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Amazing and unforgettable story by Alemayehu Mamo

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Until recently the buying and selling of modern and contemporary art in Ethiopia were all but non-existent. The entrance to Makush Art Gallery & Restaurant in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, attests to how things have changed thanks to a burgeoning new art scene. Makush has about 70 artists on its books and a collection of more than 650 paintings from which customers can choose.

"Progress is just a miracle," says Makush owner Tesfaye Hiwet, who began visiting his homeland after the 1991 revolution that brought down the Derg, Ethiopia's communist-inspired military dictatorship. Mr. Tesfaye remembers the sorry state of Ethiopia's economy following 17 years of botched socialist economic policies: "After the Derg fell, there was not even toilet paper." While living in the US, he opened a restaurant and nightclub in Washington DC, decorated with Ethiopian art sourced during his visits to Addis Ababa. After noticing the lack of galleries, he moved back 12 years ago.

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