Art in Addis

Can you imagine a life without music, literature, paintings, theater, and dance?

A moment’s thought about this will make anyone realize just how important art is in our lives, even to those that are not that much interested, both psychological and physical. Though it can seem difficult to measure the benefits of the arts given the fact that they are mostly ephemeral it is undeniable that the benefits contribute both in the economical and social spectrums.

Five years ago the United Kingdom acknowledged the contribution of the arts and culture to their economy by the industry’s ability in creating jobs, developing skills, attracting visitors, attracting and retaining businesses as well as developing talents. Lately I have been noticing that just as it has done for the United Kingdom, the arts and culture industry has also benefited the economy of our country with its ever growing art scenes and its multiplier effects. I am not certain if it was my lack of interest, lack of information or lack of effort in this regard but I am convinced that the industry has registered exponential growth in these past five years compared to the Ethiopia I grew up in.

Now there are a number of art galleries to choose from, multiple musical evenings on a weekly basis as well as a countless movie theaters and shows. What had seemed to be absence of entertainment or rather limited options for a cultural voyage a few years ago is now abundantly overflowing with so much to do it is almost intoxicating. What I find even more intriguing is the number of people interested in going to these artistic and cultural events regularly. It is wonderful to see groups and individuals hunting to attend such events.

Of course, in terms of remedying the lack of things to do over the weekend or after work on weekdays is not the only benefit. In that same report generated five years ago, it was explained that participating or being exposed to art and culture has a number of health benefits. The study showed that attending similar events increases the subjective wellbeing of anyone and especially the cognitive abilities of the youth. It even went on to demonstrate that it had positive impacts on specific health conditions such as dementia, depression and Parkinson’s disease. I wonder then how often the elderly as well as the children in our families and communities are included in arts.

Moreover, it is obvious that such outings have a tendency to facilitate social interactions in a community on top of its abilities to increase the level of literacy, language skills and Math. Therefore, added to its abilities to illuminate lives and enrich the emotional experiences, art tends to encourage the spirit of volunteering thus increasing involvement in the communities. I would like to believe that all of these benefits are clearly visible in Addis especially in the past few years.

I have noticed that most events, cultural and artistic are now also serving as a means of conveying various engaged messages in regards to our socio-economic realities. There are eco-friendly, gender sensitive, entrepreneurial, innovative and a multitude of awareness raising programs. From this, informal and formal discussions have been taken up and it is breathtaking to witness shifts in regards to many traditionally engrained beliefs and customs. The country is surrounded by a youth that is now active and engaged in the community more than ever. There is dynamism among the youth that is like a breath of fresh air and gives hope for the future in regards to lifestyle, education and goals.

Art has personally allowed me to access a world that I was otherwise oblivious to, one where the imagination is free to travel and where dreams come alive. Interacting with artists of all forms has also opened up the doorway to another dimension of realities. How about you, how do you perceive art and what do you think it does for our society?


By Christine Yohannes
Christine Yohannes writes about social change, performs at public events and conducts poetry workshops in schools. She has established a monthly event entitled

Published on Feb 13,2017 [ Vol 17 ,No 876]



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