Yohannes Gedamu

(1947 – 2010) Ethiopia

The Story

In a tribute, published on 21 March 2010 in the Addis Journal, Gedamu’s close friend, Achamyeleh Debela, states that Yohannes Gedamu was a dedicated disciplined painter who communicated his world view with all who can see with color, form and texture and articulated his view in ways that only Yohannes the painter could. When he began a canvas he immersed himself in his work and, in his prolific way, he simplified complexity in symbolic lights and objects whose forms did not necessarily conform to mundane everyday reality. His visual poetry refused a didactic interpretation but rather chose more of an interpenetrative play between the conscious and subconscious that he lives through his works that would in time be more apparent and communicate more readily for generations to come.

He was a non-conformist in life and in his art. He caused an outrage at school by creating a collage in which he applied sand, grog and pebbles. And, again, in his final project, a mural based on Ato Temachu, a hero from Bitwoded Endalkachew Mekonnen’s famous book.

He was also defiant during the Mengistu Regime, which caused him to abandon his graphic design business in Addis Ababa and flee to Nairobi on foot. He survived in Mombassa doing commercial art.

Going to Germany was an answer to his dream of living as an artist, where he lived and worked from 1980 until 1997, and where, in Cologne, he met Doris, a schoolteacher, whom he married and with whom he had three children.

He returned to Addis Ababa and lived as a full time studio artist, where he exhibited often, and also exhibited abroad and in the touring exhibition, Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists.

In collaboration with the Goethe Institute in Addis, he engaged in creating discussions on art and was often seen on TV sharing his views.