need for the creative arts to work with heritage conservation groups to promote art and the historic street scenes of the city to help the city and its artistic community, support each other.
Although famous artists that have led the way in Addis including Afewerk Tekle (22 October 1932 – 10 April 2012), Gebre Kristos Desta Nego ( 1932–1981), and Gebrekristos Desta, artists struggle to have enough support, work and exhibition space, despite the efforts of the Alliance Ethio Francaise Gallery, Goethe-Institut Addis Abeba , Guramayne Art Centre, and the Istituto Italiano di Cultura. The Director of the only academic art program in the city, The Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts and Design, is trying to create an academic program that encourages artists to be socially engaged and it hoped this proposal will build on the efforts of all the artistic groups to help fulfil this.
The project which Mark is assisting with aims to promote public and private historic property, neighbourhood engagement, community awareness, for the good of the city. It is hoped that outcomes will bring a superior aesthetical quality to the cityscape, symbolize our cultural base and create an art destination for visitors and tourists.