Author Archive for Lifestyle

Interview with Eskender Aseged about life in San Francisco

Above: Restauranteur Eskender Aseged, showing fava beans,
in his San Francisco garden where he hosted his first dinners.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Updated: Saturday, July 10, 2010

New York (Tadias) – A blog on the San Francisco Chronicle web site, SFGate.com, features an interview with entrepreneur Eskender Aseged – a resident of the Mission District.

The blog MyMission “is a series of interviews with a diverse group of people, each with their own experience of the Mission. It’s part of a soon-to-be-published zine, Know Your Streets, which will contain resource, memory and cultural maps,” writes Heather Smith.

“Once upon a time (and/or about six years ago), a waiter at a high-end, downtown restaurant started a restaurant in his Mission district backyard, with plates from IKEA and live African music. Eskender Aseged, now soon-to-be official restauranteur, shares his perspective on cooking, gardening, and socializing in the Mission.”

Mission Local: How did you first come to live in the Mission?

Eskender Aseged: When Ethiopia ceased being a communist country, I left for the Sudan. My brother and I were first settled in New Jersey, because that’s where they were sending refugees. But that didn’t last long. We moved to New York. And then I visited San Francisco with a girlfriend. I realized I liked the place.

ML: Did you move straight to the Mission?

EA: No. First I lived in Bernal Heights. But then I realized I was hanging out at Cafe La Boheme most of the time, so I might as well live here. READ MORE..

Sofia Bushen to Represent Ethiopia at the 2010 Miss Africa USA Pageant

Sofia Bushen (R) is a finalist at the 2010 Miss Africa USA contest, scheduled for July 24, 2010 in Silver Spring, MD.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Updated: Friday, June 25, 2010

New York (Tadias) – We recently received a call from one of our readers in Tennessee. “I have just learned that I have been selected as a finalist at the biggest pageant featuring African beauty queens in the United States,” the young woman said. “And as part of my micro project for the competition, I need to publicize the upcoming event within my community.”

23-year old Sofia Bushen will represent Ethiopia at the 2010 Miss Africa USA contest, scheduled for July 24, 2010 in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The pageant aims to foster confident African women leaders both at home and here in the U.S.

“The vision is for African girls in America to shine the spotlight on Africa,” organizers say through their website. It helps the participants “tell their stories to the world and inspire one another, and build self esteem.”

Past winners of the competition have gone on to join forces with major charity organizations in the U.S. such as Habitat for Humanity, Concern USA, Russell Simmons’s Diamond Empowerment Fund, to help raise money for charitable causes benefiting communities in Africa and the United States. Most notably, Miss Teizue Gayflor, Miss Africa USA 2006-2007 toured Liberia in 2007 on a mission to promote education for school children and conducted a series of radio and television interviews calling for peace and reconciliation.

Video: Meet Sofia Bushen, finalist at the 2010 Miss Africa USA contest, in her own words

Learn more about Miss Africa USA at www.missafricaunitedstates.com.

Video: Miss Africa USA 08 Parade MISS ZIMBABWE, MISS LIBERIA AND MISS NIGERIA

Cover photo provided courtesy of Sofia Bushen.

Catch Meklit Hadero in Washington D.C and New York

Above: After a few years behind the scenes honing her skills
at the Red Poppy Art House in San Francisco, Meklit Hadero is
taking center stage. (Photo courtesy of Nathaniel Keck)

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Tuesday, May 25, 2010

New York (Tadias) – San Francisco- based songstress Meklit Hadero is scheduled to make an upcoming concert appearances in the East Coast, beginning with Bernos’ 4th anniversary celebration this coming weekend in Washington, D.C. and at Le Poisson Rouge in New York on June 1st.

The Ethiopian-born artist has been attracting national attention with the release of her new album On A Day Like This. Reviewers have compared her voice to that of the legendary singer Nina Simone. “Once you hear her smooth and silky voice it will be hard to forget it,” NPR’s Allison Keyes recently reported.

“It is an honor to have Meklit Hadero perform at our 4th year anniversary,” said Beshou Gedamu, business partner at Bernos. “She is an amazing artist with a powerful voice that resonates.”

Hadero obtained a bachelor’s degree in Political Science before moving to San Francisco to pursue her true love – music. NPR’s guest host described Hadero’s sound as “a unique blend of jazz, Ethiopia, the San Francisco art scene and visceral poetry.” “It paints pictures in your head as you listen,” she adds.

Meklit Hadero “Leaving Soon” music video from Salvatore Fullmore on Vimeo.


If You Go:
Washington, DC
The Warehouse Loft
May 29, 2010 | 8 pm
Live Perfomance featuring B. Sheba & Munit
Click here for more info.

New York
LE POISSON ROUGE
Meklit Hadero with The Olatuja Project
June 1, 2010| 7 pm
Click here for more info.

Listen here to NPR’s Interview with Meklit Hadero:

Sheba Sahlemariam: ‘The Lion Of Sheba’

Above: Ethiopian born Sheba Sahlemariam’s music is a fusion
of many different cultures.

The Jamica Gleaner
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
Published: Sunday | December 20, 2009
The singer was born in Ethiopia but her family was exiled from the country when she was only a baby. Since then, she has lived in places like Germany, Guyana, Trinidad, New York, Canada, Kenya, and even Jamaica. Hence, her music is heavily influenced by varied cultures. “We did a lot of travelling when I was young and it has sort of given me a view that is very global. The music that I create sounds as diverse as my life. My life is about growing up in many different places. My life is a fusion of all those things and my music is a fusion,” Sheba told The Sunday Gleaner. “My musical style is fusing all the music that I grew up on; dancehall, reggae, Afro-pop, Ethiopian jazz and urban music. I am fusing all those things which sound like the soundtrack to my life.” The New York-based artiste said reggae and dancehall is also a big part of her music. Read more.

Video: Sheba Sahlemariam Live at Joe’s Pub (New York)

Source: Joe’s Pub

A refugee from the majestic war-torn land of Ethiopia, Sheba Sahlemariam was reared among the concrete jungles of New York City, Europe, the Caribbean and Africa. Named after the Queen of Sheba, famed empress of Ethiopia, to whom her family traces direct ancestry – Sheba Sahlemariam is a cousin to Emperor Haile Selassie – which highlights the serendipitous circumstances that moved her family from Ethiopia to Guyana, where she spent her early childhood and later, Jamaica, which deepened her connection to Reggae and Dancehall, the glue to her global and urban sound. Sheba stirs up a unique musical brew that is a mélange of Reggae grooves, Afro-beat, Ethiopian traditional music and jazz, R&B riffs, 16 bar rhymes, and Dancehall Sing-Jaying –souvenirs from her nomadic life.

Sheba’s gorgeous four octave range, soul stirring, provocative lyrics and fierce ability to dial up a diversity of musical styles puts her at the razor’s edge and will expel you from preconceived definitions of urban, pop and world music.

Watch: “Love This Lifetime” by Sheba Sahlemariam

As early as the age of four, she was singing and making up songs, but it wasn’t until a random meeting in Brooklyn, when Sheba forged a musical partnership with Tommy “Madfly” Faragher, that she finally begin to chip away at her lifelong dream to write and record music. Together they began to collaborate on what would be the basis for her first album: The Lion of Sheba. Songs from the forthcoming album are for real music lovers: big vocals, powerful songwriting and beats that challenge your boundaries. The wait is over. You may not be able to get to Ethiopia, but The Lion of Sheba will bring Ethiopia home to you. The Lioness, Sheba…soon come.

Hanatzeb Gallery to Host Second Exhibition

Above: Hanatzeb Gallery, located on Bennett Street, Atlanta’s
vibrant antiques and arts district, is focused on cutting edge
artworks from contemporary artists.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Friday, December 18, 2009

Atlanta (Tadias) – Hanatzeb Art Gallery, which specializes in emerging and established Ethiopian artists, will open its second exhibition this weekend featuring artist Eskender Seyoum, Alex Girma, Muluken Asfaw & Yosef Berta.

According to a press release by the gallery, its inaugural show highlighting works of artist Tesfaye Negusse was a success and has encouraged the owners to return with a more ambitious group presentation.

“With the latest exhibition featuring emerging Ethiopian artist the owners are well on their way to achieving their goal of growing the gallery in a spirit of collaboration with the artist community,” the press release said.

“While this is just a beginning we hope will be well received by the community at large, we have lined up a number of incredibly talented artists who live here in the U.S. as well as in Ethiopia to come and display their beautiful work of art.”

The opening reception is scheduled for Saturday, December 19, 2009, from 6-10pm and Sunday, December 20, from 2 -6pm.


If You Go:

Hanatzeb
Ethiopian Art Gallery
49-B Bennett Street NW.
Atlanta, GA 30309
Phone: 404.352.4373 or 404.808.8946

Interview with Marcus Samuelsson

Above: Marcus, pictured here in the White House garden, was
selected to prepare the Obamas’ first State dinner. (Courtesy).

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Tseday Alehegn

Published: Tuesday, December 15, 2009

New York (Tadias) – It has been a busy year for Marcus Samuelsson. A few weeks after the release of his book New American Table, Samuelsson was invited by the White House to prepare the Administration’s first State Dinner honoring the Prime Minister of India.

“It was an honor for me not only to be asked but also to do it,” Samuelsson tells Tadias.

Samuelsson says he was primarily thinking of diversity while preparing the State Dinner assisted by ten members of his own staff. “I tried to think of diversity on different levels, not just the food,” he tells us.

Below is our interview with Marcus Samuelsson about the White House State Dinner, his new book, and living in Harlem.

Tadias: When did you begin thinking about writing New American Table?

