Ethiopian-born artist Sisay Shimeles created a four-metre by five-metre mural celebrating the city’s East African community



ethiopianmuralSisay Shimeles presents his newly unveiled four-metre by five-metre mural dedicated to the East African community on Friday. The mural is painted on an alcobond panel and will be permanently mounted on the southwest side of artBOX. Jim Wells/Calgary Sun/Postmedia Network

Capturing the essence of an entire African region is no small feat.

That was the challenge for Ethiopian-born artist Sisay Shimeles, whose four-metre by five-metre mural celebrating the city’s east African community will soon grace a wall on Forest Lawn’s International Avenue.

“It’s a very tough task, actually — each of these countries has very diverse cultures,” said Shimeles, 40, who came to Calgary six years ago.

But his work, painted in acrylic on aluminum alcoboard then varnished over, reflects a symmetry that exists between countries like his homeland, Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia and Kenya.

“Generally, they share common things, the mystical and mythologies, beauty and harmony,” said the artist, who’s won the right to officially represent Ethiopia through art in Europe.

It’s a piece, he said, that blends traditional African styles with Western expressions.

The mural is among nine being done by the International Avenue Mural Society to showcase the area’s rich ethnic diversity. Other completed works represent Portugal, the Caribbean, Vietnam and the Middle East.

A first mural, that honoured the area’s history, was unveiled in 2001.

The latest work was welcomed Friday in a celebration at artBox on 17E 1807 42 St. S.E. where it’ll be permanently displayed.

“I’m really blessed — I can’t tell you how happy I am to be able to do this,” said Shimeles.

The project is part of the long-term beautification of International Ave. focusing on the area’s multicultural character, said mural society president Alison Karim-McSwiney.

“We have so many different communities in the greater Forest Lawn area, it’s a celebration for them,” she said.