It is in the region of Occitania this time that we went to meet the Ethiopian painter, Saba Mekdess Coquillard. Zoom on this woman artist, a symbol of strength and courage!
Who is Saba Mekdess Coquillard?
Hello my name is Mekdess Coquillard, Saba Coquillard is my artist name. I am a Franco-Ethiopian painter, married and mother of two wonderful children, then co-manager of the gallery Melem Africa. I grew up in a very religious family as my father is an orthodox priest and I arrived in France at the age of ten, thanks to my two adoptive parents. My adoptive father was a scientist, researcher, and lecturer, and my adoptive mother was a teacher. Both are of French origin and retired today. I have a special story because I was taken away from my biological parents to go for adoption when I was a child, but my rebellious nature led me to continue to search for my roots with all my strength, and today, I can say that I am very happy to have found my biological parents who are currently living in Adis Abeba. They raised me in Lalibela in the Amhara region, the small mountainous and tourist town full of monasteries in the north of Ethiopia, where my mother is from and which is also my hometown.
What do you love most in life?
I love hope, it is in my genes, because my father, an orthodox priest, passed it on to me since childhood, I was his first daughter and he gave me all his love. He used to tell me stories at night so that I would not be afraid anymore and that's how I managed to overcome my fears, to overcome my struggles in life, thanks to my father's values, to this hope, and this strong love that he transmitted to me. This is what helps me to create happiness and strong bonds with the people I meet on a daily basis.
What do you hate most in life?
I hate hypocrisy, injustice, and materialism. Although I grew up in an affluent environment, I am a pretty simple person!
Why did you choose painting as your means of expression?
Well, I would say that it is a painting that has chosen me since my childhood in Addis Ababa (laughs)! A childhood friend wrote to me one day to tell me that "it is my life that has made me an artist". And I believe very clearly that yes, my struggles, my fights made me the artist that I am today. I can also say that it is because I grew up in a world filled with spirituality. My father, an Orthodox priest, having lost his sight, I was very close to him, I spent my life in the rock churches of Lalibela, very colorful, filled with religious icons, and this allowed me to build a very strong bond with my father, whom I often accompanied to church. His love, his peace..., all that I wanted to transcribe through my art.
Saba, you are a French artist of Ethiopian origin, what are the particularities of Ethiopian and even African painting according to you?
Ethiopian painting is strewn with spiritual codes that only the initiated can decode. It tells a rich story because of its culture, there are about 70 people in Ethiopia, so there are different forms of Ethiopian art, including talisman art which is an art that cures a lot of ills just by visualizing it for example!
The warm, sparkling, and shimmering colors, as well as the nuances that mark and develop the imagination, are all assets of a cultural diversity that makes the beauty and the particularity of African painting.
What should we remember about the artist Saba Mekdess Coquillard?
Art is an art of living, creativity is an important thing in life, because it gives us hope, art allows us to live, to stay alive, to assert ourselves, to stand out from others, to remain ourselves. Art is what allows us to fight in life, it is what carries us upwards, and the most important thing is to remember that life must be created by oneself. The artist Saba cannot live without art because art is what has helped me a lot in my daily struggles.
In your opinion, what impact have the measures related to Covid-19 had on the work of women artists?
It's complicated for all artists because we can't exhibit physically already! And it's even more complicated for women's art, which is less visible because until now no gallery has exhibited exclusively women's art, so that it is even more visible and accessible. The Melem gallery exclusively exhibits the works of women artists online, moreover, it is a pioneer in this field, and that's why I immediately accepted not only to exhibit my art but also to work alongside the founder of this gallery who does a remarkable job for us women artists!