Marcus: I began working on the book in my head around 2004/2005, right around the time I became an American citizen. I really started to think about diversity. How do I explain Ethiopian heritage? How do I define my Swedish heritage? I am privileged to be in America where I can actually be Ethiopian, Swedish, and American. And as Maya and I got more and more together we started thinking about how to keep our identities through food. And not only that but I realized that all my friends are immigrants. It’s Jewish people marrying Arabs, Pakistanis marrying Germans, Latin people marrying Swedish people. And all of them are keeping their food heritage. And more so than language, it’s through food that they are keeping their identities. Food is a celebration of diversity in America. I don’t know any other nation where you could keep all these cultures alive and on top of everything you are also American. And I thought that it was really cool. There is also the recognition of the growth of immigration. Think about how Ethiopians came to this country. In cities now we have on average about six or seven Ethiopian restaurants. That’s incredible. And it’s a way for us to keep our identity. And it’s not only the Ethiopian community that I’m talking about. I’m talking about Vietnamese community in Minneapolis, Latin community in Chicago, Nigerian community in Boston. We know it’s Latin in Los Angeles and Texas and so on. Those are the obvious ones, but I’m talking about the not-so-obvious diversity; the Koreans in New Jersey, Middle Easterners in Detroit.

I always write. I always take notes wherever I am. Food is my language. I cook with friends, I cook in the restaurants, for magazines. I always write and connect my recipes to my outlets. My creativity goes with the diversity. I didn’t want to make a narcissistic book about me, but about everyday people. That’s why I do the collages in the book. The book only works if it’s about the everyday person, the New American. Everyone from kids to the elderly can recount stories of food. Whether it’s stories from the Second World War or stories about leaving Ethiopia, or stories about leaving Sweden, they are all stories about us.

The other thing to note is the enormous Farmers’ Market boom. I wanted to include this in the book. When I came to New York you could barely buy cheese or great bread. Now you have a resurgence of artisanal food makers, and I wanted to touch on that. People are going back to ‘local’ to ‘organic’ to ‘seasonal.’ I wanted to celebrate that. We are slowly going in a greener direction. And that’s the conversation about food that I want to keep having. I’ve already written a book about restaurants. I’ve done that. Going forward it will have to be about people, and how people inspire me. I’m not a politician, I’m a chef, and so I tell my stories through food. Like an artist’s paintings would show what he’s going through or what he’s reflecting on.

Tadias: When was the moment, during your work or travels, where you felt that what you were experiencing should become a book?

Marcus: I’ve been American for a while now and in the beginning of the book I talk about becoming American. As a Black person I wanted to come to America rather than stay in Europe because there are more opportunities here as a person of color. I think a lot of people can relate to that feeling. Of course you have doubts and you don’t know if it’s going to work out, but you work hard and it will. This book was also written at a very particular time. This was written post 9-11, in the middle of the Iraq/Afghanistan war, very patriotic stuff. I feel that sometimes the image of America in the rest of the world is not that great, but I feel that diversity, food, these are things that we are getting right. These are things that we can be inspired by. This book was written in a time of transition. I began writing in the Bush era and the book is out in the Obama era.

Tadias: Can you share one or two of the untold stories behind the food that you describe in New American Table?

Marcus: There’s a couple, friends of mine. She’s Pilipino and he’s Swedish and African-American. Every year they have a dinner where when you go to their house they have about 25 different dishes. And the food is from Black culture, Pilipino culture, Swedish culture. And they’re not chefs. That’s inspiration. Their friends are just as diverse, from Ethiopia to France. This is the diverse food life that I wanted to live, and now I’m living it. You know even when Maya cooks Doro Wat and our friends who are not Ethiopian are enjoying the dish, what are we doing? We’re telling a story about Ethiopia. So all of us who are Ethiopian-American are actually ambassadors for our own country. There is an exchange of culture here but we’re not asking you to change your religion or faith or beliefs. We are simply the culture and we are sharing the food. So we’re shifting the dialogue to something positive, something tangible.

Tadias: Looking back at the history of food in America and the traditional American dining table, how would you describe it now?

Marcus: Well this is an evolution. We were very much England/Europe-inspired for a long time. And now you’d hear someone say “Hey I had sushi last night, and I had Ethiopian the night before.” So you’ve gone a complete 180. We’re completely embracing diversity through the food, and before we were taught to hide it. So it is a sense of arrival to say “I had sushi, I just tried a Moroccan restaurant, I had Indian the day before.” Even in cooking the State Dinner we were cooking an ethnic meal at an American State Dinner.

Tadias: How was the experience of preparing the White House State Dinner?

Marcus: It was the highest honor. That was Barack Obama’s first State Dinner so it was extremely important for him. And it was an honor for me not only to be asked but also to do it. Michelle wanted a vegetarian dinner as much as possible as Mr. Singh is vegetarian so we came with fresh but very humble ingredients. These were not the ‘best dishes of Marcus Samuelsson.’ For me, when I did the State Dinner I wanted to show the best of America and the best of India. I also wanted to show the White House as someone’s home. Therefore we introduced a bread course, where we broke bread and had both corn bread and naan bread, which they’d never had at a State Dinner before. It was the first time that all fresh ingredients and herbs were supplied from the White House garden. We had lentil soup, which was very Indian for me, but we also had American seasonal apples. The dumplings and green curry prawns were Indian but we also served All-American dessert, Pumpkin Pie, and we served All-American wine. So it was a complete marriage for me looking at both cultures. The smoked collard greens served were from African American culture. Why not serve that as a testament of diversity instead of making the best possible Foie gras that you could do? I also brought my staff, half of them were girls and half were guys. Some were African-American, some of them were Jewish, so I tried to think of diversity on different levels, not just the food.


Marcus picking herbs from the White House garden (Courtesy photo).


Marcus at the White House kitchen chopping herbs that he picked from the
White House garden in preparation for the Obamas’ first State dinner.

Tadias: How many staff did you take with you?

I brought 10 with me.

Tadias: So what are your next steps? What’s in the horizon? What kind of ventures are you thinking of now?

Marcus: Moving forward, I’m thinking, “What can I do in Harlem?” I’m thinking about public school and food. I’d also like to bring more Farmers’ Markets to Harlem. I live in Harlem and I go in stores and there are no green vegetables in the market. You can go to any market in Ethiopia regardless of income and you can get local eggs and organic. Here, if you don’t have money you eat poorly. It’s one of the only countries where low income and eating poorly is connected. I would like to change that. At least I would like to raise awareness by cooking in the community, or definitely enabling people with low income to have better choices when it comes to food. So those are the kinds of things that I care about.

Tadias: What do you like most about Harlem?

Marcus: Harlem? I always wanted to live in Harlem. Harlem was the community that I knew about when I was in Sweden. It was what I knew about America and African-American culture. I’ve always thought about Harlem. And I also think that if Harlem’s going to change then people like myself and others should stop talking about Harlem and move to Harlem. Harlem is not going to change because we talk about it. It’s going to change because we do something. And I put my money in the economy. For me it’s not a PR stint. For me it’s a lifestyle. I sold my place and moved to Harlem to experience it. And I can’t write about an experience without having lived it. When I shop at C-Town, for example, it’s not because I’m happy to shop there, it’s because I want to have the same experience that the person who lives in this community has. When Maya wants to go to Whole Foods or somewhere else, I say, “Well we can do that too but we also have to buy from here as well because we gotta know what the hell we’re talking about.”

Tadias: Any other thing you’d like to add?

Marcus: I look forward to going to Ethiopia for New Year’s and I look forward to eventually have a cooking school in Ethiopia. To have a hospitality school in Ethiopia – that’s my ultimate goal. I’ve experienced a lot of stuff, and it’s also my job to give back and to challenge people who have money to contribute. It will bring a different dialogue. It’s like what bringing Lucy here does – it starts a dialogue. Same thing with the Discovery Show about the oldest human being, or what Ras does with his film, ‘The Athlete’ when he narrates the story from an Ethiopian perspective. It’s what you guys do; it’s bringing a different view, which is incredible. It’s important to keep producing, keep writing. Even what Maya does; she’s in Korea right now doing a shoot for Olympus Camera. For other people to see that that’s possible is incredible. I’m in awe of all that. I also love one of the pieces that you wrote about Ethiopians that have done stuff in America, because you do exactly what I think about a lot – to inspire to aspire. You read that article, and if you’re not in that article, you want to get in that article. It’s fantastic. It’s inspiring. Regardless of who it is, it’s more about the message.
—–
About the Author:
Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine.

Video: Marcus with MSNBC anchor Dylan Ratigan

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

The Saint Yared Choir Performs At The U.N. Tellman Chapel

Above: The Saint Yared Choir of Washington D.C was featured
as special guest at NNN’s event held the U.N. Tellman Chapel
on Sunday, December 6, 2009.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Saturday, December 12, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The Saint Yared Choir of Washington D.C. gave a breathtaking concert at The United Nations Tellman Chapel last week.

The event, hosted by Nation to Nation Networking (NNN), a non-profit organization based in New York, featured vocal ensembles of diverse backgrounds including: The Inspirational Voices of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, The Hai Tien Chorus, and The Children’s Theatre Company of New York.

The St. Yared Choir was established by the Debre Selam Kidist Mariam Church (St. Mary’s) in Washington D.C, to celebrate the life and work of St. Yared, a composer and a choreographer who lived in Aksum in the 6th century AD.

According to Ayele Bekerie, a Professor of Africana Studies at Cornell University, “Zema or the chant tradition of Ethiopia, particularly the chants of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, is attributed to St. Yared…he is credited for inventing the Zema of the Church; the chant that has been in use continuously for the last almost 1500 years.”

The voices and choreographed movements of the St. Yared D.C choir was led by Mr. Moges Seyoum, recipient of the 2008 National Heritage Fellowship for his “artistic excellence” and “cultural authenticity” – the highest honor in folk and traditional arts awarded by the National Endowment for the Arts.

The concert’s theme: “Building bridges across cultures and fostering a broader understanding among peoples and communities of all nations.”

The afternoon musical testimony of diverse faith was moving and enchanting.


Proceeds from the event is going to fund NNN’s annual International Youth Assembly and the completion of the organization’s Adolescent Resources Centers in Africa and the Caribbean.

