Art Attack December 04, 2021 at 09:00 am

Skunder Boghossian, the Ethiopian Armenian who bridged Africa and the West through art

Julian McBride December 04, 2021 at 09:00 am

December 04, 2021 at 09:00 am | Art Attack

Alexander Skunder Boghossian. Fair use image

Human civilization was born in Africa (out of Africa theory). The first traces of human history came from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. After colonialism across Africa, save for a few nations, including Ethiopia, African culture was opened up to the modern world.

In an age when African culture was relatively new to the West, many people in Europe and North America did not understand the origins, diverse ethnic groups, or history of Africa. There was one man who helped bridge that gap through art, and his name was Skunder Boghossian.

Skunder Boghossian, one of the best-known African artists who influenced the west, was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from an Armenian father named Kosrof Gregorios Boghossian and an Ethiopian mother of Amhara origins named Tsedale Wolde Tekle in 1937. 

Skunder’s father Col. Kosrof Boghossian, an officer of the Imperial Guard, training the Emperor’s horse in the
1950s. P/C Unknown.

His grandfather, Gregorios Boghossian, was an Armenian trader who used to work as a traveling business ambassador in Europe to Emperor Menelik II, and his father Kosrof Boghossian was a Col. in the Ethiopian Imperial Guard under Emperor Haile Selassie I.

Skunder won the 2nd prize during the Jubilee anniversary of Emperor Haile Selassie’s coronation only at the age of 17, and he was granted a scholarship in 1955. He studied and lectured in several European and American Universities throughout his life.

Skunder Boghossian was the first contemporary Ethiopian artist whose work was bought by both the Musee d’Art Moderne in Paris (1963), and the Museum of Modern Art in New York (1965). Various private collectors, museums, and world governments would often invite him to display his work in art galleries across the world, or even procure some.

For example, the National Museum of African Art in Washington owns several of his paintings. On May 18, 2003, Skunder passed away naturally. The world-renowned New York Times reported his death as: “Skunder Boghossian, Artist who bridged Africa & West died on May 4 at Howard University Hospital in Washington DC at the age of 65.”

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