- Simon Njami
(b Dire Dawa, Feb 15, 1951).
Ethiopian sculptor active in France. He attended the French-Ethiopian School, Addis Ababa, before moving to France in 1971. He first exhibited his papier mâché figures in France in 1985 and later in Brazil, South Africa and the USA. Although the motifs and themes that inspired him are not immediately recognizable, they have been described as totemic and based on Ethiopian sources, particularly Coptic paintings and the motif of the cross. His works have also been placed in the tradition of Jean Dubuffet and art brut, in part because of their simplified forms and highly expressive quality. His brightly coloured, non-naturalistic figures depict a variety of types – royalty, warriors, animals – and the saturated yellow, blue and fuchsia colours of the pieces seem at least as important as their playful forms. But it would be a mistake to classify Selassie's work as art brut. His intention is highly sophisticated, and the choice, for instance, of his medium, papier mâché is the result of a long quest and a decision to make a political statement about Africa in his use of rough materials that can found anywhere. In his view, European artistic canons, with their rules and habits, challenge Africans to find different ways to communicate their own souls. This view probably derived from his broad range of intellectual and spiritual interests, including chemistry and physics, anthropology, history, Zen and Yoga....