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Details & Cataloguing

Modern & Contemporary African Art

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London

Afewerk Tekle
1932-2012
ETHIOPIAN
DEFENDER OF HIS COUNTRY
signed and dated 1977 (lower right)
oil on canvas
80 by 100cm., 31½ by 39½in.
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Provenance

Private Collection, Norway
Thence by descent

Catalogue Note

Afewerk Tekle, born on 22 October 1932 in Shewa Province, Ethiopia, grew up during the Second World War in Italian occupied Ethiopia. These experiences of his childhood greatly influenced Tekle’s later life and his eventual decision to travel abroad to the United Kingdom to further his education. Tekle left Ethiopia in 1947 to study mining engineering with the intention of returning to aid in the reconstruction of his home country. However, once in England, Afewerk Tekle’s skill and artistic talent was recognised and he eventually transferred to Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, later to move on to Slade School of Art.

Tekle returned to Ethiopia and had his first exhibition in Addis Ababa in 1954. After returning to Ethiopia, the artist began to travel around the surrounding areas of his homeland, which was evident in the work he was creating. It was back in Europe that Tekle expanded his artistic methods, using stained glass and studying ancient manuscripts from Ethiopia. These skills were put to good use in later years. His murals and mosaics in the Saint George Cathedral are renowned and he went on to design the stained glass window for the Africa Hall of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. In 1981 Afewek Tekle's self-portrait was the first African work to be displayed in the Uffizi Collection.

Afewek Tekle is remembered as one of Ethiopia’s most renowned artists. Tekle would paint a great deal of subjects throughout his career but was most known for his depictions of African and Christian themes. In 1987 his iconic work 'Defender of his Country' was printed on an a national stamp. This work perfectly represents the themes and techniques for which the artist is most known as a biblical figure emerges out of a geometrically patterned composition, reminiscent of stained glass, standing confidently and ready to defend his country.This painting has become a National symbol throughout Ethiopia.

Modern & Contemporary African Art

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London