Theo Eshetu

Theo Eshetu (b. 1958, London) currently lives and works in Rome and Berlin. He spent part of his childhood in Ethiopia and studied in London before moving to Rome. Eshetu has worked in media art since 1982, exploring the themes of public and personal realities, with a specific engagement in the relationship between African and European cultures and how electronic media forms identities and perceptions. He has received awards at the Berlin Video Festival; the International African Film Festival, Milan, and the Video Art Festival, Locarno. Group exhibitions include: GEO-Graphics at the Bozar Centre for Fine Arts, Brussels (2010); The Tropics at Martin Gropius-Bau, Berlin and the National Gallery of Cape Town (2009); and Snap Judgments at ICP, New York, the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and the National Gallery of Canada (2007). He has participated in the Sharjah, Venice, and Kochi-Muziris biennials, and was a 2012 DAAD artists-in-resident.

The Mystery of History and His Story in My Story, 2015
Installation, variable dimensions
Courtesy of the artist; Tiwani Contemporary, London; and the Museum of Yugoslav History, Belgrade.

Theo Eshetu’s The Mystery of History and His Story in My Story is a picture essay based on material found at the Museum of Yugoslav History. Between 1966 and 1970 the artist’s grandfather, a celebrated historian, was Ethiopia’s Ambassador in Belgrade. As a child Eshetu lived there with him for a year and first learned about art, photography, television, and race. At the time Ethiopia and Yugoslavia were two countries in the non-aligned movement, involved in discussing their position outside of the Cold War politics of the Soviet Union and the United States. A time when atom bomb testing and threats of global annihilation were a very real concern. The project’s point of departure is the presidential photo archive of former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito in the Museum of Yugoslav History. The artist delved into the extensive photo and film archive in search of oblique traces of biography, tangential associative thoughts, fragments of forgotten memories, and unwritten personal histories.

The Mystery of History and His Story in My Story, 2015, Installation view Hasselblad Center, GIBCA 2015. Photo: Hendrik Zeitler