Painting, Puppetry & Animation by Gabrielle Tesfaye

August 4, 2020 | By African Digital Art

Gabrielle Tesfaye is an interdisciplinary artist versed in painting, animation, film, puppetry and interactive installation. Tesfaye is raised in the USA as a first-generation, to an Ethiopian father and mixed-heritage Jamaican mother. Her extensive international travel and exposure to multiculturalism in her life, echoes itself in her mixed media approach to art making and cross-cultural content.

Her research is rooted in African diaspora, Afro-futurism, ancient puppetry practices and cultural storytelling. Tesfaye uses the body as a vessel to personify ancestral culture, transforming ancient symbolism into contemporary languages. Tesfaye puts herself into her work, often creating self portraits which navigate her own identity and place within the diaspora. Outside of exhibiting 2d works, she uses these puppets in the animation studio, creating personal and cultural narrative films.

“I am intrigued by folk media arts of different cultures, specifically the traditional puppetry arts of Southeast Asia. Puppetry exists throughout Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and India, each different yet with cross-cultural exchanges. I am inspired by wooden, string and shadow puppetry arts, its place in being a bridge between arts, spirituality and culture.“

My research is rooted in folk media, ancient puppetry practices and cultural storytelling through diasporas. I use the body in the form of larger than life scale puppets, as a vessel to personify ancestral and celestial ideas, transforming ancient symbolism into a contemporary languages. I work primarily 2d based, working with paper, watercolours, and inks. I give interactive aspects to my installations, turning traditional art gallery space into otherworldly experience for viewers to experience art beyond the physical. In addition to installation work in exhibition spaces, I use these puppets in the animation studio, creating personal narratives and cultural mythologies through stop motion cut out animation.


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