Born 1939, Bagemdir, Ethiopia
Died 1995, Därtähal, Ethiopia
Far from being an artist seeking his roots, Gedewon was one of the finest practitioners of poetry and rhetoric in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Along with his religious studies, he was secretly initiated into talismanic art, a discipline used for prayer and healing. Reaching back as far as the origins of Christianity in Ethiopia (i.e., to the fourth century), talismanic art draws on the same Hellenic sources as Arab alchemy and the Hebrew Kabala. But while the art remained embryonic in the Mediterranean world, it flourished in Ethiopia as a means to cure patients whose ills were understood in terms of spiritual possession. For Gedewon, talismans were a writing from before writing; they were at once equally figure and text.
Gedewon called his works “talismans of research and study.” The purpose of his art was to heal body and soul through ancient patterns, imagery, and invocation. While employing established models, Gedewon also considered it necessary to question the patient in order to incorporate specific experiences and visions into the talisman. In turn, he would create new images for new problems. His works, executed in pencil, ballpoint pen, or ink on paper, are primarily graphic and within their geometric framework, highly representational. In these “talismans of research and study,” Gedewon is both the healer—and because of his empathy—the patient, artist and hallucinator in another’s stead.
With contributions from Jacques Mercier
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gallery 351- Ethiopia
VENICE BIENNALE: 54th International Art Exhibition, Italian Pavillion
2009 - 2010
Nov. 2009 - Jan. 2010
Africa? Una nuova storia
Complesso del Vittoriano, Rome, Italy
Arts of Africa
Monaco - France
African Art Now : Masterpieces from the Jean Pigozzi Collection
Museum of Fine Art Houston
Houston - USA
2003 – 2004
Vernacular Visionaries: International Outsider Art in Context
Museum of International Folk Art
Santa Fe, New Mexico – USA
Art that Heals
New York Etats Unis.
Forum Culturel de Blanc-Mesnil
Le Blanc-Mesnil, France
Working in the Spirit : Gedewon and Vyakul
New York, Etats Unis.