As an artist and global citizen, this exchange was like honey butter on the heart….Traveling to Ethiopia, a deeply spiritual, soulful and ancient country, to create and interact with local creative minds was diplomacy at its best. The country’s variety of cultures, and deep varied history exposed me to a wealth of information and knowledge that will continue to feed and inspire my community and art from here forward. I brought with me the energy and history of the arts of New Mexico and was received with open arms. The excitement I witnessed in response to the activities was deeply human and meaningful. As artists, we all were able to see the many similarities between our two countries rather than differences. - Maye Torres
In November of 2014, artist Maye Torres traveled to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia by invitation of Ambassador Patricia Haslach, who had selected Torres’ large-scale drawing Samba Pa Ti for the Art in Embassies exhibition at her residence.
The Artist Exchange started with two children's workshops. The first was at ANDINET International Primary School in Addis Ababa. Nefertiti Makeda, the founder of the school, and Sissy Nigussu, the Director, arranged an art show of colorful oil paintings created by forty students. A lively discussion about art followed the presentation. At the second workshop, held at Alletu ECS Children's Fund School (55 kilometers from Addis Ababa), Ambassador Haslach and Torres were greeted with a musical performance and given a tour of this special rural school. The country location was beautiful and included a dairy and medical care office. The workshop at this school was a pencil and paper class and focused on a black to white light gradation scale in which the students were guided to draw a self-portrait. The students produced some great drawings. Ambassador Haslach and the Director, Dr. Tesfanesh Gebre Mariam, also participated in the workshop, which made it particularly meaningful and inclusive. After the conclusion of the workshop, Ambassador Haslach and Torres were treated to a remarkable coffee ceremony and local dances by the students, with music and food.
On one of the evenings during this weeklong artist exchange, Ambassador Haslach hosted a reception at the residence, which featured the screening of the documentary, "Who Does She Think She Is?" Directed by Pamela Boll, the film explores the balancing act artists-as-parents encounter in daily life and in the professional art market. A panel discussion ensued with Torres, artist Desta Hagos, professor and sculptor Bekele Mekonnen, photographer Aida Mulule and musician Saba Kahsay.
Two additional events focused around a power point presentation of Torres’ drawings and sculpture and the arts of New Mexico. The first presentation was hosted by the U.S. Embassy, with a grouping of artists who belong to the Women's Artist Association of Ethiopia. The discussion that followed focused on ways creative women as mothers can empower their families and communities, economically, spiritually and creatively. Addis Ababa University, Department of Art and Design, hosted the second presentation. It was attended by about 35 students and several art professors. As Torres commented in her review…”the opportunity…to see the students' artwork in and around the art department was impressive…and like the studio visit to the renowned Ethiopian artist, Mezgebu Tesema, who attended many of the artist exchange events that week, it was one of the many highlights of the week.”