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The new Addis Ababa Culture and Tourism Bureau head, Assistant Prof, Nebyu Bayu has allowed Selmawit Alene, to open her St. George Gallery at Mussei Kachik Bogossian House, located at Golla Park after a two year dispute.
Five years ago the Lideta Culture and Tourism Bureau (LCTB) agreed to lease a historical home to St. George Art Gallery for 50 years. After the agreement, Selmawit Alene, who owns St. George Gallery, invested five million birr to renovate the registered historical landmark.
However, last year LCTB closed the house, saying that a ‘technical mistake’ was made and the house would be leased to another person.
The 372sqm, 107 year old, wood and brick, Mussei Boghossian House is located in Golla Park and was built by Armenians during the reign of Menilik II. It has 19 rooms, 31 doors and 22 windows. Previously it was used as a Kebele office and youth center.
In response, the federal government stepped in; ordering the Addis Ababa Cultural and Tourism Bureau (AACTB) to allow St. George Art Gallery to use the house.
“I did not conquer the place, they approved my request to renovate the house and create a business there. The letter from the woreda office suspending our lease agreement came after I spent a lot of time and money renovating the place. So my question is why would they allow me to do all this work if they though the house should not be given to a third person,” Selamawit said.
Selmawit said she is happy with the decision although her justice was delayed.
“We received the house legally but for some reason the people who allowed our gallery to open, decided to close it and we wasted a lot of time trying to convince them. Now we are happy the gallery is open and soon we will sell our paintings to customers.’’
The Minister of Cultural and Tourism Bureau wrote a letter to the Bureau in favor of Selamawit and ordered the gallery to open but he was ignored.
However, the new head who assumed power two weeks ago allowed Selamawit to open the gallery.
This is her second art gallery, her first is near the Sheraton Addis Hotel. The house was used for youth and women in the past and during the Derg regime it was used for a prison.