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Ethiopian Art - Afewerk Tekle

Updated on March 11, 2015

Meet Ethiopian Artist, Maitre Afewerk Tekle

Maybe you have not heard of Maitre Afewerk Tekle, but very likely you have seen some of his work. With good reason he is called Maitre, meaning master or expert. His work has been displayed all over the world, for decades. He has produced not only paintings, but also statues and stained glass. Have a look at some of his art, and be impressed with the Master.

Maitre Afewerk Tekle passed away on April 10, 2012. Thousands of people attended the funeral at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Addis Ababa.


The Background of Maitre Afewerk Tekle

Ethiopian Art

Afewerk Tekle was born in 1932 in Ethiopia. He grew up during the war with the Italians. After this had finished, Maitre Afewerk was sent to Europe to study engineering together with others. They were instructed to work hard and return to help their country.

While at university in England, his talent for painting was so obvious that he was persuaded to change his branch of study. First he studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London, and later he became the first African student to enroll at the Slade School of Art. From there it rolled on quickly!


(Picture Credit)

Back Home in Ethiopia - Afewerk Tekle paintings

Afewerk Tekle
Afewerk Tekle

When returning to his homeland he decided to visit the country extensively. He travelled the provinces of Ethiopia, getting inspiration for his paintings. This led up to his first exhibition in Addis Ababa, in 1954. It was a success, and helped him sponsor another trip to Europe, to continue his studies.

For two years he travelled around Europe. Not only did he further his art of painting, but he also learned how to design and construct stained glass windows. At the same time, he took time to study ancient Ethiopian illustrated manuscripts, which are found in Rome, London and Paris. He really made good use of his time.

This window is part of the Holy Trinity Cathedral, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

For a painting by the great artist on the same theme, hanging in St. George's Cathedral, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,please click on this link: Photo by A.Davey>

The following is a comment made by skibriye on Flickr, to the photo above. Quite interesting!

"Actually, the Afework Tekle painting from the Cathedral of St. George was extremely contraversial when it was first installed and decried as un-Ethiopian. The reasons for this was the fact that the Queen of Sheba was placed below the dias on which King Solomon stands, and he looks like he is making no move to leave the dias to greet her. To many this indicated that the King was her superior which offended the Ethiopian idea of the monarchs being equals. The other even more contraversial element was the fact that the Queen is shown in profile. In traditional Ethiopian iconography, only the evil are shown in profile and the righteous are shown full or three quarter faced .... However the Emperor liked the painting and that ended the matter."

Interesting Ethiopian Art

Ethiopian Art (Sam Fogg)
Ethiopian Art (Sam Fogg)

The cover of this book aptly highlight the point mentioned above regarding the Queen of Sheba. The persons (likely saints) are painted with their faces facing front. This leads to some interesting angles while painting, but is explained by the fact that it was only evil people who were painted in profile.


Working in Ethiopia

After his time in Europe he returned home with a lot of knowledge. Fortunately his talent was recognized at home, and he was given a great privilege, that of of making murals and mosaics in the Saint George Cathedral. He also worked on a number of sculptures depicting Ethiopian heroes.

In 1958 he designed the stained glass windows in the Africa Hall of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa in Addis Ababa. The three windows cover an area of 150 square meters, and represent the sorrow of Africa's past, the struggle of the present, and hope for Africa's future. A truly beautiful work.

Photo by Terri O'Sullivan

Afewerk Tekle stained glass window inside UN compound.

Ethiopian Christian Art

Art of Ethiopia
Art of Ethiopia

Throughout history, Ethiopian art has always been closely linked to the Orthodox church. This book focuses a lot on the crosses and icons that are the most common forms of Ethiopian art.


Ethiopian Churches

Ancient Churches of Ethiopia
Ancient Churches of Ethiopia

It is difficult to talk about Ethiopian art without mentioning the churches. Often, this is where you find the ancient art, preserved until our time. Even the churches in themselves are a work of art.


Touring Africa

In the 1960s he set out on a journey of different African countries. What he saw led him to take an interest in the subject of black emancipation and independence. This was a time when many African states were fighting and getting independence from the colonial powers. Again, what he saw served as an inspiration for his art.

, Photo by A.Davey

Coronation of Emperor Haile Selassie I" by Maître Afewerk Tekle

Internationally recognized

Afewerk Tekle is much known for his religious and African art, both in Ethiopia and the rest of the world. In the 1970s he continued producing murals and mosaics in different churches of Ethiopia, as well as other official buildings. Most notable is probably the mural the Last Judgment in the province of Tigray.

