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ELIAS SIME (sculptor) was born and raised in Cherqos, Addis Abeba, Ethiopia. As a child, he made toys with found objects for himself and his friends in his neighborhood. When he was a teenager, he started repairing or reconstructing the furniture in his family house and carved out designs on the wooden front door of the living room. Recognizing his talent, his father encouraged him to study art. In 1990 he graduated from the Addis Ababa University School of Fine Art and Design in graphics art. Soon after he graduated, he completely abandoned graphics art and began making collages.
One of Sime’s favorite things to do is collecting anything he finds interesting to apply in his art. Most of his works are made from collections of old items gathered from around the city, particularly in Chid Tera or Menyalesh Tera in Merkato. Merkato is the largest open market in Africa. In Chid Tera, everything that one can imagine and beyond is available. Nothing is trash. His collection includes rusted metal, buttons, keys, yarns, dolls, bottle caps, horns, scraps of clothes, and anything that he can incorporate in his art. For Sime, the material he chooses and his composition go hand in hand.
One of Sime’s unique characteristics is his relationship with his neighbors, particularly with the children and the elders. Currently, he is in the midst of finishing a house that he designed and constructed with his hands. The house is made from mud, straw, stones, wood, and mosaic. Since 2001, he has been traveling with Meskerem Assegued, an anthropologist and curator, through many rural villages of Ethiopia to research ancient rituals that are still in practice. Since then, most of his art has been influenced as a result of these findings, including the thrones he constructs. His work has been shown in several galleries in Addis Abeba, particularly in Zoma Contemporary Art Center, and internationally in the 2004 Dak’Art Biennale in Dakar Senegal; Peter Sellars’ New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna, Austria; The Studio Museum of Harlem, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, in New York, and in the Santa Monica Museum of Art in Santa Monica, California.