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Miss Tourism Ethiopia, Lily Hailu: The Model As A Painter

By Gregory Austin Nwakunor
08 November 2022   |   1:41 pm
In a popular hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos. Different sounds and chatterboxes sync in and out of tune. Sounds of hooting horns filter into the tone-deaf room. This is one odd place to have an interview with Miss Tourism Ethiopia, Lily Hailu, but it has to go on. Lily, Ethiopia's representative at the last Miss…

In a popular hotel in Victoria Island, Lagos. Different sounds and chatterboxes sync in and out of tune. Sounds of hooting horns filter into the tone-deaf room. This is one odd place to have an interview with Miss Tourism Ethiopia, Lily Hailu, but it has to go on.

Lily, Ethiopia’s representative at the last Miss Tourism Africa, is excited about the opportunity provided by the competition.
Domiciled in Lagos, Miss Tourism Africa is a global search for special young women in today’s Afro-communities around the world who have the beauty, grace, dynamic personalities, and intelligence that set them apart from the rest.

This year’s event, tagged: “See Africa First,” held from September 23 and ended October 2, 2022, in Lagos, Nigeria, allowing the world to experience the beauty of the continent and the incredible women who inhabit it.
She says Miss Tourism Africa is a platform open to all black young women from African communities all over the world, including France, Spain, Japan, China, Germany, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the US.

“It brings Africans from all over the world together to celebrate the wonders of the beautiful continent,” she says, softly.
Anchored on the need to project the African cultural heritage, its beauty and the overall well-being of the continent, Lily says the participation of girls of all nationalities in the competition erases national borders and eliminates racism and other prejudices against specific social, religious, or political principles. It also encourages women to think bigger and achieve more.

“I believe that tourism could also help in the exposure of cultures, people-to-people understanding, interactions, and relaxation,” she says.
Now, her dream is to use the opportunity provided by the competition to connect Africa and Africans. She is happy with the wonderful work Chief Monica Oyenike Okundaye is doing.

Though she had always known ‘Mama Nike’ as one of the greatest artists around, the warm welcome she received from the woman stimulated her dream to promote tourism on the continent.

“I want to promote my country and my continent in the tourism sector because tourism can bring trading to a whole new level, to make an inter-Africa tour and trading sector by Africans for Africans and connect Africa through tourism,” Lily explains.

Beyond tourism, art is Lily’s greatest passion. “My passion for art aims to lift the viewer, to seduce the soul, excite, energise and inspire the spirit. I want to electrify our senses and awake what is all too often asleep inside,” she says.

Lily actually read commerce at the university and never had training in visual arts. “I never went to any art school. I’m a self-taught artist. But sometimes, I do training with some artists, who come to my house, I work together with them and share ideas… Sharing techniques to have knowledge,” she reveals.
She says her foray into painting was by chance.

For how long has she been doing art?
“Since I was a kid,” she gushes. “I used to do drawings at home. But I started painting when COVID-19 came… You know, because of the lockdown. I used to have a tour and travel company, but because of COVID-19, there was no demand that much. So, I closed it and I started painting in my house to buy time. I started to buy canvases and paint. Later, I started exhibiting my art.”

Between 2020 and now, she has done so much and participated in remarkable shows.
“I’ve done more than a hundred paintings, 70 per cent of them are sold and I’ve shown it in Big Art Sale in Ethiopia. Yes, it’s like a fair.
So many artists participated in the event. There were about 365 artists who participated. I also exhibited on March 8, International Women’s Day.”

Her challenges as an artist in Ethiopia?
“We don’t have that much market in our country, so, that is one of my challenges. And the other one is, since I don’t have that much knowledge, I have to learn, read see reviews and experiences of people and from YouTube to learn.”
She says: “My work aims to lift the viewer, to seduce the soul and excite, energise and inspire the spirit. I want to electrify our senses and awake what is all too often asleep inside.”

Her inspiration comes from nature, beauty, history and culture. “I want to proceed with the modern art for the future. For me, my art is getting better and better. People now love it the more. They are appreciating and buying it. For the future, I want to do a lot of projects with the arts to connect Africa to art, to promote my country and my continent to the world through art.”

For Lily, cultural and natural heritage are invaluable resources that contribute to each country’s unique tourist attraction. She believes in empowering women to achieve great things and hopes to encourage more female entrepreneurs in tourism and other industries.
Recognising the difficulties of navigating a multi-sectoral industry as a woman, Lily wishes to contribute to raising awareness and opportunities for other women.

“I believe we need to encourage female entrepreneurs, whether through art or tourism,” Lily says.
She says women have had to carve a path for themselves in most modern-day professions and art and entertainment are no exception. Originally dominated by male counterparts, women today have better access to opportunities than ever before, even if there is still a long way to go.

The challenge of women artist in Ethiopia, especially in Africa, is much. “The challenge is, you know, for women in general, in Ethiopia, it’s very difficult to be an artist, you know, because of so many situations. One is like; you don’t have enough of time to do your paintings. I’m a lucky person to have a very good fiancé, who is always supporting my work,” she says.

But the others, “they don’t have opportunity to go to school and time to practice, because they are in the kitchen, always cooking. They are protecting their families. They don’t go to school, they don’t go to see exhibitions or have ideas of what’s going on in the art sector. So as a woman, it’s so difficult to be an artist in Ethiopia.”
More women in leadership positions could help lift the country’s underutilised industries, according to her.

What was the challenge that she had keeping her strokes? Making her line straight and getting herself strong enough with the brush?
“The thing is, you know, there is need to always practice if you are an artist. You have to give time to do more practice. So, in my country, we don’t have that much of paints and brushes. We have the problem of buying even the paints and brushes. So, to practice means you have to beg people to bring you paint and brush.”

So how much of government funding do you have for the arts in Ethiopia?
“To be honest, I don’t have any idea about that, but the government is still supporting the artists and the arts school, but how much, I don’t know.”
She continues, but government still don’t have clue as to how use art as a way “to promote our country. If they have enough of knowledge, I’m sure they’ll support more.”