He has had exhibitions of his art in Moscow, Washington, New York and Bonn- just to mention a few. His painting Self-Portrait can be seen in Florence, Italy. It was the first painting by an African artist to enter the permanent collection of the Uffizi Gallery.

Photo by A.Davey

"The Last Judgement " This painting by The Most Honourable World Laureate Maître Artiste Afewerk Tekle (b. 1932) hangs in St. George's Cathedral in Addis Ababa. The piece was painted in 1958. It measures a huge 3 x 2.5 meters. In 1971, the artist painted a larger version of the piece in the Holy Saviour Catholic Cathedral in Tigrai.

Did you like it?

Do you like the art of Afewerk Tekle?

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Lalibela Churches - Yet to be released

Lalibela: Christian Art of Ethiopia, The Monolithic Churches and Their Treasures
Lalibela: Christian Art of Ethiopia, The Monolithic Churches and Their Treasures

UNESCO has declared Lalibela as a World Heritage Site, and with good reason. The several churches that have been hewn out of the rock are amazing. The treasures and works of art found inside are also fantastic.


Nice display of a lot of his art

Villa Alpha

Even the artist's home in Addis Ababa is a piece of art. The Villa Alpha, designed by himself, has been open to the public..Many people are very sad of the passing of Maitre Afewerk Tekle. His life has been long and rich, and he has contributed greatly to the fame of Ethiopia.

Here you can check out pictures of Villa Alpha

Photo by A.Davey

This painting by The Most Honourable World Laureate Maître Artiste Afewerk Tekle (b. 1932) hangs in the National Museum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The painting's title, "Demera," comes from the bonfire depicted near the center of the image. A bonfire, called the Demera, is one of the central events in the Ethiopian Orthodox festival of Maskal, which commemorates the Finding of the True Cross.

More comments and interpretations of this picture can be found if you click on the photographer's name.

Click here for more pictures by

Maitre Afewerk Tekle

marcus samuelsson
marcus samuelsson

Famous Ethiopian Men

Afewerk Tekle is only one of the many Ethiopian men who are internationally known. There are many others, in a variety of fields. Did you, for example, know that one of New York's great chefs was born in Ethiopia? (A little tip- he's the one in the picture.) Read about him and a few others on the page

(Picture Credit)

Haile selassie
Haile selassie

Ethiopian Women

While Ethiopia has a basically patriarchal society, it has given birth to a number of strong women. Queens, models, chefs and athletes. All of them Ethiopians, all of them women. Considering that in between whatever path they have taken, they also find time and energy to give birth, their accomplishments are even more amazing. Picture shows Queen Empress Menen.

(Picture Credit)

Preparations for Ethiopia Trip

For travelers to Ethiopia, there are a few vaccinations and precautions that are recommended:

-Hepatitis A and B/ Typhoid/ Yellow Fever/ Meningococcus/ Polio / MMR / Tetanus-Diptheria

- Malaria prophylaxis. Only if you are going outside of Addis, in the lower parts of the country. The northern parts of Ethiopia (including Addis Ababa) are at such a high altitude that malaria is not a problem.

- Traveler's diarrhea is quite common. All travelers should bring along an antibiotic and an anti-diarrhea drug to be started promptly if significant diarrhea occurs.

In general it is good to keep a good hygiene and avoid raw food in any form. When eating out, especially in the country side, stick to food that has been properly heated prior to eating. The local food, injera, is often handled by hand and stored for several days after preparation.

For all the photos of Maitre Afewerk Tekle's art, by A.Davey, alanj46 and o spot, I have got the permission from the photographers. The pictures can be found on Flickr.

After having seen the work of Maitre Afewerk Tekle, what is your impression? Isn't he a wonderful artist?

Ethiopian Art - What Is Your Opinion? - Please leave a comment

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    • profile image


      2 years ago


    • LouisaDembul profile imageAUTHOR


      4 years ago

      @blue22d: I am looking into it, hope to get some of them back!

    • blue22d profile image


      4 years ago

      Interesting art - never heard of this type, however, several pics did not show through for me? Great idea for a lens.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      @Redneck Lady Luck: Nerd

    • Redneck Lady Luck profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      5 years ago from Canada

      The art is beautiful of Maitre Afewerk Tekle. I could not get some of your large images to come up though or your poll so you may want to check them. I found that if I edit the poll and then republish that it comes back to life. One of those wonderful Squidoo bugs that is running around the website at the moment lol.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I'd not heard of Afewerk Tekle before, so learned something here - I especially loved the stained glass.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      Great artist who had a great 80 years of life. Special lens.

    • sheilamarie78 profile image


      5 years ago from British Columbia

      Wow! Thanks for sharing the art work of Afewerk Tekle. I'll come back to this lens.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      5 years ago from United States

      Wishing you a year of many new blessings starting with this one! Happy New Year!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      exceptional artworks!

