Journeys: the Art of Emebet Belete

This article about artist Emebet Belete was first published in the “Intelligencer,” Belleville Ontario’s daily newspaper (2018-10-17).

By Kathryn MacDonald

“Creating art is constant reflection: I love finding the perfect colour to express a mood, or to balance a painting so that I can look at it again and again and lose myself in the scene.”

Emebet Belete in studio (1 of 1)
Emebet Belete in her studio.

Emebet Belete is a world traveller, a woman who was born in Ethiopia where her career as an artist began and who moved from East Africa through South Africa and Zimbabwe, Eretria and Egypt, Europe and finally to Canada in 1997 where she earned Fine Art and Education degrees from Queen’s University. In 2008, she taught art in Tianjin, China, returning to Canada to settle in Belleville in 2013.

“In school I learned about Ethiopian art. I was fortunate to have a good art teacher. My parents were very supportive and I had a studio in our family’s yard.” Unfortunately, that studio burned down, but it was replaced, and Emebet continued to create art out of the materials she could gather together. These early roots have since branched into collages in which she explores her Canadian context.

Birch 2
Birch (collage)

Emebet Belete’s philosophy lives in her art. Her intention to seek something mysterious and lasting through colour, mood, and balance draws viewers deep within the work. In “Birch,” our eyes are pulled from the foreground birch, past the evergreen, deep into the depths of the Canadian landscape. This is also true of “By the Door,” a painting in which she captures a doorway into Debre Berhan Selassie, one of Ethiopia’s most beautiful churches.

Emebet Belete By the Door (1 of 1)
By the Door (acrylic)

As with the Canadian scene, we find a story unfolding. Here we see the hot colours of Africa and our eyes are drawn to the partially open doorway to wonder what lies beyond. The white-robed figure looks forward, while we see only his back. We enter with him. We can read the painting in different ways. Perhaps we see the fading frescoes or the ceiling of winged cherubs within the mid-15th century church. Or perhaps, instead of a sanctuary to contemplate, our mind focuses on the dark beyond the open door, on the unknown future. Art expresses a vision of the artist, but it also welcomes viewers with ambiguity, sparking curiosity and enlarging knowing.

DSC_0033
In Ethiopia’s Colours

“Art is a journey for me. I can see paintings…watercolours I’ve done. They relate to my life, my experience, my background. I like to put things together, to go deeper, to learn who I am.”

I glanced at the table between us. It is covered with work-in-progress and bits of birch bark and paper. “So your life is a collage, like your art?”

“Yes, it is.”

 

Emebet Belete is preparing for a show at the Modern Fuel Gallery, Kingston, Ontario, Canada, January 2019. It will explore “white space and mood. I’ll use traditional fabric from Ethiopia” combined with music—Seongah and Jimmy by Neil Diamond—“that I listened to again and again and again.”

For more about Emebet’s art, please see her website: Emebet Belete.

Intelligencer - Emebet Belete

Memories from Fort St. John, B.C.

Travel memories: Winter in Canada has kept me reading and sketching, hence the book reviews and now this ink and watercolour sketch.

Drawings 011

Without travels, I’ve been kept inside reading-like-a-writer (my creative writing muse seems to be on vacation) and sketching. These moccasins, purchased from the Beaver People in northern British Columbia Canada, now have holes in the soles. I still treasure them and the memories of that visit in the 1990s. Here they’re rendered in ink and watercolour.

Up…up…and away (a weekend for the birds)

Water fowl – Canada Geese, Great Blue Heron, an immature Little Blue Heron, and Mute Swans – all put on spectacular shows for me over a couple of afternoons and two misty mornings last weekend.

We left the marina aboard Magic Badger (a 38-foot sailing sloop) on Friday morning and took our time (about five lazy hours) to travel across the Bay of Quinte down through Long Reach and across the northern end of Adolphus Reach to Picton Harbour where we arranged a mooring near the harbour’s entrance. It was a weekend of reading and photography – two of my passions – and the water fowl put on quite a show.

 

Cormorants-swans detail BoQ LR
Cormorants rest near the shore as Magic Badger takes the bend into Long Reach. (Notice the three Mute Swans looking on.)