Slideshow: More photos from the U.N. Tellman Chapel

Video: St. Yared Celebration at St. Mary’s in D.C. 3 years ago

An Entertaining Interview With Robel Kassa

Above: Robel Kassa’s recent works “revolve around an idea of
distance: physical, mental, and conceptual. So there are “dark”
concepts that are portrayed in bright and cheery colors. Serious
social taboos presented in utter abandon and humor.”

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, December 10, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Talented graphic designer and entrepreneur Robel Kassa has some of his most recent works currently displayed at La Carbonara Restaurant in D.C. The display “revolve around an idea of distance: physical, mental, and conceptual. So there are “dark” concepts that are portrayed in bright and cheery colors. Serious social taboos presented in utter abandon and humor,” says Robel. Below are photos from opening night and an entertaining interview with the artist.

Tadias: Please tell us a bit about yourself – where you were born, raised, school, current work, etc.

Robel: I was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where I was circumstantially stationed for residence and schooling procedures until I completed my high school studies. Upon said completion, the forces that be (commonly referred to as “one thing led to another”) decided that I relocate to the the University of Pennsylvania. I’m not sure of the coordinates, but I’m fairly certain it was located in Philadelphia. That’s what the brochure said, anyhow. I managed to acquire a black cap and gown (which I was ultimately forced to return … the bastards!) and a US Letter sized piece of heavy stock paper with elaborate calligraphy that indicated I was now fit to flaunt my ego and fatten my wallet wherever I please … within the realm of creative/digital arts. So in the spirit of economic synchronicity and tongue-in-cheek irony, I now work for the American Bankruptcy Institute, in all manners and shapes and sizes of graphic design and web development … making bankruptcy entirely way too sexy and irresistible. Of course, this being America (the land of mirages and camouflages), I have assuaged my cubicle farm shenanigans by setting up an independent design firm with a few partners: www.paradigm84.com : global domination seems a lofty goal, but we’re taking it one click at a time. (*insert ominous soundtrack here*)

Tadias: Over the years, we have seen your impressive and evolving digital artwork. What other mediums do you use?

Robel: I’ve used and continue to use oils, acrylics, and other mixed media. Everything from razor blades to condom wrappings to pages ripped out of the bible make for legitimate resources.

Tadias: What motivates you?

Robel: Motivation had been elusive for a long time, actually. And whenever it happens, it’s fairly whimsical, egged on by irony, cynicism, music, literature, film, social/political situations, and a healthy dose of humor. I’m not sure what I just said answered your question satisfactorily, but feel free to chalk that up to “artistic quirkiness.”

Tadias: We understand that you have a show of your new artwork in D.C. Could you tell us a bit more about it?

Robel: It’s hosted by the kind ladies of Spirito di Vino, and opened last Wednesday at La Carbonara Restaurant. It will be up for the remainder of the week for general veiwing as well. The works, most of them recent and not seen before, revolve around an idea of distance: physical, mental, and conceptual. So there are “dark” concepts that are portrayed in bright and cheery colors. Serious social taboos presented in utter abandon and humor.

Slideshow: Photos from Robel’s Art Show at La Carbonara

Photos courtesy of the artist’s Facebook Page.

Tadias: Which individuals influence your artwork? philosophy?

Robel: A lot of individuals do. Aesthetically, it ranges from Jackson Pollock to G/Kristos Desta to graffitti artists and comic book illustrations. I try and stay away from what is visually recognizable as typically “ethiopian art” … whether it’s the big googly eyes, or the Tilet-like patterns, or even the nauseatingly melodramatic and self-righteously judaeo-christian iconographies. I feel that’s just a gimmick and selling point that furthers the exotification of non-Western art as something ethnic, tribal, primordial, and other-worldly. It can be limiting, I suppose.

Tadias: If you were given a chance to spend a year to create an original work what would be?

Robel: The ultimate “original work” would probably mean less to me than the year spent trying to create and destroy and re-create and lather, rinse, repeat. Whatever that original work would be though, I feel it probably would either be a book or a film. Something that would purge the world of all its evils … and cure AIDS … and bring about world peace. And I also like walks on the beach.

Tadias: Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?

Robel: Read books; they’re good for you. Never underestimate the beauty of honesty.

Tadias: Thank you Robel and good luck!

Robel: Thank you, Tadias. This has been utterly discomfiting.

Cross-Cultural Music Improvisations: A Conversation with Dan Harper

Tadias Magazine spoke with Dan Harper about his new album "Punt Made in Ethiopia" and his work to create cross-cultural conversations through music. (Courtesy photo).

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Tseday Alehegn

Updated: Monday, November 16, 2009

New York (Tadias) – As an aid worker for a British NGO in Ethiopia, Dan Harper (Invisible System) lived and traveled throughout Ethiopia for three years. He also nurtured his first love: music, and built a studio from scratch to produce and collaborate with Ethiopian musicians. Harper describes his Worm Hole studio equipment as something which “can be setup around scarce resources such as in an outhouse with corrugated iron roofing (interesting in the rainy season), carpets and breeze blocks. It is also now constructed in a more solid form in Frome, Somerset whilst maintaining its nomadic and professional feel and look.” Harper co-wrote and sound engineered Dub Colossus’ album “A Town Called Addis” with Nick Page, and most recently came out with his own album “PUNT Made in Ethiopia” (Harper Diabate Records) featuring an incredibly diverse list of musicians, ranging from talent he spotted at a traditional Azmari joint to sessions with singer Tsedenia and the legendary Mahmoud Ahmed. Harper stresses that the collaboration is not trying to imitate how Ethiopians play music. Rather it’s an entirely improvisational recording. Invisible System has played at the Addis Music Festival as well as several live concerts in the U.K. Proceeds from the album are helping to establish a charity focusing on providing resources to artists and musicians in the developing world, an issue which Harper believes is often neglected by international NGOs.

We spoke with Dan about his first album release on Harper Diabete Records and his work to create genuine cross-cultural conversations through music.

Tadias: Can you tell us a bit about yourself? How you ended up living and working in Ethiopia?

Harper: Before I start, I’d like to say it’s really nice to be involved with Ethiopians and Ethiopian culture and music. I have very fond memories of Addis, and I traveled all around the country. I had volunteers all over the place. I’ve been to Jimma, up to the North, I’ve been to the South, Lake Langano, Awasa. It’s been so long now that I’ve even started to forget the names of all the places… Gonder, Mekele. Fantastic country really.

Okay, so I grew up in England. Mother was born in India, raised in New Zealand and she moved to England when she was 18. My dad comes from a working class coal miner and army background. He later became an academic. I grew up in the southwest of England. I always wanted to go to Africa..always fascinated. Even as a kid, when I was 12 I was listening to bands that infused African rhythm and sound. Something always hit the mark for me. A lot has driven me to Africa. Also, I’ve always had a thing about development and the problems of developing countries and the injustice of it all. And that is ingrained from a young age as well. I used to complain when we had three course meals when I was 11 or 12 saying there were people who can’t eat in the world. It’s just been part of me. So that’s me: I love art, I love music. I’m interested in international culture. I love different ways of talking, and eating, and interacting, and different clothes and hairstyles. I think that’s what’s magical about the world.

I’ve always been fascinated with music since the age of 7. I’m obsessed with it I think. I’ve taught myself to play everything. I’ve taught myself to produce, to sound engineer. I’ve built my own studio. I’ve done it without the equipment being bought for me. I’ve had to work hard for it. And I’ve had to build it bit by bit. And I’ve been in constant debt for it, so it’s an absolute love, and passion, and something I can’t stop doing.

When I left school I bought a camp van and I worked and I drove around Europe and down to Turkey with my girlfriend, and had an interest in international development and culture since then. Since seeing people live in cardboard boxes as I drove around. And at university I changed very quickly from studying computing management to studying environmental management, although I probably should have done, music, technology or both. But there you go. Both things come together. I had wanted to work abroad in NGOs.. I was always quite anti-government. I grew up in Thatcher’s government so plenty of reasons to be upset. And I had to volunteer for years..there was no paid work in Environment. There was no way to go to Africa. You had to pay for yourself. I had no money. I was trying to build a studio that was getting me in debt, and eventually I had to go into business. Didn’t enjoy working in business. Had to cut my hair which was awful and wear a suit which was awful – not me at all. And I ended up working for the Institute of Development Studies at Sussex University in quite a basic, boring admin job. I knew it would springboard me overseas and I took a job up in Mali eventually, which I was very lucky to get after a few years work experience. I learned French and worked for a local environmental NGO. I was in the middle of the desert. It was really hard work, hard conditions, teaching kids about environmental issues. And I met my wife out there, and I worked there for four and half years and I have a daughter.

We could afford to get on as a family there so I thought I better try to get a better paying job, as I wanted to stay overseas. I wanted to stay in Africa. And a job with a British NGO came up and I got it and it was in Ethiopia. And unfortunately Ethiopia, I think, has been spoiled by the media and the problems of the famine. Because everyone thinks about famine and dry, desert conditions including me. I was as guilty, because I thought “I’m going from one desert to another.” And it’s not is it? I mean how green, and lush and beautiful is Addis, Jimma and even some places in the North. Not that barren. I’m not going to get into the history and the problems. Those are things for us to discuss another time. Complicated history and reasons. But sure I was out in Ethiopia for three years, and I have a fair idea of what went on. I have a few Ethiopian friends who I’m still in contact with. But that’s how I ended up living and working in Ethiopia. And it was a three year contract. I had a great time with the Ethiopians I work with. I had volunteers out helping government and non-governmental organizations in HIV/AIDS and small business. I didn’t enjoy working for voluntary service agencies – the British organization. I didn’t like their obsessiveness with bureaucracy and paperwork, and they weren’t getting the volunteers out efficiently as it could have been. I didn’t like the attitude of the country directors who were British. I didn’t think that they treated the Ethiopian staff as well. But Ethiopia was great, Addis was great. I had a fantastic circle of friends. I had a great social life. And I was trying to help in every which way I could through the development work, and bringing as many volunteers as I could out to work with people from all over the world. My idea was to create more volunteer positions, and get volunteers out there and make a change. So that’s how I ended up out there with my family.