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      I love this artwork. Great lens.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      What beautiful work this man has produced. Thanks for sharing.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I am always fascinated by his art and i feel very proud of him for giving best art

      name to ethopia

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love the Ethiopian art. I added this as a featured lens on my African Americans lens, its about art. And, I posted this beautiful lens to FaceBook for you. x

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 

      6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I don't know anything about Ethiopian art so this is a very good introduction. Fascinating art. It kept pulling me in.

    • kabbalahwisdom profile image


      6 years ago

      Very interesting lense!

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      6 years ago from Sweden

      I would just love to see those windows! Such beautiful art.

    • JoyfulReviewer profile image


      6 years ago

      "The Last Judgement" painting is pretty awesome. Thanks for the introduction to this very talented artist ... both in painting as well as in stained glass. Creative way of introducing your art. Blessed!

    • sponias lm profile image

      sponias lm 

      6 years ago

      The Ethiopian art is fascinating! Thank you for your work.

      This lens was blessed by a Squid Angel.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Outstanding artwork, excellent lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Outstanding artwork, excellent lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Outstanding artwork, excellent lens!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 

      6 years ago

      Wonderful! Thanks for opening me up to this new artist: Maitre Afewerk Tekle and your lovely Ethiopian pictures. Angel Blessed for unique, creative content and finding such a nice way to share your art.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I love how Afewerk Tekle interprets his inner vision for us to enjoy in glory!

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 

      6 years ago from West Virginia

      Lovely artwork by Maitre Afewerk Tekle. They remind me of early paintings of other famous masters.

    • CruiseReady profile image


      6 years ago from East Central Florida

      Beautiful! I really was taken by the Last Judgement painting of Afewerk Tekle

    • dahlia369 profile image


      6 years ago

      Stained glass pieces are amazing and so are the paintings. Surely an outstanding artist, well worth featuring via great lens!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      Outstanding artwork, excellent lens!

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind Guides 

      6 years ago from USA

      Another cool Ethiopia lens -- thanks!

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 

      6 years ago from United States

      Beautiful! It truly would have been a great lose to the world if he had continued in engineering. Well, maybe. Who knows, he might have been just as brilliant in engineering :)

    • kathysart profile image


      6 years ago

      WOW!! Fantastic art.. sooo brilliant. Angel blessed lens!

    • ForestBear LM profile image

      ForestBear LM 

      6 years ago

      absolutely beautiful, thank you for the introduction. Wonderful lens

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      @Phillyfreeze: awesome paintings. thanks for introducing this great artist. really enjoyed his art work.

    • sukkran trichy profile image

      sukkran trichy 

      7 years ago from Trichy/Tamil Nadu

      awesome. thanks for introducing this great artist. really enjoyed his art work

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Have not seen this master's work before, but I can see that he brings great passion to it.

    • jptanabe profile image

      Jennifer P Tanabe 

      7 years ago from Red Hook, NY

      Thank you for a great introduction to Afewerk Tekle's art - it's wonderful! Blessed by a SquidAngel stopping by on the Back to School Bus Trip.

    • Phillyfreeze profile image

      Ronald Tucker 

      7 years ago from Louisville, Kentucky

      The Most Honourable World LUREATE Maitre Artist Afewerk Tekle is one of Ethiopia's national tresures. His magnificent murals and mosaics are visually compelling.

      I especially like the stained glass window in the UN compound. Mujjen, reading this lens has been enlightening and awe inspiring.

    • UKGhostwriter profile image


      7 years ago

      Well done on your 100% score! - nice lens, very well deserved !!

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 

      7 years ago

      This is truly lovely - thanks for showing us.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 

      7 years ago

      The artist's work is magnificent.

    • KarenHC profile image


      7 years ago from U.S.

      I love the vibrant colors of Tekle's work. You put some beautiful examples of his work on this lens.

    • Northbright profile image

      Norbert Isles 

      7 years ago from Philippines

      I can't say, but I just felt my heart being drawn - stretched may be the word - towards his work whenever I view them; I like his subject.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Art by Afewerk Tekle is so wonderful. He's a great Ethiopia artist .. dearest Mujjen. Thank you so much for letting me here to get most pleasure of his fascinating art. 5 art lovers stars for you .. dearest lady :) Have wonderful times..

    • howtocurecancer profile image


      7 years ago

      I am fascinated, thanks for the wonderful lens.

    • mariaamoroso profile image


      7 years ago from Sweden

      I am in awe! Love the glass motifs. I would like to go to this hall to see it with my eyes!


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