Cormorants are my least favourite water fowl. They tend to flock to a single area and their guano kills the trees in which they perch. Seldom do you see one or two; they are very social. They’re easily recognized flying low over the water across distances with black, rough feathers and yellow-orange bill; quite big with up to a 33-inch wing span. Swimming they lift their beak in the air looking very snobbish. They rest atop rocks, holding their wings out to dry like Anhinga. This photo was taken near a tree the cormorants are defoliating. The reeds in the background provide protection from predators for the swans, and I managed to capture three of them along with the cormorants.

 

Cormorants-swans BoQ LR-1
View of Prince Edward County over starboard across from the village of Deseronto.

Saturday morning I woke early and crawled out of my sleeping bag and the forward cabin. Quickly I put espresso on to brew and climbed above into a spectacular morning. On Sunday I set the alarm and rose at 6:30, climbed above to enter what felt like a cloud. I could barely see anything. With coffee brewing I took a seat at Magic Badger’s stern, camera in hand. (She’s a 38-foot, 2-cabin and 2-head Beneteau sailing sloop with a fully-equipped galley and large salon; her cockpit is canvas enclosed and I think she’s beautiful. The camera is a Nikon Coolpix P610 that works very well when the situation doesn’t lend itself to a tripod and various lenses).

 

Geese chorus line in mist PEHarbour LR
Like a discombobulated chorus line, Canada Geese lift from Picton Harbour.

 

Watching the Canada Geese in early mornings made me laugh aloud. They swam across the channel from a place hidden behind a point of land over to a weedy shore across the way. I had a good view from Magic Badger’s stern. They honk and honk and honk, calling to each other until finally the last one must say okay in honk language because they all begin flapping and lifting up from the water like a chorus line that can’t get it together.

 

Geese misty morning rising PEHarbour LR
Canada geese lift off the harbour on a misty morning that held dawn’s rosy glow.

Once in the air, Canada geese are graceful as they push the air with their huge 45-inch wing span. I snapped photo after photo as they emerged from early-morning mist.

Geese take-off in mist PEHarbour-detail LR
As the mist dissipated I was able to capture a clearer image of a goose lifting off the water.

 

On Saturday afternoon I dawdled away the hours keeping my eye on a small white heron (the guide says 27 inches) but I was some distance away stranded on the sailboat. It was feeding along the grassy shore and frequently hidden by a row of posts driven into the waters’ edge. Then one of the posts seemed to move ever so slightly; not a post at all but a Great Blue Heron (50 inches) in dark morph. It resumed a hunch stance with its head almost hidden. So it isn’t a great photo of the two, but the best I could do with the limitations of the camera I had aboard.

 

Heron - great blue and little blue PEHarbour

 

Later, at dusk, I managed to catch the Great Blue Heron flying low across to the east side of channel.

 

Great Blue Heron detail-LR

 

Heron - great blue -- in flight misty morning PEHarbour LR
In this shot, we can see the cliffs surrounding the harbour, which makes it safe in a storm.

 

But the crème de la crème is the Mute Swan…and I saw a few, more than ever before as Magic Badger has journeyed back and forth through the passages leading out to Lake Ontario. They surpass the Canada Geese by 10 inches and are far more graceful with their S-curved necks. The adults carry themselves with extreme dignity, hovering and turning quietly toward their young, constantly checking like protective parents.

As we made our way up Long Reach toward Deseronto and our home port at Crate Marine, Belleville, I looked up to see three swans flying. Fortunately I had the camera slung around my neck.

 

Swans over Long Reach YY1 LR-1
With a rush of wings, three swans fly over Long Reach.

 

In a short while – where Long Reach flows out of the bay – a large family swam across in front of us. They were moving toward to place where the first photo (with the cormorants) was taken.

 

Swans in a row BoQ LR

 

Two swans-BoQ

 

Days and nights off the dock and away from the marina are always treats, but this September weekend has outdone them all. It looks as if it will be the last time out this season before the boat goes up on the hard for the winter (like Scrooge, I echo “bah humbug”). But what memories captured in early morning mist and in the dusk of ever-earlier evenings.

 

Reference: Stokes Field Guide to Birds: Eastern Region