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Erin Currier

Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou

Acrylic and mixed media on panel, 36"h x 24"w, Item No. 19963,

Erin Currier: "Emahoy Tsegué-Maryam Guèbrou (December 12, 1923- March 26, 2023) is an Ethiopian nun known for her hauntingly poignant piano playing and compositions. She was born in Addis Ababa, on December 12, 1923. At the age of six she was sent to a boarding school in Switzerland, where she studied violin. In 1933 she returned to Ethiopia, where she was a civil servant and singer to Haile Selassie. During the Second Italo-Ethiopian War she and her family were prisoners of war and were sent by the Italians to the prison camp near Naples. After the war Guèbrou studied under the Polish violinist Alexander Kontorowicz in Cairo. Kontorowicz and Guèbrou returned to Ethiopia where Kontorowicz was appointed as musical director of the band of the Imperial Body Guard. Guèbrou was employed as an administrative assistant. Her first record was released in 1967.

The Emahoy Tsegué Maryam Music Foundation has been set up to help children in need both in Africa and in the Washington, D.C. metro area to study music. Guèbrou was the subject of a BBC Radio 4 documentary entitled The Honky Tonk Nun. A compilation of Guèbrou's work was issued on the Éthiopiques record label. She also appeared on The Rough Guide to the Music of Ethiopia, and The Rough Guide to African Lullabies. Her music has been described as melodic blues piano with rhythmically complex phrasing. For three decades she lived a reclusive life with only rare international performances. 

Like all my works, the piece is comprised of post-consumer ephemera, along with acrylic paint, on panel.  In it, I layered fashion posters from Nigeria, flyers from a women’s rights protest in Buenos Aires, an incense box from Cairo, an empty World Cup Coffee bag from Taos, packaging that illuminated the Golden Buddha in a procession in Luang Prabang.”