Tibebe Terffa was born in the walled city of Harar, Ethiopia in 1948. He studied at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Art from where he graduated in painting in 1973. During his school years (1970-1973), Tibebe and his friends formed the Sixteen Young Artists Association to stage exhibitions around the country. Tibebe worked as an art instructor at the Medhane Alem Comprehensive High School in Harar from 1973 until 1980. In 1981, he moved to Addis Ababa, and worked as an illustrator for Kuraz Publishing House until 1983. Since 1984, he has been working as a studio artist from his residence in Addis Ababa. He has also exhibited in numerous solo exhibitions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Germany, Canada, USA, and Spain.