IAP Archive: Ezra Wube

IAP Archive: Ezra Wube

“It is amazing to put forward an idea and witness how others respond to it.”

Mixed media artist Ezra Wube, IAP 2013 alumnus and winner of the RHMF 2015 Emerging Artist Grant, recently launched the Addis Video Art Festival, taking place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Ezra’s country of origin. In April 2015, we talked with Ezra to find out more about this new initiative, how it relates to his work and balancing the dual roles of being artist and organizer. Now after a successful launch, we reached out to Ezra to see what he had learned.

NYFA: Can you describe the journey of artist to founder of Addis Video Art Festival in your home country Ethiopia? What inspired you to take the leap from practicing artist to artist as organizer of a significant sized project?

A few years back an artist friend suggested I screen one of my animations in Addis Ababa, at a place called Meskel Adebabay. It is a big open space where most of the city’s gatherings and events occur. They had recently installed a huge electronic screen to show movies, major soccer games, commercials for businesses, and special programs during holidays. I then learned that I could rent a time slot to screen my videos, and it was actually very affordable. I rented the screen and screened one of my short animations. It was thrilling. Most of my work is inspired by the everyday urban experience. It was incredible to view my work in this context, paralleling imagination with the everyday.

Years later, after screening my own work in festivals of various countries, I began to think about how Ethiopia didn’t have any video art festivals. I believed the objectless-ness of the medium would enable me to organize one for a low cost. I contacted friends and colleagues that I have known over the years and asked if they were interested in collaborating on the project. They responded with kindness and great will. In Ethiopia there are only a few video artists, probably less than 10, and we hope the festival will inspire more artists to take on the medium. It is amazing to put forward an idea and witness how others respond to it. We have already received strong submissions, echoing the concept from many corners of the world.

NYFA: Did the Addis Video Art Festival Event turn out as you envisioned it?

The festival was a success. We were thrilled to present the work in art centers, public centers, super markets, rooftops, street alleys and construction sites. What more could we ask for? We had great support from the artistic community as well. The presentations in the cities’ urban spaces were well attended. Most people had no knowledge or expectation of “Video Art”. We were often asked what it means and why is it different from movies or commercials.

NYFA: What did you learn from the experience of organizing this project?

We have a few improvements to make for the next edition. This one was, in a way, an experiment. Next time we will plan events further in advance, and since the city relies on tactile distributions of information we will print many more fliers publicizing the events.

To see a video of the festival, visit Ezra’s vimeo.

Image: Screening in Mesalemiya alleyway, art work by Berhanu Ashagrie / photo credit Mihiret Kebede. 

Amy Aronoff
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