Abiy Demilew Tefera studied journalism in Norway and South Africa and worked for the Ethiopian newspaper Addis Zena. He founded his own production company in 2005. He works in film and the music business.
His business card quotes Haile Selassie: "If we do not unite, history will certainly not forgive us, for it will not give us another chance." To Abiy Demilew Tefera, that message was an important motive behind joining the ARTerial Network. The Ethiopian promoter and producer represents some fifteen artists in world of film and music circles, including Munit Mesfn and Hade Haile. "We have a strong cultural tradition, but there is still much to be improved in terms of marketing. People in the West are familiar with music from Mail, but not so with Ethiopian music. We were never colonised; other countries have the privilege of reaching Western markets through their former colonial rulers."
Establishing contacts and finding out how the African art world works were Abiy's main objectives during the Johannesburg conference. "The ARTerial Network helps us enormously in our efforts to present ourselves. There is also much to learn about how other countries have established their cultural businesses. In South Africa that sector is very strong. Ethiopia's film sector can hardly be called an industry as yet. But people like having their own productions. There are many opportunities: we only need to learn how it works and which channels will help us to display our cultural potential. That is the most important contribution that the ARTerial Network makes: creating openings. If I want to bring an exposition of sculptures to Senegal, I now have the necessary contacts."
Abiy was still working as a journalist in 2005 with the newspaper Addis Zena. "I recognised the enormity of the gap between the media and the art world. Music and cinema were getting most of the attention; other art forms remained visible. I made sure that we wrote about all of the art disciplines, including reviews. Soon the newspaper was highly popular. Artists were calling me; they recognised that I was someone who knew something about art. That boosted my motivation to do more for the arts. For example, we established an organisation that fights to protect copyrights. That is an important issue in Ethiopia. Last year alone seven production companies were bankrupted by piracy. We are lobbying with the government and are being heard to an increasing degree. One of our major successes was getting funds from the Ministry of Culture to travel with thirty artists to the FESMAN (World Festival of Black Arts) in Senegal. That was a dramatic about-turn."