Tadias: Can you describe the role of music in your life? When did you start producing music?

Harper: God, without music it would be awful. When I’m listening to and playing music that is my ultimate meaning of the world. Work could get boring everyday, you know, doing things that you don’t always want to be doing. [Music is] escapism in a way, but it’s like my religion, it’s like my spiritual being. It’s my way of releasing all the creativity, the need to make colorful and creative things and sounds, and this is my way of doing it. And without it I would be bored and grey and depressed. There’s more to life than writing paper, for me anyhow. I think everyone’s different. I started producing music when I was about seventeen, and I bought and taught myself how to play an electric guitar, and started playing in a band. I borrowed a friend’s four-track tape recorder and started overlaying guitars like that, and you know it’s gone on ever since. Teaching myself the guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, synthesis, sound engineering production, using the studio.. the full works. It gradually increases. I’ve never had enough time for it. I’ve always worked full time. It always been get in, fighting fatigue from work drinking coffee to write and produce music. And it’s difficult because you never have enough energy, and at the weekend you’ve gotta clean your house, and well now deal with the kid as well, and try to have a social life so. Yeah it’s been going on since I was 17. I am now 37. I should have had an album out years ago. But there you go.

Tadias: And the artwork on your CD cover?

Harper: The art work was a mixture of myself and Bos / Warp (Paul Boswell) a graffiti based artists in Frome who is well known for his work in Bristol, and Moussa from Addis. The painting of the musicians was created by Moussa to say “thank you” to me. Moussa was an orphan and he was lucky enough to make it to study music at Addis University. He is a lovely guy and I sorted him out with a job teaching my neighbour’s child the guitar. My neighbour was English and she had married an Ethiopian in Addis. We forwarded him some salary and when I was in the UK I purchased him an electric guitar that my neighbour brought back to Addis for him. He was so happy he made me that painting. I changed it color and vibrancy-wise to match the feel of the album, but the original is also wonderful and will be published perhaps on the next album.


Punt, Made in Ethiopia album cover.

I love Bos’s humour, it always makes me laugh but with the album, the faces he had painted by chance reminded me of the Ethiopian painted faces you often see with big eyes. I liked the connection due to the fusion nature of the album covering styles of Ethiopian, Pop, Dance, Trance, Rock, Dub, Reggae, Drum and Bass, Punk and Grunge. It all fits! And the other painting of the chap/creature in the suit and tie reminded me of how it feels to be an artist trapped in the office in a suit and tie during the day! Personal! I have always combined aid work, which includes offices and suits and ties with my art.

Bos also plays bass on one track on the album and plays live with me sometimes with the UK Invisible System setup, which has a Jamaican born UK based reggae singer doing the vocals. I am also in another more punk/psycehdelic/jam based band with Bos on bass, me on guitar and Merv Pepler from the Ozrics Tentacles and Eat Static on drums. We have not decided on a name yet but some suggestions have arisen…Flaps, The Mutes and The Coalminers are three!

Tadias: Tell us a bit more about the music scene in Addis and your collaboration with various local and internationally known Ethiopian musicians.

Harper: When I first got to Addis, I found there was a lot of buzz where people would sing in front of electronic keyboards, with electronic drums, which wasn’t quite my kind of thing. And then I found the Azmari bets, which I loved more. The traditional..seeing the masinko, singing and clapping and dancing. I bumped into most of the people that I worked with within odd clubs around Addis, say kind of at two in the morning. That’s where I found Nati on the album, that’s where I found Desta. Just people whose voices I liked. I approached them after. Sometimes I needed translating because my Amharic wasn’t good enough – their English wasn’t good enough just to communicate. I often have my music on an MP3 player, and I’d put headphones on them and say “do you want to come and jam?” And that’s how a lot of it kicked off actually. Tsedenia was introduced to me via my wife’s hairdresser. My wife was having her hair done down the road and saying that I was recording in the studio at home making music. Mahmoud was a chance because I sold a mike to someone who turned out to be a friend to Mahmoud’s saxophone player who came, walked into the studio and loved what I was doing. He told Mahmoud that he has to come down and listen, and Mahmoud came and listened and loved it as well and just asked to be a part of it, which was fantastic. I knew who he was but hadn’t heard that much of his music to be honest. I have cracking cassette of Mahmoud that I bought out in Jimma. A really old one. I love it. I love the old rough sound of it..the scales and just things that wouldn’t come to the Western mind.

We grow up in such different cultures that even the tonalities sound different to us and bring up different emotions – it’s what makes the world go round. I loved working with people over there and I never tried to emulate what the Ethiopians were doing when they played. I think Nick tried to do that with Dub Colossus. But I’d invited everyone over and people were quite reserved. They’d say “What do you want me to play? How do you want me to play?” And I’d just say “Do what you want. Do what you feel.” I played them some music that I put together to improvise what you feel. “Don’t worry about what you think I want.” And that’s the magic of it for me. It all comes from each other’s soul. That nothing’s pre-arranged. It’s just pure music from our hearts and soul and that’s what it’s about at the end of the day. To put those two things together that come from the different languages and culture and feelings for me is what it’s all about.

Tadias: Can you explain the name that you chose (Punt, Made in Ethiopia) for your current CD?

Harper: I chose PUNT because Punt was the name given to that area of land that they believe was Ethiopia and what the Egyptians used to call Punt. The magic land. Where people would come back with artifacts, not just animals such as giraffes or lions but also myrrh and other kinds of incense that were biblical and were apparently from this magical land called Punt. I love the history of Ethiopia and England, and the kind of pre-commercialism culture and the spiritual culture. I like the kind of druids and animists that lived in England and Africa before. I’m sure it was hard in other ways. I do like modern life as well, but to go back to that kind of working Azmari musicians and the Masinko and the kind of traditional human element of it, and the magical way the music that we create was done. It all makes sense to me to call it Punt. So that’s where Punt came from. Looking backwards but moving forward.

PUNT is an album that was improvised, from scratch – all instruments and vocals. We are not into using Ethiopian (or Malian) samples or trying to quickly learn and imitate Ethiopian musicians who have their sounds, modes, scales, feelings and soul from their culture and country else we would be the neo-colonialists. We are into sharing, learning and exchange over time. The music is based on real life experience not from reading. It is played from the heart and soul of everyone involved. Their own interpretation thus tapping the ebbs and flows of our lives.

Tadias: What are your favorite memories of Ethiopia? Africa?

Harper: Wow, you just asked a huge question. My favorite memories of Ethiopia and Africa. They’re so many. I miss going out and eating injera and hot food. And seeing all those beautiful and incredible faces all around. And I miss going to Elsie’s bar – the kind of bohemian culture. And I miss my friends and I miss traveling around. I miss the hot spring pools like Wondogenet. I miss the more openness of a culture of people that are out and about more. It’s cold here. We all live in tiny little houses. It’s cramped in and tiny gardens in England. I’m not saying people don’t in Ethiopia and Africa. You know it depends where you live, but I miss the fact that people are out and walking more, and talking more. And I miss that I can push my daughter down the road and people would kiss her and pick her up and I won’t be scared. I won’t think there’s a problem with a child molester. And I can go to a restaurant and she’ll be off having a tour and the waitresses would take her off to the kitchen and the lack of the excessive rules and regulations we have here in driving and living and existing. I do see Ethiopia as quite bureaucratic also and I suppose especially in Mali I miss the slight element of chaos.

When I went back to play at the Addis Music Festival last year, and we were in the car and I just realized that all the cars were worming their way through a massive non-road of road. I miss all that. I hate all these straight lines and everything here. So there are so many things. There really are so many things. And I miss being in a foreign culture. It’s boring being in England all the time. Everything gets a bit grey and even the language and clothes and too many people are in mono-culture. I like being dropped in what appears to me a more exotic place because I don’t come from there. If someone came from Ethiopia and they were here for three years it would be exotic for them. I got married and had a kid so there are other good memories and I’d like my daughter to keep coming back to Africa. She loves Ethiopia. She used to understand Amharic and she was only three years old when we left and unfortunately she’s forgotten that now. So there are so many [memories] I couldn’t even put them down so I’ll move on.

Tadias: What are the highs and lows of independent music production?

Harper: The highs are: you can create what you want, when you want it, how you want it. You don’t have to argue with someone that a song should sound differently or needs to be more commercial or what order they run on the CD or what art goes on the CD. It’s a great freedom. The need to be an artist for me is to have the freedom of expression, whereas at work you have to curtail how you do things and what you write and how you present yourself. Art for me is about being you, being genuinely you, and doing it independently with your own studio, label and your friends and musicians around you..that you have a common desire together. And it’s fantastic. And also feeling and creating something off your own back..that you had a vision that became a reality and developed into something real.

Now the downsides of it are, well, money because I don’t have any. I’ve had no money to back this and it’s done on credit. There’s no money for getting visas and passports to bring Ethiopians over to play. You know it’d have to be backed by someone. The promotion is really difficult, because I’ve got no one to pay to do the PR. So on top of a full-time job and a family and trying to finish CDs and write more music, you’re trying to get your CD out there and contact people and journalists and send them copies – it’s endless. It goes on an on. It’s fantastic, it’s nice to be able to do it but I’m constantly tired, obviously. So you haven’t got any help is what I’m trying to say. And you haven’t got any resources. And the distribution is quite tricky as well even, because unless you’ve got a lot of money to pay a distribution company that’s hard as well as organizing gigs.

If you are signed to a contract with a major label you can be able to say “okay I can take two years off work” because I guaranteed that income. But I wouldn’t want it to have been any other way. I’ve loved the way it has happened. You can get professional sounds with your studio at home, the only problem is space. Sometimes you can work as loud as you need to, because you’re disturbing your kid’s sleep. We’ve got a tiny house here and my garage is my live room. It would be nice to have more space. When I worked in Peter Gabriel’s studio with Dub Colossus I could get the same sound here. I don’t think you need that expensive equipment. You need good equipment but not that expensive. But the space was nice.

