Five Things to Know: Elias Sime

Born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 1968

Photo: Brett Moen


1. Sime primarily makes wall-based, ‘sculptural assemblage’, using recycled objects as a medium. This includes recycled electrical components as seen in the work Tightrope: Noiseless 16 (2019), exhibited in the Recent Acquisitions exhibition, as well as thread, buttons, plastic, animal skins, horn, fabric and bottle tops.


2. In 2019, Sime and his longtime collaborator and anthropologist, Meskerem Assegued, designed and co-founded the Zoma Museum in Addis Ababa. The Zoma Museum is an environmentally-conscious international art centre with exhibition space, a library, a children’s centre and elementary school, an art and vernacular architecture school, an edible garden, an amphitheater, a cafe, and a museum shop.

Zoma Museum in Addis Ababa


3. Many of the objects integrated into Sime’s compositions come from Mercato, an open-air market in Addis Ababa which is the largest in Africa. Sime makes particular use of the market’s Menalesh Tera section, which translates to “what do you have?”. Here, discarded objects are resourcefully repurposed by the community.


4. While this trash offers untold potential, Sime’s use of these materials also speaks to the West’s dumping of toxic, electronic waste in Africa, harming the health of communities.


5. Sime is one of Ethiopia’s most prominent artists, with a career spanning over two decades. His work has been widely exhibited in museums, particularly in the US, including the Metropolitan Museum and the Studio Museum Harlem in New York.