“Sometimes color itself becomes my point of departure … Something may come to me as I look at a can full of liquid paint and when I look up and look around me … My own painting may be creating a particular feeling in me when I look at it, egg me on to further work… because I am full of contradictions by virtue of being human; thoughts that suddenly cross my mind may prepare me to do a picture.” Tibebe Terffa
He was born in the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia in 1948. He studied at the University of Addis Ababa School of Fine Art and Design from where he graduated in painting in 1973. During the school years (1970-1973), Tibebe and his friends formed the Sixteen Young Artist’ Association that aimed at staging exhibitions around the country. Tibebe worked as an art instructor at the Medhane Alem Comprehensive High School in Harar from 1973 until 1980. In 1981 he moved to Addis Ababa, and worked as an Illustrator for Kuraz Publishing House until 1983. Since 1984 he has been working as a studio artist from his residence in Addis Ababa. Since 1981 he has numerous Solo exhibition in Ethiopia, Germany (Berlin), Canada (Winnipeg ,Toronto), USA (Washington), Spain (Madrid).
The Tibebe I know is a man of great integrity and a dear friend. There is also a wonderful, searching, and mystical spiritual quality about Tibebe. I think that comes through in his art as he evolves and plays with form in his paintings. It is a spirituality that cannot be catagorized specifically 100% any one religion. There is some mystery there….. something not quite known or pinpointed. I do not think he has not quite pinpointed what it is himself. But, he searches. that searching and willingness to reveal in the mystery of the spiritual came through in his art. I appreciate the
way his artistic course weaves from obvious depictions of life in Ethiopia that can be stylistically traced to some influence from his ancient birth culture to images that cannot be obviously traced to Ethiopia. This mix, to me, presents an artist who is routed in his homeland but who is always experimenting and growing without borders.
Ray Dirks, Artist, Writer, Curator (Winnipeg, Canada), 2002