Robel Temesgen Bizuayehu

‘Practising Water; of Rituals and engagements’

Oslo National Academy of the Arts

Practising water; of rituals and engagements’ is an artistic research project focusing on the spiritual linkage between water and the humans around it. It investigates spirit-driven relatedness as a way of life, knowledge, and language of relations, with an ultimate objective of cumulative imagery toward what is spiritually experienced beyond what is physically witnessed. 

This project is situated between elements of water, spirit, and human, as a singular and plural entity, engaged through the research questions below. 

When looking at various cultures and their relationship to bodies of water, what is a relevant vocabulary that emerges? What are the shapes of these vocabularies, and what form do they take? And what does this vocabulary say about the cultures I observe, the status of the body of water in question, and my position as observer/researcher/artist? 

The project, 'Practising water; of rituals and engagements,’ is an advancement to a praxis of humbling, listening, and service of availability. 

Robel Temesgen is a PhD fellow in Artistic Practice at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts. He received an MFA from Tromsø Academy of Contemporary Art, University of Tromsø, Norway in 2015 and a BFA in Fine Art (Painting) from Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa University in 2010.

His work focuses on symbiotic relations and the languages around places, people, and spirits through painting, publication, and installation.

Robel Temesgen's work has been widely exhibited in solo and group shows on international platforms. He received several awards and fellowships, Lingen Art Prize (2022), Junge Akademie, Akademie der Künste, Berlin (2018), and IASPIS, Stockholm (2017). He is a Lecturer at Alle School of Fine Arts and Design, Addis Ababa University.



Artistic Research Spring Forum 2024

2nd presentation

Amidst an ongoing civil war in the Amhara region of Ethiopia, I made a phone call to Maebel Fetene, an acclaimed scholar from the Orthodox church. The purpose was to spend a week with him as part of the individual professional training component within the PhD program. Three days later, I found myself on a three-hour boat ride with him to a 12th-century monastery on an Island in Bahirdar, Gojam. Coincidently, this island is one of the three islands in the area that are believed to be where the three Geez copies of ‘Book of Enoch’ were taken in the 18th C by James Bruce. The Scottish Traveler, James, started his journey searching for the ‘true’ source of the Blue Nile. After celebrating his ‘finding,’ he did not return home empty-handed. Instead, he returned with several items, including the three copies of the Book of Enoch, the only copies to be known existing, making him a lifelong courier out of all this.

In my presentation for the Artistic Research Spring Forum, I will focus on the developments of the ‘Practising Water; of rituals and engagements’ project illustrated through my research trips, findings, and progressions of questions. I will be looking into the curvatures of the project, from water being an entity of interest by itself, to water as an element that contains and carries (as a vessel), all the way to water as a host for knowledge to be kept, taken away, and repatriated (?).