I wouldn’t mind one day for someone to say to me “we’ll give you this much money” so you can concentrate on it properly for a year or two, and I wouldn’t mind some help getting Ethiopians over here to play with me and touring the world of course. It would be absolutely amazing.

Tadias: Anything else that you’d like to tell Tadias readers?

Harper: I just want to say that I loved being in Ethiopia and I loved going back to play at the Addis Music Festival, and I know I’ll go back again and I can’t wait to go back again. My daughter so wants to go back, because she remembers it and we have videos of her being there. And I really hope to get to America someday. I’ve never been to America and I’d love to play a concert with some Ethiopians. It would be wild. It would be fantastic. I really hope that you get to see us play live. I don’t know how it’s gonna happen but I hope. And I hope you all enjoy the album. I know Ethiopia may be different once you’ve been out but it’s a very strong country and it’s very proud, which I think is great. It’s never been colonized and Amharic is still the first language. But this album could be quite a shift in style and way of listening and thinking. I know that they don’t particularly like Dub Colossus over there yet. Tsedenia says they just kind of go “oh yeah it’s interesting,” but they prefer the traditional, but I’ve had fantastic feedback from people in Addis actually for the album which thrilled me because you’re always worried when you’re not fluent in Amharic. You think you might have chopped a sentence at a bad point because it sounds good to you, but if you’re not sure what they’re saying you might have ended it at the wrong place. I just hope you guys get something out of it and enjoy it and please buy it. Don’t pirate it because we’re setting up a charity here and it can help us with good hard work. Real work. And I want to keep this growing so please don’t pirate it. That’s the only other thing that I’d like to say. And get in touch. I’d love to hear from you all. Give me your thoughts. I miss speaking to you all out there. Thanks for the interview. Take care.

Tadias: Thank you Dan! We enjoy your album and look forward to seeing you in concert in North America sometime.

Dan Harper can reached at Dan@harperdiabate.com. Harper Diabate, 1 River Walk, Frome, Somerset, BA11 5HU: myspace, facebook.

About the Author:
Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine.

About the Album:
PUNT (Made in Ethiopia) by Invisible System
Invisible System present a 12 track fusion album of Ethiopian, Dub, Dance, Rock, Drum & Bass, Psychedelia, Trance, Electronica & live music. Traditional vocals / instruments meet the modern, electronic and brass. Live Europeans meet live Ethiopians. Our guests include:

Mahmoud Ahmed & Bahta Gebrehiwot (Ethiopiques)
Hilaire Chabby (Baba Maal)
Justin Adams (Robert Plant & Strange Sensation, ex Jah Wobble’s Invaders)
Tsedenia, Mimi, Tarmeg & Sami (now signed to Realworld Records)
Joie Hinton (ex-Eat Static & Ozric Tentacles / Here and Now / IGV)
Martin Cradick (Baka Beyond/ex-Outback)
Captain Sensible (The Damned)
Ed Wynne (Ozric Tentacles / Noden Inctus)
Simon Hinkler (ex-The Mission)
Dubulah (ex-Transglobal Underground, Temple of Sound, Natasha Atlas etc)
Perch (Zion Train)
Juldeh (Justin Adams, Realworld etc)
Elmer Thudd (ex-Loop Guru)
Gary Woodhouse (The Rhythmites)
Bos (ex-Junk Waffle and Warp Graf/Eat Static Artist)

Is Sex Important to a Relationship?

Above: Tseday Aberra is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist.
She has a private practice in California. (Courtesy Photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Dr. Tseday Aberra

Updated: Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Los Angeles (Tadias) – Nature has decided that men are more susceptible to sex than women. Women are blessed with taming their sexual appetites far efficiently than men. So when you ask women why they marry, they tell you it is for the affection and companionship. Men also tell you for companionship, but it is primarily for the availability of sex. Affection and companionship in a marriage includes sex for men. But I’m not so sure it is so for women.

People say marriage is difficult. Wrong. I say a husband and a wife make it difficult. Marriage is difficult for anyone who fails to understand what it means to be in one, and what it takes to make it fulfilling. It takes commitment and work, indeed, but it is certainly not difficult. At least it does not have to be.

Marriage requires understanding. It is an agreement based on an understanding between a husband and a wife. It is an entity that is created in order to give them meaning that otherwise does not exist. This meaning is completely subjective since its foundation is based on the unique agreement created by the two in the marriage. It requires both to participate and contribute willingly and completely. Otherwise, it would not exist in fulfilling form.

No one can definitely tell you what marriage is and what it is suppose to mean other than what I have just told you. You make of it what you want. The difficulty that comes with this freedom is knowing the limitations of what you can make of it. You cannot make it yours nor can he make it his. It belongs to you both. Once it is created, it has its own life and its purpose is to give you meaning. To create it, however, both of you are required to provide certain instruments that will keep it alive and fulfilling. These instruments are not negotiable. Among all of them, the most important is sex.

When a husband and wife decide to settle down, after having picked a mate of their choosing, what they do to keep each other depends on how committed they are to fulfilling the agreement. Their commitment in contributing the necessary instruments in giving life to the marriage and maintaining its viability is most crucial.

Times have changed. The 21st century has leveled the playing field so that the only thing a husband and a wife require from each other is companionship. The one element that will not be equalized, however, is a husband’s need to go to his wife for sex. Therefore, a husband comes into a marriage, having lost all his bargaining power, with a promise of one thing and one thing only: sexual companionship. A wife who is committed to her marriage ought to know the position of her husband. She ought to know his predicament. Being in a powerful position, a wife ought to know her husband is at her complete mercy. She also ought to know how she uses her power determines the vitality of the marriage.

If by some chance, a wife does not care to her husband’s needs enough and often, he will have a hard time acknowledging whether there is a relationship tailored to meet his benefits. Now remember, a husband comes into a marriage willingly, and should also be willing to give all that he has. He has volunteered to commit and participate. And in return, he expects sex. When I say all that the husband has to give, it encompasses all the instruments he contributes to create and maintain the marriage. A husband will not hold back whatever is needed to make his marriage a place of sanctity.

A wife comes into this marriage expecting affection and companionship. However, she has to come with a special instrument in particular. Yes, there are other instruments that she has to bring also, but…on a serious note…, she has to bring one thing…the IT…and the willingness to use IT and make IT available. Without going into detail what a husband brings as instruments to create and maintain a marriage because they are not as important as what the wife brings specifically, the instrument that a wife brings is by far the most essential piece of the marriage. The IT is sacred and essential. If you toy with IT, you will lose the marriage. If you hold on to IT, you will lose the marriage. If you ration IT, you will lose the marriage. Guaranteed!

Having already lost his bargaining power, a husband comes into the marriage knowing and hating to be in a position where he has to rely completely on his wife for sex. When she rations sex, a husband learns that his dear wife is conniving, selfish, mean, but most of all, untrustworthy. He realizes that his wife holds all the cards of intimacy and that she can always put him back in his place. Not as a man but as a husband, he sadly realizes that he cannot rely on her. His trust is broken.

Very often a wife forgets that her vindictive behavior leaves a scar on her husband that she cannot remedy at a later time. After a fight, there is a whole lot of “forgiving” that takes place by both, but very little of “forgetting” by the husband especially. What your husband would not forget is that one of the most crucial instruments that is required to create and maintain a fulfilling marriage is actually negotiable, and that it depends on the whimsy of a wife that he just found out to be conniving, selfish, and mean.

Let me tell you, dear wife, once such a doubt creeps into your husband, not only would you lose him, but definitely you would lose your marriage. Take it from me, there is no therapy in this world that will bring back the marriage.

Next time, before you decide to hold on to sex because you had a point to make, think a moment and realize what is REALLY at stake.

—————-
About the Author:
Dr. Tseday Aberra is a Clinical and Forensic Psychologist. She has a private practice in the greater Los Angeles area and also works for the California Department of Corrections. She holds M.S. in Marriage, Family, Child Counseling and A Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology. She is recognized as an expert by California Superior Courts and gives seminars nationwide on marriage, relationships, and friendship. She has made a guest appearance on Court TV.

OnLove: Megan McCarthy & Haile Gebregziabher (The Washington Post)

Above: “Megan, who is of Irish ancestry, and Haile, born in
Ethiopia and raised in Eritrea, celebrated with an Irish-Catholic
ceremony that incorporated Ethiopian traditions, followed by a
reception featuring American and Ethiopian foods and music,
and a three-tiered cake decorated with shamrocks.” – WaPo
(Patricia Mccarthy Photography ).

The Washington Post
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Megan McCarthy, 36, is a membership director for a private club. Haile Gebregziabher, 41, is an administrative manager for a homeless shelter. They live in Annandale.

How they met: Read more.

Nyala – The Ethiopian Way (Restaurant Review)

Above: Nyala Ethiopian restaurant located in L.A.’s Little
Ethiopia neighborhood.

Restaurant Review
Entertainment Today
Written by SHIRLEY FIRESTONE
Friday, July 17, 2009

The area from Olympic Blvd. going South on Fairfax Ave. has become an Ethiopian bistro walk with a slew of eateries. I had dinner at Nyala, forerunner of Ethiopian restaurants in the area who’ve had many fine write‑ups because the food is good and it’s a new experience in dining for many. Interesting artifacts are part of the charm, including a full‑bar, (also Ethiopian wines, coffees & African beers) paintings displaying their unique style of cooking, and scenes of family life. The place is large with booths and tables, but the focal point is a wonderful simulated thatch hut. First-timers are always surprised upon entering, and what a great place to entertain guests, because dining the Ethiopian way is very social. In fact, it all starts with food, beginning with a complimentary community platter of “humus” served with crispy triangles for dipping.
Read More at EntertainmentToday.com.

