U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia
at a Press Conference
on Ethiopian Women’s Art Contest
March 17, 2015
US Embassy, Addis Ababa
As prepared for delivery
I am delighted to welcome invited Ethiopian artists and the media to the U.S. Embassy this afternoon for a press conference on the Ethiopian Women’s Art Competition the U.S. Embassy is sponsoring this year. We are pleased to sponsor this competition as part of our Women’s History Month programs that are highlighting the important role women are playing in society and to promote women in all areas of Ethiopian society.
Women’s History Month is a very important time for the United States government and for me personally. One of our top priorities at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa is to work to advance the role and situation of women in their communities and in Ethiopia generally. We work to build their skills, improve their education, increase their awareness of their rights and opportunities, and generally to help enable them be the best they can be. Our slogan this year is “Make it Happen,” and with this competition we want to help women artists “Make it Happen” as well!
I began thinking about a women’s art exhibition soon after I arrived in Ethiopia. After looking at some of the outstanding Ethiopian art work displayed at my residence at the Embassy, I decided to host a reception for Ethiopian artists to give them an opportunity to see the art work displayed there. This was later followed up by a visit by the U.S. artist Maye Torres last fall.
Maye conducted a series of talks which included a viewing of the documentary, Who Does She Think She Is, a film about the struggles American women artists face in their professional and personal lives. We con held a round-table discussion for her with members Ethiopian Women Artists’ Association and she presented her art work to Ethiopian women artists and her experience as an independent artist over three decades. The Ethiopian female artists also shared their views about the status of female artists in Ethiopia and the challenges they face as female artists.
The Ethiopian Women’s Art Competition that I am announcing today is a follow up to all the above activities, and one of the main public events being planned for the 2015 Women’s History Month.
The Embassy has supported Ethiopian artists for many years, as evidenced by, among other things, our extensive local arts collection in the Embassy building. As you can see from the collection displayed on the walls here in this room, and in other spaces in this building, this Embassy is art friendly.
It is our belief that art is an important pillar for acceptance of cultural diversity, social cohesion and for the sustainable development of society. It is one of the reasons that the Embassy decided to sponsor the Ethiopian Women’s Art Competition.
This competition will serve as an opportunity to highlight Ethiopian women artists and to inspire women and girls who have a passion and commitment for art. It also creates an opportunity to further promote the art and creativity of Ethiopian women artists.
Once Ethiopian women artists have submitted their work, and we are very anxious to see what they will show, a Jury will choose six works of art from the two categories that will receive prizes, and those art works will then be displayed in our Embassy. While unfortunately we cannot give every participating artist a prize, we will provide certificates of participation to each artist who submits a piece art work. The coordinators of the competition will also produce a catalogue of images with short bios of the artists and essays written by members of the Jury.
The winners of the competition will be announced at a reception and exhibition at the Embassy on April 23, and then the exhibition will be displayed at our American Corners in Addis Ababa, Jimma, Harar, Dire Dawa and Bahir Dar.
I hope this competition will provide an opportunity and platform to highlight Ethiopian women artists, and will provide great inspiration to both professional and aspiring Ethiopian women artists to try new techniques, tools and ideas in their work related to women.
I wish all participants every success in this competition and for the future, and I am therefore pleased to hereby announce the official opening of the Ethiopian Women’s Art Competition.
I thank everyone for your attendance and we will be happy to take questions about this competition.