Born in 1932, Afewerk Tekle was one of Ethiopia’s most distinguished and colourful artistic figures. Educated at the Slade School of Art in London, he later toured and studied in continental Europe before returning to work under the patronage of Emperor Haile Selassie. A painter, sculptor and designer, he was also a master fencer, dancer and toastmaster. Proud to have ‘survived three regimes’ (when friends and peers did not), Tekle’s life was hardly without incident. In almost cinematic style, a ‘friendly’ fencing match turned into an attempt on his life, and a tussle over a woman led to his challenging his rival to a duel at dawn. In the royal court of the emperor, he once only just survived an assassination attempt by poisoned cocktail. The artist famously made his own terms and conditions: if he didn’t like the purchaser he wouldn’t sell, and his best known paintings must be returned to Ethiopia within a lifetime. He even turned down over US$12 million for the work considered his masterpiece, The Meskel Flower. Afewerk Tekle died in Addis Ababa at the age of 80 in April 2012.
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