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Adwa, north-central Ethiopia, was very peaceful in the late 1990s, with mountains soaring through the sky and trees as far as your eyes could see. Zion Yaynu grew up in a mountain house; admiring the view of both the city and the mountains from either side of her home.

“I love the nostalgia feel I get when I’m there. My grandma’s scent, my grandpa’s stories, my aunt's cooking, and dancing with my cousins after dinner while drinking buna (Coffee). There is one tree from our farm that my sister and I used to climb on and wait for our grandpa to come home and whoever spots him first, runs down and kisses his knees first” she tells Andariya. That tree is still standing today.

When she moved to Australia at the age of seven, she was filled with nostalgic images from her childhood days in Adwa. It is then that she recalls her earliest experience with art. She drew the farm animals that she adored: sheep, cows, chickens and more. That is when her mother began to collect her works and organize them in a folder; whenever guests came home she would showcase that folder that included a child’s dearest memory. She had her mother’s support from the jump.

Zion Yaynu. Photo credit- Kalkidan Zèlalèm

Unfortunately, her move to Australia strained her artistic expression. She stopped making art and the only time she did was during art class, in which she amassed awards. Little did she know that that was her calling.

As someone who gets easily bored she is constantly exploring and looking for new things to do, she was searching for the fuel to her fire. That is when she landed on her childhood hobby, art.

She began making art and after she finished university she started to fully immerse herself in art. She came to Ethiopia on December 25, 2019, planning to travel, visit places, families and then return to Australia. However, the pandemic struck and she decided to stay in Ethiopia. “I really liked it here. It feels different, you feel a bit more like you belong because it’s your people, your language, culture etc. so I decided to stay” she recalled.

Zion’s Art Studio. Photo credit- Kalkidan Zèlalèm

It was a freezing cold morning with heavily trafficked highways and roads with people rushing across them. My exposed arms were covered with goosebumps. The white scarves flooding out of church and regular pedestrians like myself congested the side road. As I entered Zion’s art studio, the chaos outside became a distant memory. Her place had an aura of serenity, the light blue color on the walls and the beautiful view is a tranquil scene. Not to mention her wall was adorned with vibrantly painted canvases ranging from small to large.

The majority of her artworks are different from the typical Ethiopian painting aesthetics. An influence of Australia is also evident in some of her works incorporating the Australian Aborigines Dot art in a few pieces. 

Source: Zion Yaynu

Zion had always been influenced by Jackson Pollock, and after moving to Ethiopia Addis Gèzahègn and Tadèssè Mèsfin caught her eye. Both of whom are peculiar painters. Zion, being at her exploratory stage goes with the flow, she follows her style of art that is much textured and layering paint over paint with her painting knife. She wants her audience to have a full experience with her works, giving spectators the freedom to express their perspective on what they observed. She later on explains what her intentions were when she painted it. One thing I enjoyed was touching the art and experiencing the tactile quality of her artworks.

After recently opening her studio to the public, Zion is working on a variety of projects, including providing opportunities for other artists, particularly female creatives, to exhibit their work. Organizing several events for creatives, as well as classes for beginners in pottery, sculpture, photography, and painting, among other things. “Put yourself out there, don’t hold back. Do more and make it impossible for them to ignore you” she noted.

“A self-taught artist aiming to create from inner stillness” reads her Instagram bio inspired by Echart Tolle’s saying. This is only the beginning for Zion, exploring endlessly to uncover her signature and mark on the art world here, all while doing her best to give back to the community. Be on the lookout as there is a lot more to come from her painting knives. 

For any inquiries, to purchase an art work and to request your own commissioned art, you can use the contact details below:-

Instagram: @zionyaynuart



Kalkidan Zelalem

Kalkidan Zelalem  is studying biotechnology, but her passion lies in writing, photography, telling people’s stories, art and empowering people. She enjoys documentaries, whether they’re crime, investigative, or biopics. Kalkidan feels like an old soul and indulges herself in collecting vintage materials- books in particular- which she wholeheartedly owes to her late grandfather. Her ultimate goal is to shed light on Ethiopia’s richness and to inspire young women to stand up for themselves and never give up.