Introducing New Skills to an Ancient Art

Sculpture made by Haile mariam, one of participants who received training from the Harnessing Diversity for Development project

Religious and traditional paintings as well as sculptures have been a central part of the lives of Ethiopians for centuries. Following the traditional line of knowledge and skill transfer across the ages, hundreds of youth are engaged in producing religious and traditional paintings and icons, with very little change in the way that the new artists produce their artworks. Neither has the way the artists sell their products changed. Moreover this line of work has continued to be a source of vulnerable livelihood for those committed to this age old art.

Twenty five youth, living on the Zegie Island in Lake Tana, have started their march to change this history. Through the Harnessing Diversity for Development MDG project the new generation of traditional artwork producers have been provided with basic painting and sculpture lessons, use of new hand tools to improve efficiency, as well as training sales skills. 


  • The Harnessing Diversity for Development project is supported by UNDP, UNESCO and the MDG Achievement Fund.
  • The project is implemented in four regions & two city administrations of Ethiopia with a budget of 5 million

Haile Mariam, one of the participants has found a change in the way he does his artwork, explaining; “I am very lucky to get such very practical training. Before the training I didn’t know how to select the theme and sculpturing any particular draft. I was just doing it blindly. I am also becoming conscious of the design and striving to increase the value of the sculptors I produce.  In future, I will do the job using modern equipments and machineries. In doing so, I believe, my works will go beyond Bahr Dar and compete in Addis Ababa and other places.”

Before the training, Hailemariam was seriously considering joining the thousands of youth making the yearly migration to the cities. But now, he plans to stay and perfect his art and hone his skills, “All of us here now see hope and a very bright future. I would like to march into the bright future which I can now finally envision.”

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