Related: Ethiopian food in Omaha
Ethiopian Exchange (The Reader)

Family style and spice make
restaurants nice

by Lainey Seyler

In fact, the first time I went to Ethiopian Restaurant, 25th and Leavenworth, at 6:45 p.m. on a Friday night, I expected it to be open, but they had stopped serving food at 6:30 p.m. I could see, from my vantage point in the adjacent African grocery store, a few diners finishing meals and watching the restaurant’s flat screen TV broadcasting news and sports from Ethiopia. I could smell spices throughout the store and was immediately intrigued. The restaurant’s owner Ahmed Mahmed informed my group that they didn’t have enough food remaining — some menu items take all day to roast, so when it’s gone, it’s gone until tomorrow. He apologized and gave my friend’s son a mango juice box from the grocery’s fridge.

Read More.

Interview: Theater Director Weyni Mengesha

Above: A Canadian of Ethiopian descent, Weyni Mengesha
is an accomplished director, actor, composer and the founding
member of “Sound the Horn”, the group that organizes the
annual Selam Youth Festival.

Tadias Magazine
Interview by Aida Fikre

Thursday, July 16, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The following is an interview with the critically acclaimed Theatre Director Weyni Mengesha, one of the founding artists of Sound the Horn – the organization behind the annual Selam Youth Festival in Toronto, Canada.

The event, which marks its 5th anniversary this year, was initially developed to empower Ethiopian and Eritrean youth in Canada through education in the arts to raise awareness about the growing number of HIV cases in both communities. Here is an interview with Weyni Mengesha:

Tadias: How did the concept for Sound the Horn and the Selam Youth Festival come about?

Weyni Mengesha: In 2004 I was a member of People to People Canada’s youth committee along with Jerry Luleseged, Maraki Fikre, Eden Hagos and Shae Zeru. We were asked to create a panel to address the rising rate of HIV within the young members of our community. We felt that it was an important issue but that a panel would not be engaging for youth, and that we needed to do more than deliver statistics. We developed a youth arts festival because we thought the rising rate could also be a symptom of a larger problem. We started thinking of our own confusion around our identity as Ethiopian-Canadians, culture gaps with our Canadian peers, misunderstandings with our parent’s generation and the culture of silence around sexuality. Being misunderstood and lost without open communication within your household could leave young people vulnerable to risky behavior and poor choices around healthy relationships and sexuality. Sound the Horn was developed after the great success of the first festival when we decided to develop the idea further and name ourselves. We have been working together since, developing the festival and training the next generation of artists and community leaders. Sound the Horn leadership program trains ten members a year in different artistic disciplines, health education and leadership skills.

Tadias: With all the major obstacles that plague African and other third world countries, what was the driving factor in choosing the fight against HIV/AIDS as a main cause for Sound the Horn and the Selam Youth Festival?

Weyni: The original idea was developed with People to People Canada whose focus is HIV education and support, locally and back home. It is a reality we need to be educated about, but it is also an entry point for many discussions around what is causing this to be such a big problem among people 15-26. We thought the best way to find this out is to promote communication between this age group and our community. The festival provides a platform for them to express themselves. There is content around HIV education but there are also many other issues raised through the artists who are free to perform what they want. Ultimately it is a festival built to empower and connect our community and make it healthier.

Tadias: What can people look forward to in this year’s installment of SYF?

Weyni: We are excited to be bringing Wayna to the festival this year. This will be her first performance in Canada and we are always happy to connect our community to artists from different cities who are gaining success in their respective fields. I think our audiences will be inspired by her story of dedication, hard work and passion that lead her to her dreams. We are also excited to have Aida Ashenafi’s film Guzo which is also a Canadian premiere. I think it will offer many of the young people who have not been back home a better perspective of it. I am also very proud of our own film built by the Sound the Horn leaders that is premiering before Guzo. It is a ten minute short called “The Gap”. It is about mothers and daughters and the generation gap. I think there are lots of important issues raised with heart and humor.

Tadias: Where do you see STH & SYF in the next 5 years?

Weyni: We have moved from a one day to a three day festival within the five years and I look forward to being able to develop it further, especially in the film section. We would love to present up to four films a year. We would also like to connect with different cities and maybe make a ‘best of’ show and take it on the road.


Weyni Mengesha (Courtesy photo).

Tadias: What inspires you to get involved in the community?

Weyni: I was frustrated growing up in Vancouver as one of the three people of color in my school when the only reference others had for me was from the “we are the world” music video. I remember being excited about the Ethiopian actress on general hospital. I was so hungry to see a reflection of myself in society. This is how I got into the arts, and I credit it with keeping me on the right path. If you don’t find a true reflection you can be vulnerable to investing in whatever images you find. Some of the images I found in the media around what it meant to be black were not productive. I started to create my own expressions, which is a skill I want to offer to the next generation. Sound the horn leaders create work through film, theatre, poetry that is true to who they are and their cultural realities. They become confident and skilled in speaking out and expressing their ideas with their peers and society. I feel the arts can have a huge impact on a community.

Tadias: You are a well known and critically acclaimed Theatre Director in Canada. What are some of your exciting career highlights?

Weyni: I feel very blessed with my career thus far, I have been able to play shows across Canada, in New York and London. I love traveling because you learn so much about a society by the different ways they receive your art, I find it fascinating and very rewarding.

Tadias: What is your advice to Diaspora Ethiopian/Eritrean up and coming artists, directors, musicians, etc.?

Weyni: I am afraid it is not going to be anything new but I do feel it is true, stick to your dreams. The more you believe in your dreams and couple them with hard work, the more you will see things fall in into place. Make time for yourself to check in , keep asking yourself what you really want to create. As an artist one of my key tools are my instincts, time alone with your thoughts can sharpen your instincts and keep them unaltered from everything around you which could water down your unique quality.

Tadias: What should we be looking forward to from you, artistically? Any future projects in the works?

Weyni: My next main stage production is called Yellowman by Dael Orlander-Smith. I am directing it for the 30th anniversary season of Nighwood Theatre Company. It is a piece about shadism, the discrimination between us as black people for our dark or light skin.

Tadias: Any plans to produce and direct in the US? Ethiopia?

Weyni: I have directed a couple pieces in New York, I love traveling and collaborating with new artists. I look forward to those opportunities arising. All you artists out there who want to collaborate or be involved in our festival please contact me at weyni@soundthehorn.com!

Selam Youth Festival from soundthehorn on Vimeo.

If you go:
5th Annual Selam Youth Festival
From July 17th – 19th, 2009
104 Cedarvale Avenue
Toronto, ON, M4C 4J8
Phone: 416 690 8005

Canada: Selam Festival to Feature Guzo and Wayna

Above: Photo from the 2008 Selam Youth Festival. Follow this
event on Facebook.

Tadias Magazine
Events News

Published: Monday, July 13, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The award-winning Ethiopian film Guzo and Grammy-nominated singer Wayna will be featured at the 5th Annual Selam Youth Festival from July 17th – 19th, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.

The annual festival, organized by a group of artists including the artistic director Weyni Mengesha, aims to empower Ethiopian and Eritrean youth in Canada through education in the arts to raise awareness about the growing number of HIV cases in both communities. Per the event’s flier, the festival showcases spoken word, dance, film, theater, hip-hop and more.

Selam Youth Festival from soundthehorn on Vimeo.

The film Guzo, which won best picture at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival, chronicles the interaction between two young residents of Addis Ababa and their peers in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the course of 20-days both the urbanites and country folks were forced to confront stereotypes about each other and grapple with issues of gender and privilege. The film made its U.S. premiere in Washington D.C. on May 9th at GMU’s Lisner Theater.

View photos from Guzo’s Premier in Washington D.C.

If you go:
5th Annual Selam Youth Festival
From July 17th – 19th, 2009
104 Cedarvale Avenue
Toronto, ON, M4C 4J8
Phone: 416 690 8005

Nick Page’s Ethiopian band

Above: Dub Colossus in a Town Called Addis was inspired by
meeting, writing and working with Ethiopian singers and
musicians in Addis Ababa in August 2006, including Singer
Sintayehu ‘Mimi’ Zenebe (Pictured above).

Financial Times
By David Honigmann
Published: July 3 2009

One of the certainties of life in Addis Ababa is that the rainy season will knock out the phone network. Tsedenia Gebremarkos-Woldesilassie, one of Ethiopia’s most celebrated and decorated singers, is driving through the city at high speed, yelling into her mobile, intermittently apologising as the line fractures and drops, recalling the encounter that will soon bring her to England. Read More.

Photos from Chicago: Ethiopian Cultural Festival and Soccer Tournament

Tadias Magazine
Photos by Nolawi Petros

Updated: Saturday, July 3, 2009

Chicago (Tadias) – The Week-long annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament, which opened in Chicago on June 28, will conclude this weekend with a cultural festival and the final games to be held at Lane Tech Stadium.

Although we don’t have actual numbers, the crowd in Chicago seems smaller than the 2008 turnout in Washington D.C.; the festivities however are just as upbeat. Organizers are gearing up for their signature Ethiopia Day Celebration, a popular and colorful cultural display of music, dance and food. Last year’s event featured Ethiopian music legend, the late Tilahun Gessesse. The 2009 ceremonies honor another cultural icon and musician, Mulatu Astatke, among others.

As for the soccer competition: So far over 45 games have already been held involving 27 teams representing various cities from the U.S. and Canada. Four teams have advanced to the semifinals including San Francisco, Atlanta, Seattle and the defending champions, Washington D.C.

The following images were captured by Nolawi Petros for Tadias Magazine.

Jazz Photo Show: Chester Higgins, Frank Stewart, Gediyon Kifle

Above: Miles Davis © Frank Stewart.

ART NEWS
The Gallery at AYN Studio Presents
Stop Time: Jazz & Pictures

Posted: Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Featuring Chester Higgins Jr., Frank Stewart and Gediyon Kifle

The Gallery at AYN Studio is pleased to announce the jazz photo show featuring artists Chester Higgins Jr., Frank Stewart, and Gediyon Kifle. Stop Time refers to a musical device frequently used in jazz, in which the forward movement of the rhythm seemingly stops to allow a soloist space to improvise and continue the forward flow of the music. Contrary to suggestion, however, the rhythm never stops…quite like the history of Jazz.


Duke Ellington © Chester Higgins Jr.

