Arena for Contemporary African, African-American and Caribbean Art

Girma Berta

BertaGirma Berta , Moving Shadows II, II, 2017


Girma Berta

Moving-Shadows II, II-2017




Girma Berta was born in Addis Abeba in 1990. He is a young African photographer considered as an emerging star. His virtuosity in manipulating contrasts and colors is surprising. In the series Moving Shadows, he illustrates lonely characters walking. A way to represent the diversity of his city population.

BertaGirma Berta , Moving Shadows II, X , 2017

Moving Shadows II, X, 2017.

“I look for people with a great story that I feel like needs to be captured. I also look for their lively interaction with each other and their environment,” says the 26-year-old photographer and a recipient of this year’s Getty Images Instagram Grant. “I am trying to address the immortalizing of my city’s current state, and so much that has been lost in the past without being properly documented.”

BertaGirma Berta , Moving Shadows II, XII, 2017

Moving Shadows II, XII, 2017
Girma Berta is a self-taught photographer who uses the unique method of combining painting and photography to capture the life of Africa. Based in Ethiopia, Berta isolates a single figure from his photographs which he then puts against a bright background. In this photo, a young boy is shown, his face cast downward, holding a basket under his arm. Caught mid-stride, the boy appears troubled. His facial expression gives a hint of the hardship he may be enduring. And yet, Berta has not crafted a piece of art that gives reason to the boy’s troubled expression. Berta has chosen instead to isolate a single moment of the boy’s hardship and frame it against a vibrant blue-green background that seems to contrast with the downcast expression of the boy. What is the effect of mixing a fragment of reality, given by the photograph of the boy, with fine art crafted by Berta himself?
In this piece, Berta has chosen to focus on an individual rather than on an entire scene. Individuality is easily lost in a crowd, or in the context of a country’s troubles. Rather than have this young boy be lost in the background of Ethiopia, Berta makes him the subject of the piece. However, while the boy is alone, the vibrant background suggests that he is still surrounded by life. The bright background is telling of the crowd that may have surrounded the boy prior to Berta’s edits. The boy’s downcast expression would threaten to overwhelm the emotion of the piece on its own. Yet, coupled with the background, the piece holds some hint of life’s beauty and the boy’s isolation is lessened.
It is easy to become overwhelmed by your surroundings and to feel small given the larger context. Berta chooses to focus on individuality. The artist takes small parts of a larger picture in order to emphasize that the parts are just as great as the whole to demonstrate that the power of the individual supersedes the circumstances around him or her.(quote from Pixelle & co, Girma Berta’s Individuality, By Abigail LeGates