Oromo Artist: Lemma Guya Gemeda

Lammaa Guyyaa_o2Lemma was born from his father Mr. Guya Gemeda and his mother Mare Gobena in 1921 in Ada’a  Liben woreda. Until he was 14, he was engaged in traditional games like shooting the circles by sword, boxes, climbing trees, swimming water and so on. Lemma was unique from his friend in that he always tries to practice painting different pictures and sculptures in his family wall by mixing soil, lime and ashes. He made sculptures on the wall of his family. Because of he was talentful, he was loved and respected among his parents, neighbor and friends.

When Lemma’s age reached for education, he did not go to school, rather his father made him to herd cattle as it was obvious. Due to a pressure from a friend of his father, Lemma started school, at around 14 in Bishooftu. He was admitted to teachers training college of Adama in 1943. But because of his interest in the army he left the college and joined the Ethiopian air force. During all this time, he continued developing his art skills and continued drawings different pictures. In the air force, he was employed as a general mechanics after he admirably completed training.

He taught as airplane technician in the air force. Even though he was working in the air force and gaining good salary, Lemma did not give up to develop his skill. He continued developing his skills of painting from Italians. In 1983 he established an art gallery in Bishoftu, Lemma Guya Art Gallery. The plot was granted to him by the late Emperor, Haile Selassie. The gallery later upgraded to African arts and training museums where potential African artists began to come for study there. Lemma preferred the gallery to be known as Lemma Guya Art gallery. Regular exhibitions displayed and visited by tourists from abroad and local.

Through his works, Lemma tries to teach students about their culture, traditions at their break and spare time and he also invites them to the gallery and helps them visit the gallery by interpreting about the objects in the gallery. Lemma is an impressive person and a hero to those new generation by creating inspiration towards their culture and learn their root where the new generation need to protect, know and feel a sense of belongingness. 

He is undoubtedly Oromia’s most famous painter,whose works have had an impact on the lives of many. Lemma Guya pioneered skin-mounted portraits and those of a host of Heads of State across Africa. CCTV’S Girum Chala visited the gallery of this renowned painter and brings us this report


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