Lemma Guya is among Ethiopia's most highly respected, comtemporary artists. Currently he lives in Debre Zeit Ethiopia where he was born. His love for art which grew in him while he was a farmer in his boyhood didn't abandon him even when he was a member of the Ethiopian Royal Air Force. Captain Lemma taught himself to paint in his leasure time and emerged as one of Ethiopia's important painters with his own unique style. He is an expert in painting portraits on goat skin.His paintings have been exhibited and sold successfully in various countries such as Ameerica, Sweden, United Kingdom, Nigeria, Kenya and Senegal- winning him numerous prizes and awards. He is also the autor of a book entitled,"Teaching yourself Art". He has also taught his 5 children to follow in his footsteps. All 5 are good painters like their father.

His drawing techniques were all learned from childhood and some technichal aids of the Italian teachers(artists) at Asmara when he stayed there. His style is generally realistic where he draws pictures of different geographical landscapes and humans in an easy and comprehendible manner. Most of his works are paintings on hides, parchments fur and boards that are related to his own life.


Lemma was born in 1929 in a village in Ada’a Liben Woreda in East Shoa region. He was born of a peasant family; father a farmer and mother a wouswife. Lemma was a second child of 5. He spent his time as a shepherd but he developed his Art skills and he grew up under his dad how was very well known in the area. His father was noted for his active participation in the social and political activities of the times he lived in. He arbritrated people in traditional Oromo style and he also played a very active part in expanding Ethiopan Orthodox faith in his native area. So Lemma Guya grew up in this environment and in his spare time he drew pictures on the walls of his families house and made sculptures(statues) of the animals he saw around him. All this was developed without proper schooling but with using fluids he himself mixed with lime, red soil and ashes. Lemma developed his skills in this traditional way.

According to Lemma it was due to the pressure imposed on his father by relatives who cam from the near by towns that he joined school. Had it not been for that he would have stayed a peasant like his friends in his village. A friend of his father took him to the near by town of Debre Zeit where he went to school continuing up to Teachers Training College. But because of his interest in the army he later joined Ethiopian Air force and he was trained as a soldier. During all this time he continued developing his Art skills and continued drawing. He was employed as a general Mechanic after he admirably completed his training among other college educated students with prize from the emperor and he was sent to Eritrea where all the necessary materials for painting and drawing were available. Lemma began to share his skill of art to other students without receiving any payment. With this and with the progress of his works, he began to get popular admiration. Then in 1958 he prepared his first art exhibition which was inaugurated by the vice cabinet minister of Eritrea. So from humble beginnings one of Ethiopia’s most famous artist emerged into the world scene. Now he has built a museum called African Arts and Training Museum in his hometown of Debre Zeit. This is where Lemma trains potential African artists(practically and theoretically in African arts and handicrafts) and is a gallery for African arts works.

Lemma Still continues to exhibit his work at a number of subsequent exhibitions which increased his fame and introduced his work to numerous foreigners.

Copyright © 2005 Lemma Guya
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