Stop Time is a collection of works by these three award-winning photographers who documented jazz legends from the 20th century into the 21st Century. Each photographer brings his own narrative twist to the great history of jazz icons. Higgins (New York Times and African-American heritage photographer) begins the show with a proud portrait of Duke Ellington to set the “rhythm” of the show. Stewart (NY Foundation for the Arts Fellows and Jazz heritage photographer) brings the uncanny intimacy the musicians have with their music as well as his own intimacy with the musicians, like in his photographs, Miles in the Green Room 1981, and in 1992 Sir Roland Hannah. Kifle documents the excitement of proximity and performance of the musicians. In works like Tommy Flanagan I, II, and III and Solitude (Wynton Marsalis) one can visually hear the soul of the musician and the energy of the audience.


Joe Hendrick © Gediyon Kifle

If you go:
Opening Reception June 25 (6 to 9 pm)
The Gallery @ AYN Studio
923 F street NW 201
Washington, DC 20004
202-271-9475

Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 1-6 pm and by appointment

Girls Gotta Run Foundation Supports Ethiopian Summer Adventures

Publisher’s Note:

Monday, June 22, 2009.

Dr. Patricia E. Ortman, a retired Women’s Studies Professor
and an artist, is the director of Girls Gotta Run Foundation.
Her organization provides new shoes for girls in Ethiopia who
are training to be runners. Here is an update from Pat:

TWO EXCELLENT ETHIOPIAN SUMMER ADVENTURES

Dr. Patricia E. Ortman

Hello! We hope you are having a fabulous summer. If you have time and
interest, you may enjoy following along or occasionally checking in on one
or both of the following blogs.

During the past year, we assisted a brilliant young woman from Occidental
College, Kayla Nolan, in designing a proposal to research the benefits of
running for Ethiopian girls and women. With it, she won a very competitive
fellowship her school offers to students to do summer research projects.
She is now visiting, getting to know, and interviewing, in depth, members
of all four of the teams for whom we provide some support, as well as
learning an enormous amount about Ethiopia in general. She arrived in
Addis Ababa on June 2 and will be there until the end of July. Although
the internet is erratic there, she is keeping a blog for anyone who wants
to follow along: click here.

This past Spring, we provided recommendations for GGRF supporter, WCA
member and full time Philadelphia middle school educator Bonnie
MacAllister in support of her application for this exciting
Fulbright-Hayes teaching fellowship program in Ethiopia. She was selected!
The group heads out on July 8 for a five week sojourn. You can follow
along here.

Meet GGRF-sponsored partners and supporters in this video.

13-Year-old Ethiopian Squash Player Shines at IOC Presentation

Above: A team of six Squash representatives made their
most important presentation so far to the International
Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board in Lausanne,
Switzerland. But it was the youngest member of the
group, 13-year-old Hanna Fekede Balcha, who was the
star of the show.

Source: Sports Features Communications

Today marked a crucial step for the sport of Squash in its bid for inclusion in the Olympic Games from 2016. A team of six Squash representatives made their most important presentation so far to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Executive Board in Lausanne, Switzerland.

But it was the youngest member of the group, 13-year-old Hanna Fekede Balcha, who was the star of the show.

Hanna is Ethiopian, but her family moved to San Diego, USA, when she was nine years old to build a new life for themselves. Hanna was accepted to the Surf City Squash program in San Diego which enables students to play Squash alongside their studies. Through a structured programme which promotes hard work, both academically and physically, Hanna has progressed to being a Grade A student as well as Under 15 Urban Squash Champion. Her aspirations are now to push boundaries even further in becoming the first member of her family to go to university but also, at 20 years old, her dream is to represent Ethiopia at the Olympic Games in 2016.

Hanna said: “I was really nervous but enjoyed doing the presentation today. It has been amazing to travel to Switzerland and meet my hero, Nicol (David – world number one squash player). I feel like squash has given me so many opportunities that I wouldn’t have had otherwise that when I was asked to take part in this presentation I jumped at the chance. I would be so happy to compete at the Olympic Games.”

Hanna joined the team consisting of IOC Member and World Squash Federation (WSF) Patron, HRH Prince Imran of Malaysia; President of the WSF, N Ramachandran; women’s world No1, Nicol David of Malaysia; former world champion, Frenchman Thierry Lincou; and the up-and-coming South African, Siyoli Lusaseni.


The Squash 2016 Bid Team pose outside the IOC headquarters in Lausanne. (L to R),
Thierry Lincou, Nicol David, N Ramachandran, Hanna Fekede Balcha, HRH Prince Imran
of Malaysia, Siyoli Lusaseni and Scott Garrett, the Bid Co-ordinator.

Prince Imran introduced the team, and the Executive Board was then shown a spectacular video, highlighting a number of the key areas that squash believe make them a worthy candidate for inclusion. Among these were the progression the sport has made to be easier and more enjoyable to watch on television; the pledge that the top athletes would compete; the range of nationalities that would be represented (current rankings show there would be 30 different countries involved); and the low cost and accessibility of the sport around the world.

President Ramachandran went on to explain how the WSF has improved the infrastructure of the game, and the way in which the professional organisations work to ensure that Squash is totally ready to be easily incorporated into the Olympic Games. He also talked about the ease and low cost addition of Squash as well as how the sport can easily be hosted in any of the four 2016 bid cities.

The players each outlined why, as athletes, the Olympic Games are so important to them personally, and the many benefits which Squash can bring to people’s lives, and to the Olympics.

The full Squash 2016 bid video can be seen here at: http://www.squash2016.info/video/squash.mov

Ramachandran said: “I am very proud of the presentation we have put together and what we have achieved in getting this far. I believe that we have showed squash to its full potential. I know that we have much to offer the Olympic community, and I hope that the IOC will see the merits of our inclusion.”

Sara Tesfai: up-and-coming Ethiopian Female artist

Above: High School student Sara Tesfai is an up and
coming Ethiopian female artist who was born and raised in
Canada. She was raised by a single mom who supported her
talent from a young age. She started singing in church and
small gatherings at a very young age.

Ethiopian American Supermodel: Having Obama as President is “priceless”

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, June 13, 2009

New York (Tadias) – In a wide ranging interview with Hamptons Magazine, the premier lifestyle publication of one of the world’s most opulent communities, Ethiopian American Supermodel Liya Kebede discusses her new children’s clothing line, her upcoming movie gig, politics and more.

And what does Liya think of President Obama’s performance so far?

“Fantastic. It’s such a moment for us to have him as president. The way everybody sees America has completely transformed since he’s been in office, and everybody is looking up to him,” she told Hamptons.

“For me and my kids, living in America, it’s so great to see a black president. I’m not sure I thought I would ever see it in my lifetime. And now for my kids it’s something normal, which is priceless.”

Read the interview at Hamptons-Magazine.com.

Related:
Interview with Sara Nuru: Germany’s Next Top Model

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff
Photos by Oliver S

Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The following is an interview with Sarah Nuru, who was crowned Germany’s Top Model last month after she beat out 21,000 contestants to claim the coveted title.

Heidi Klum, the top model host, made the announcement in front of a packed crowd of 15,000 in the Cologne Lanxess Arena.

Watch the Video

The 19-year-old fashion model from Munich, whose parents
immigrated from Ethiopia, has earned the nickname “Sunshine”
from Germany’s Next Top Model, and was wildly popular with her
competitors.

Click here to read Tadias’ interview with Sara Nuru.

Grammy Nominated Singer Wayna Comes to Philly

Upcoming Events
Published: Thursday, June 11, 2009

NateBrown Entertainment Presents Wayna
Grammy nominated recording artist Wayna comes to Philly
for a special debut performance on June 18, 2009. It takes
place at Temptations Jazz Restaurant & Jazz Club (218 W.
Chelten Avenue Philadelphia PA 19144). There are two
shows: 8pm and 10pm. You can buy tickets at:
waynaphillydebut.eventbrite.com


More info about Wayna at: www.wayna.net

Long Distance: A film about an Ethiopian athlete in the Bronx

Events News
Source: Brooklyn International Film Festival
Category: Documentary
Director: Moritz Siebert
(a freelance journalist, a medical doctor and a filmmaker)
Showtime: 2:00 pm | Saturday June 13 | Brooklyn Heights Cinema

Synopsis
Abiyot is one of several African long distance runners, trying to make a living and career in the US. Once he was a promising member of the Ethiopian national team, but two years ago he left his country to start a new life. Weekend after weekend, he races with fellow African athletes in road races, competing over a few hundred dollars of prize money. The film follows Abiyot as he prepares for an important race. Every morning at break of dawn he tirelessly trains in the empty streets of his Bronx neighborhood. With every aspect of his daily routine centered on his training, his footsteps not only dictate the rhythm of his life, but also become the pervasive rhythm of the film. In phone calls with his family back home, Abiyot tries to convince them and himself, that the running will pay off in the long term… A film about endurance, migration and the American Dream.

WATCH TRAILER

Power Couple: Ethiopian-born Gelila Assefa & Husband Wolfgang Puck

Above: Wolfgang Puck, 59, Restaurateur, and his second
wife Ethiopian-born Gelila Assefa Puck, 39, High-End Clothier,
share the distinction of being one of several power couples
featured on the Forbes Magazine’s list of ‘Married Celebrity
Entrepreneurs.’

‘Could you imagine if I didn’t work and just sat and home and waited for him once my kids went to bed?’ asks Gelila Assafa Puck, second wife of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. Ethiopian-born Assefa Puck owned her own Los Angeles couture store from 1998 through 2001. In 2006, she launched a line of high-end handbags, manufactured in South Africa, that sell for $7,000 to $30,000. (She says she hopes to return to fashion design when her 2- and 4-year-old sons are old enough for school.) If that weren’t enough, she also operates a non-profit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, that sponsors secondary schooling for about 400 children.

See more Married Celebrity Entrepreneurs at Forbes.com.

