5 Things with Kirubel Melke

I stumbled upon kirubel ’s work on Facebook and was immediately drawn to his thought provoking stories and use of materials. His ability to tell a story so effortlessly captivated me. Suffice to say I immediately set up a meeting with him and begun by asking….

All photos by    Willber Willberforce

All photos by Willber Willberforce


As a child, I saw many colours. My mother worked in a garment factory. She would always bring home different textiles shapes, sizes, colours and textures. She would use them to make covers and repairs. I was always impressed by the colours of the textiles. Before this, however, there was a friend of my fathers who draw a portrait of him. The picture hung on my wall and I would always study it. At a young age, I tried to copy the portrait over and over again.

I began to get obsessed with art at a very young age looking for galleries watching TV. Soon I heard about the artist group and wanted to join.

I think I became an artist after trying to copy that portrait again and again and before not too long I joined art school.

Most of our society is not yet educated about art so families don’t think about this as a career. However, my parents supported me. They saw me reading and watching art, and let me grow.

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My mother with her textiles. My neighbours making tradition clothes people around me growing up were my influencers. Whereas the artist inspires me. 

I Shot The Sheriff

I Shot The Sheriff


I graduated in painting at Addis Ababa University school of fine art and design. Right now I use fabrics mainly denim (jeans). I try to portray the current situations throughout Africa. Many of my pictures represent Addis Ababa where I live, but every time I travel my work reflects the new surroundings. There are many questions within my work some look at tradition and I ask what is happening to our traditions to the unique style of our clothes? Why do we change is it the force of globalisation?

Maybe its our political situation who knows, but I try to raise these questions within my work. I’m not just inspired by the past but our current situation too. I could simply be crossing the road and something will inspire me. Maybe the aesthetics or I’ll critique.

Most of my work has come within from a spark. I get a spark and I create. As an artist, we want to reach out to the world, but sometimes my creativity can be tested for example if I am commissioned. When someone tells/ask you to do this or that it’s a challenge because of conflicting ideas. I faced this challenge on a commission for the Bank of Ethiopia it was a challenge to sync my ideas with their ideas, but a great challenge which I rose to. In the end, both parties were happy.

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As a child I loved art, music and journalism I followed the news more than my brothers. So I always wanted to be an artist, but it was difficult to join the art school. There were 500 hundred students and you had to take an entrance test which I failed twice.

Whilst I was trying to get into art school I studied marketing and began working as a sales marketer.  So maybe if I was not an artist I’d be working in marketing.



I love to travel often on foot just walking. We also have artist groups where we come together to travel and experience new things. Be it Gonder or Lalibela or just a few streets away inspiration is just around the corner.

My experiences and inspirations are often just stored in my mind or sometimes I’ll make a sketch in my sketchbook. Of course with today's technology its also easy to just reach for my mobile phone and take a picture as a reference. Internalization is my first choice like many artists.

Thanks to Kirubel for talking to us and sharing his work. If you hurry you can see some of his work on exhibition at Laphto Art Gallery ላፍቶ አርት ጋለሪ until Feb 17th. Or contact him for a private visit to his studio.

by Willber Willberforce

Kirubel FaceBook

+251 913 436 469