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Page 10                                ADVERTISEMENT                                                            Fortune Vol. 21 No. 1070 Nov. 1, 2020

Obituary

Goatskin Aficionado, Lemma Guya, Lays Down the Brush
One of Lemma Guya's
          paintings, "Quanta,"         complete shambles.                    hair unshaven and integrating it   regard among contemporary             in Bishoftu that hosts paintings
          features dried beef, four                                          into the drawing. The effect gave  painters.                             by African artists and serves
          cats, spilt milk and a rat.  “Despite the popular                  a smooth ebbing flow that is       “That is how I learned to draw,”      as a studio. It is a space that
Stripped of its context, it seems      interpretation of the painting, it    pleasing to the eye.               said Agegnehu Adane, director         could serve as an institutional
bizarre, almost meaningless; a         is meant to be opened-ended as                                           of Ale School of Fine Arts &          foundation for the art scene,
day in the life of a chaotic group     well,” says Selam, his daughter,      For individuals in the art world,  Design. “It was a contribution to     according to Agegnehu, where his
of household animals. Look a little    a painter in her own right. “He       his impact is more felt in his     Ethiopia’s art that has but rarely    collected works can be exhibited
less closer and Lemma’s painting       wanted people to make their own       contributions to the art scene     been replicated.”                     for the general public.
from the mid-1970s carries a           assumptions about it.”                in Ethiopia, especially while it   Lemma never received the
political message.                                                           was in its infancy. One of these   Western higher education              “This is a legacy of his that deserves
It shows dried beef - aka quanta       But that was just one of the          was a book on the techniques of    that some of the prominent            to get further recognition,” adds
- hung close to a ceiling. Beneath     thousands of paintings that Lemma     drawing, which is held in high     painters had and was in fact an       the art school director.
it are two cats reaching from a        drew. He was exceptionally                                               air force man, reaching to the
bed to eat the beef, one of them       prolific, drawing until his final                                        rank of shambel, the Ethiopian        Lemma was not just a painter.
scratching the wall in its effort      days when he passed away at 92                                           military title corresponding to       He was politically conscious and
to do so. There are two more           last week. He was laid to rest on                                        captain. A lot of his education       carried out humanitarian work,
cats to the left, and dried beef is    October 29, 2020.                                                        on painting was self-taught, and      including opening a library in
lying by their side, not to mention                                                                             the book attempts to serve a          his hometown, Bishoftu, where
the spilt milk. The latter two         The set of subjects he chose were                                        similar purpose to beginners.         he was laid to rest. A long-time
seem completely uninterested           diverse. Many of his drawings                                            It contains techniques for            reader, he loved telling stories
as if they have already had their      deal with landscapes as well as                                          beginners on how to draw faces        as well, gathering children
fill. Perhaps the most curious         painted farmers working the                                              and features. It helped people        that would visit his art gallery
scene in the painting is the rat       land.                                                                    such as Agegnehu to produce           to impart in them historical
munching on an ear of corn                                                                                      three-dimensional pictures on a       knowledge.
under the bed.                         Arguably, he is better recognised                                        two-dimensional plane. Virtually,
The picture tells the story of         for his portraits of public figures,                                     many contemporary painters            He was strict with his own
Africa, by a man who loved to          from athletes such as Abebe                                              were his students.                    children when it came to work
point out that he was proud of         Bikila to the founding leaders of                                        Lemma wrote four books,               and learning. But he was also a
his African heritage but had no        the Organisation of the African                                          including "From Herding to            man that was born to a modest
qualms about criticising the           Union (OAU).                                                             Lemmism," an autobiography that       family in a small town and had
disarray on the continent. The                                                                                  details his style of painting, which  to force his way into a passion
cats, it is believed, are political    Many of these are goatskin                                               has come to be called Lemmism         he held. He knew the value of
leaders; half of them still vying to   portraits. While paintings have                                          by some. A fifth book is to be        stubbornly pushing through with
get their share of the dried beef,     been drawn with the use of such                                          published posthumously by his         a gut feeling.
the other half already satiated.       a medium in pre-modernist                                                children.
Meanwhile, the house is in             times, it became his signature                                           Another contribution that is          “He let us make our own
                                       style and played a significant part                                      well-regarded is an art gallery       choices,” says Selam.
                                       in bringing this form of painting
                                       well into the contemporary scene.                                                                              Lemma is survived by five
                                       Particular to his style of goatskin                                                                            children, all of whom paint, as
                                       painting was leaving some of the                                                                               do their own children.
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