De Pree CenterGallery to Feature
"Gabra Sellase: Ethiopian Icon Painter"
Posted August 28, 2001
HOLLAND -- The gallery of the De Pree Art Center
at Hope College begins its 2001-02 season with "Gabra
Sellase: Ethiopian Icon Painter," an exhibition which
highlights the tradition of devotional imagery in Ethiopian
The exhibition will open on Friday, Sept. 7, and
continue through Friday, Nov. 16. It is held in conjunction
with a juried show of contemporary icons at the Holland Area
Arts Council. An opening reception on Friday, Sept. 7, and
a series of related demonstrations and lectures, will also
be held at the De Pree Art Center and the Holland Area Arts
The public is invited to all of the events.
Admission is free.
Gabra Sellase was an Ethiopian painter born in the
early 20th century. He began his education in a church
school, learning the ecclesiastical language of the
Ethiopian church and reading important religious texts. As
an apprentice to an experienced master painter, Gabra
Sellase would have studied technique, learning how to
prepare painting surfaces and pigments and to fabricate
brushes in addition to the subject matter and accepted style
for church painting.
From the mid-1960s until his death in the early
1980s, he lived and painted in Makale, the capital of the
province of Tigre. His panel paintings are found in
numerous churches in northern Ethiopia, but Gabra Sellase
was best known as the Cardboard Painter for his works
painted on cardboard or inexpensive, heavy paper. Many of
these paintings were collected by members of the local
foreign community in Ethiopia teachers, Peace Corps
volunteers, academics and others.
An opening reception is scheduled at the De Pree
Art Center on Friday, Sept. 7, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. At
5:30 p.m., Neal Sobania, professor of history and director
of international education at Hope, will present the lecture
"Ethiopia Stretches Forth Her Hands to God: Traditional
Ethiopian Church Painting." The event will be followed with
a reception at the Holland Area Arts Council beginning at 7
p.m. with a demonstration by Daniel BerhaneMeskel, a Hope
College student who draws on a family heritage of Ethiopian
An additional lecture series will be held the
following weekend. On Friday, Sept. 14, at the De Pree Art
Center, Raymond A. Silverman of Michigan State University
will present "Qes Adamu Tesfaw: A Priest Who Paints" at 3
p.m. At 5 p.m., also at the De Pree Art Center, Marilyn E.
Heldman of the University of Missouri-St. Louis, the
exhibition curator, will present "Tradition and Innovation
in the work of Gabra Sellase, an Ethiopian Icon Painter."
On Saturday, Sept. 15, at 11 a.m. at the Holland Area Arts
Council, Cressida Marcus of Oxford University will lecture
on "The Icon in Popular Usage."
In addition, Marguerite D. Stephens, a sixth grade
teacher at Black River Public School, has written a related
teaching curriculum unit being sent to history teachers at
area middle schools and a student guide to the exhibition.
The De Pree Art Center is located on the corner of
12th Street and Columbia Avenue. Regular gallery hours are
Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. and Sunday from 1
p.m. until 5 p.m. The gallery is handicapped accessible.
Additional information may be obtained by calling
the De Pree Art Center at (616) 395-7500.