Photo courtesy of Rediet Haddis by Nafkot Ayele

Spotlight: Ethiopian Artist Rediet Haddis Is Her Own Cultural Muse

We spoke with the visual artist about the importance of identity and honoring forgotten cultures and the value they bring to society.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists, and more who are producing vibrant, original work.

In our latest piece, we spotlight Ethiopian visual artist and designer Rediet Haddis. The fashion designer and architect is feeling her way through a human experience decorated in the brightest colors and has a keen understanding and appreciation for her East African culture. Haddis's experimental creative expression manifests as an ode to the ancient history and ideologies of the thinkers and creators who came before. Each garment and design carries significant context, marrying the realities of the past to the happenings of today through vivid colors, flamboyant accessories, and a deep desire to capture human emotion. Through her project Re:d Visuals, Haddis has poured her blessings onto the lane set to grant African artists the privilege of creating from the heart, for the people, and by the people.

We spoke with Rediet about experiencing Ethiopia's history and heritage through the lens of beauty and design.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

What was your first creation and how much have you grown since?

I would say my first ever creation was my first design in Architecture school. I made a glass house out of a cargo container, and I that helped me understand my intentions as a creative. Ever since then, I've slowly figured out what I want to represent and research when it comes to serving myself and my society with intentions.

What are the central themes in your work?

My art focuses on creating awareness around cultures that hold significant value in society even though sometimes they might be overlooked, overshadowed, and forgotten.

What is your medium of choice? Why?

I'm a visual artist, so I use mediums that prioritize sight and touch. I play around with mediums like fashion design, styling, set design, stage design, digital art, and hand painting.

What do you believe sets African artists apart from the rest of the world?

I believe all artists regardless of where they are from have significant distinctions as long as what they do comes from true intentions. As an artist from Ethiopia, Africa, I try my best to represent my background by researching the heritage and history of the people that came before me. By doing so, my art distinctly shines a light on what it is to be Ethiopian through my own experiences allowing me to have a voice and an opinion on specific norms.

Can you talk about your use of colors and accessories?

As a visual artist colors play a huge role in my career. I choose colors that would work best with a given project by experimenting with their combination until I land on something that makes sense to me. The same goes for accessories, by researching and collecting various elements, I play around with my collections trying to figure out the best composition.

What’s something you wish someone had told you at the beginning of your journey?

That it would be a very long journey ahead and that I would have to try time and time again to get to where I envisioned. But, again, I probably had that advice then. It's not so much about the destination anymore, but definitely about the journey.

Photo courtesy of Rediet Haddis

Ethiopian artist Rediet Haddis

Photo: Etan Comics

Ethiopia’s First Superhero Comic is Going Global

Etan Comics is launching a kids version of the kickstarter-backed title, which will be published in 11 languages.

After the successful release of their graphic novel, Jember, Etan Comics is teaming up with the non-profit Open Hearts Big Dreams (OHBD) to launch a special collaboration. Etan is working with the Seattle-based organization, which has produced over 700 bilingual early-reader titles, to turn Jember into a bilingual kids book that's based on the award-winning graphic novel.

The release of the book coincides with Black History Month, and will be launched in 11 different languages, including Amharic, Arabic, French, Greek, Igbo, Kiswahili, Spanish, and Wolayta. Jember was first published in hardcover format in October 2022, and after its release it garnered +$12K pre-orders on Kickstarter. The comic book is designed to help emerging readers build their reading confidence, and learn more about African cultures and languages. Created and written by Beserat Debebe, it was illustrated by Yonatan Solomon and Michael Okoroagha.

Jember is being turned into a bilingual kids book that's based on the award-winning graphic novel and will be available in 11 different languages.

Photo: Etan Comics

Beginning in mid-February, the books will be available globally on Amazon and IngramSpark. They will also be available at Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, and in public libraries shortly after.

With the release of Jember, Etan Comics aims to make African stories accessible to global readers. The collaboration will also help Ethiopian children, who make up 40% of the Ethiopian population, to be empowered through the story, which speaks to the rich cultural heritage of the Ethiopian history.

With this development, Etan Comics has joined the growing list of new generation of African comic book creators who are sharing African culture through comics to engage readers with various parts of the continent's history.

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