Gebre-Mariam’s painting to the rescue

When Ethiopian painter, Fikru Gebre-Mariam met Dr. Rick Hodes at a dinner in Addis Ababa hosted by mutual friends, he knew nothing about spine disease. However, before the dinner came to an end, Dr. Hodes, Medical Director of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the city, lectured Gebre-Mariam about the debilitating and disfiguring disease and showed him pictures of some his patients.

Gebre-Mariam told Tadias magazine that he was moved by the images.

I felt shame that I was not doing enough to help my people who desperately need my help while foreigners are doing a great job to save Ethiopian lives,” he further stated.

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Before leaving that night, Gebre-Mariam promised the doctor that he would contribute to the treatment of some of his patients. In 2011, he donated one of his paintings Dream Hunters to be sold with proceeds going towards paying the medical expenses of some three children under Dr. Hodes’ care requiring surgery abroad. The work sold at an auction in Denver, Colorado, United States for $37,500. The sum accomplished its objective.

Painting by Fikru Gebre-Mariam. Photo:
Painting by Fikru Gebre-Mariam. Photo:

Notes on the artist, Gebre-Mariam

Gebre-Mariam was born in 1973. After winning a children’s arts competition organized by the International Children’s Painting Exhibition in Beijing in 1986, he began to take art, which had merely been a hobby, seriously.

In 1995, Gebre-Mariam earned a BFA from the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, where he was mentored by the art instructor, Tadesse Mesfin. Gebre-Mariam has been a fulltime artist since graduation. He has exhibited his work in group and solo exhibitions in Ethiopia, France, Ireland and the United States.

The artist has several awards to his name including the 2002 Elisabeth Greenshield Foundation Award, Montreal, Canada.

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