Photos from L.A.’s Little Ethiopia: Tsehai Poetry Jam

Above: Singer-songwriter Meklit Hadero at Tsehai Poetry Jam,
May 31, 2009 @ Messob Restaurant in L.A.’s Little Ethiopia.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, June 3, 2009

New York (Tadias) – An intergenerational poetry reading and panel discussion examining four decades of Ethiopian immigrant’s life in the U.S was held this past weekend in Los Angeles.

The Tsehai Poetry Jam, which was presented in cooperation with PEN USA, the Ethiopian Heritage Foundation and Tsehai Publishers, was held at Messob Restaurant & Lounge, located in the official neighborhood of Little Ethiopia on Fairfax Avenue.

A similar event in Chicago is scheduled for early July in conjunction with the The Fourth Annual Tsehai conference.

Below are photo highlights from the L.A. event courtesy of Tsehai Publishers.

Photos by Richard Beban

Addis Journal: Stencil Paintings for the Ethiopian Music Festival

Source: The Visual Poets Society
(Re-posted here with permission).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

By Arefe

The picture above is a stenciled portrait of Alemayehu Eshete, a renowned Ethiopian vocalist, being displayed at an exhibition in Addis at Alliance Ethio-Francaise’s gallery starting from Friday, May 15 as a part of the 8th Ethiopian Music Festival.

The work by French painter, Pierr Dumond, (known by his artistic name Artiste-Ouvrier) is based on a photograph from Abyssinia Swing, showing Alemayehu in his youth as a nineteen-year old obscure singer.

The second portrait based on a photo taken six months later illustrates the
singer’s stunning transformation that came with his new-found fame and an
Elvis Presley look.

The acrylics works are highly detailed stencils and silk screened on canvass. Artist-Ouvrier’s technical skill in combining emphatic brushstrokes with photographic imagery has captivated viewers.

The artist has also displayed other portraits of Ethiopian musicians such as Tilahun Gessesse and a group portrait of Tilahun Gessesse, Mahamoud Ahmed, Bizunesh Bekele.

The collections are among the 600 works that Artist-Ouvrier has been doing since
March 1, 2009 in preparation for the Music Festival.

The Festival which opened on Friday this year has chosen to honour two composers and arrangers, Sahle Degago and Lemma Demissew, two prevalent figures of “Swinging Addis “,”unfairly erased from collective memory”, according organizers.

Sahle Degago has spent his whole musical career among the Imperial Bodyguard Orchestra. An inspired melodist, a delicate songwriter and above all an arranger as sophisticated as prolific, he was the main architect of the successes of other members of the Orchestra such as Tilahoun Gessesse, Bezunesh Bekele or Mahmoud Ahmed, according to the promotional brochures.

The career of Lemma Demissew bloomed in the shade of the Army Band. Contrary to Sahle Degago, who was strongly Ethiopian in his approach, Lemma Demissew was often a feverish modernist, deeply inspired by the electric wave born on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. A pianist, a composer, a singer, he will also remain, for our music lovers’ soft little hearts, the beloved arranger of many of Mahmoud Ahmed’s or Alemayehu Eshete’s anthological vinyl records.

——–

Publisher’s note: This piece is re-posted from the Visual Poets Society’s blog with permission.

Got Mother’s Day flowers? Ethiopia does, but few are buying

The Christian Science Monitor
By Aidan Jones

Ethiopia is being hit hard by a dramatic slump in demand for flowers as the
global economic crisis forces consumers to curb spending on
perceived luxuries.

Sabeta, Ethiopia – A local pop song trills out from the radio, filling the cavernous packing hall at the Ethio Highland Flora farm in Sabeta, a 45-minute drive from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Dozens of workers tackle a seemingly endless stack of exotically named roses, separating the short stems and rotten petals from the bright Valentino, Duo Unique, Wild Calypso, and Alyssa blooms destined for Europe. Most of the farm’s 400 employees earn less than a dollar a day, but it is a steady wage in one of the world’s poorest nations where 80 percent of the population lives off the land. Read more.

Mother’s Day:
Essence Magazine’s Interview with Michelle Obama & Mom


Essence magazine’s current cover story, dedicated to to Mother’s Day,
features an exclusive interview with First Lady Michelle Obama and her
mother, Marian Robinson. In the following CNN video, Tony Harris talks
with Essence editor Angela Burt-Murray about the interview.

Mrs. O, mom give interview (CNN VIDEO)

Part Two of Ethiopians in Hollywood: Filmmaker Zee Mehari (VIDEO)

Tadias TV
Published: Monday, May 4th 2009

New York (Tadias) – Part two of Tadias TV’s Ethiopians in Hollywood series features writer and director Zeresenay (Zee) Berhane Mehari, who worked as Cinematographer and Second Unit Director on Aida Ashenafi’s highly acclaimed new film Guzo (Amharic for Journey).

The film, which won best picture at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival, chronicles the interaction between two young residents of Addis Ababa and their peers in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the course of 20-days both the urbanites and country folks are forced to confront stereotypes about each other and grapple with issues of gender and privilege. The film is scheduled to premier in Washington DC on May 9th at the Lisner Theater (GWU).

Zee first appeared on Tadias on our June-July 2004 print issue. The following interview was taped in Los Angeles last month. Part one of this series highlighted Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz, who discussed his role as one of the judges at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival and his experience as a filmmaker.

Part One with Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz

Interview with Academy Award Nominee Leelai Demoz (Tadias TV)

Above: Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz (Tadias).

Tadias TV
Published: Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New York (Tadias) – In the following interview with Tadias TV, Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz, speaks about his role as one of the judges at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival and his experience as a filmmaker. The documentary Guzo (The Journey), directed by Aida Ashenafi won first place in this year’s competition. The film is scheduled to premier in Washington DC on May 9th at the Lisner Theater (GWU).

Leelai’s interview was taped in Los Angeles. Part two of our Ethiopians in Hollywood series features filmmaker Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, who worked as Cinematographer and 2nd Unit Director for Guzo.

Part Two: Featuring Filmmaker Zeresenay (Zee) Berhane Mehari

Related: Interview With Director Aida Ashenafi
Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff
Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009
The film chronicles the interaction between two young residents of Addis Ababa and their peers in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the course of 20-days both the urbanites and country folks are forced to confront stereotypes about each other and grapple with issues of gender and privilege. Read more.

The Film Guzo: Interview With Director Aida Ashenafi

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, April 22, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The following is an interview with Ethiopian-born filmmaker Aida Ashenafi. Her latest documentary Guzo (Amharic for Journey), which won first place at the 3rd Annual Addis International Film Festival last month, is scheduled to premier in Washington, DC, on May 9, 2009.

The film chronicles the interaction between two young residents of Addis Ababa and their peers in the Ethiopian countryside. Over the course of 20-days both the urbanites and country folks are forced to confront stereotypes about each other and grapple with issues of gender and privilege.


Aida Ashenafi

Tadias: Aida, congratulations on winning the first place
at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival.

Aida Ashenafi: Thank-you very much! It is always a great honor when your hard work is recognized and enjoyed by many.

My role in the making of Guzo was to be the creative force as the director as well as the producer. I feel blessed everyday because I thoroughly enjoy being a part of the experience whether it is being I am directing, interacting with the cast and crew, editing, or even creating marketing material. This is what I love to do. I filmed and directed Guzo over the course of 20 days. Basically, we transplanted two urban Addis young adults and gave them a taste of rural Ethiopia. I really hope that everyone will go and see the movie which will be premiering in DC on May 9, 2009 with follow up shows on Memorial Day weekend May 23-24 at George Washington University’s Lisner Auditorium.


The film crew at work (photo courtesy of Mango Production)


(photo courtesy of Mango Production)

Tadias: What inspires you most about filmmaking?

Aida: I have always loved the art of storytelling and engaging behind the lens of the camera. Guzo was a project that both inspired and intrigued me from the beginning. As my filmmaking background is mostly fiction films, not documentary, I feel that Guzo is more entertaining and tremendously relatable whether you come from the city, the countryside, Ethiopian, American, European etc…It crosses many boundaries while touching on human issues that bond us all.

Tadias: You were a New Yorker before transplanted yourself and began living and working in Ethiopia. What is your advice to aspiring Ethiopian-American filmmakers and investors who are interested in producing movies in Ethiopia?

Aida: My most important piece of advice whether you may be an aspiring film maker or an investor is patience. Patience, especially in Ethiopia, will go a long way because everything takes time. Secondly, I feel that it is so important to look for a great story to tell. Finally, one really needs to associate themselves with key people that will push you forward and that have complementary skills that will help you achieve your goals.

Tadias: Aida, thank you from all of us at Tadias and good luck.

Aida: Thank you Tadias Magazine for the pleasure of this interview and the additional spotlight you have brought to my film Guzo-The Journey.


VIDEO: Interview with Academy Award Nominee Leelai Demoz (Tadias TV)
In the following interview with Tadias TV, Academy Award nominee Leelai Demoz, speaks about his role as one of the judges at the 2009 Addis International Film Festival and his experience as a filmmaker. The documentary Guzo (The Journey), directed by Aida Ashenafi won first place in this year’s competition. Leelai’s interview was taped in Los Angeles. Part two of our Ethiopians in Hollywood series features filmmaker Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, who worked as Cinematographer and 2nd Unit Director for Guzo.

Part Two: Featuring Filmmaker Zeresenay (Zee) Berhane Mehari

Queen of Sheba Represents Ethiopia at Choice Eats 2009 (Tadias TV)

Tadias TV
Cover photo by Kidane Mariam for Tadias Magazine

New York – The following video shows the second Choice Eats tasting event organized by The Village Voice, the nation’s first and largest alternative newsweekly. Among those dishing out delicious and eclectic cuisine was Philipos Mengistu, owner and Executive Chef of Queen of Sheba, and his wife, Sara. The event took place on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at the historic 69th Armory on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan. Enjoy!

Video: K’naan’s Crew Member Wears Bernos

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, April 10, 2009

New York (Tadias) – A little over a year ago, on March 28, 2008, we featured an upstart clothing company called Bernos, founded by young Ethiopian and Eritrean entrepreneurs and artists in the United States. And this morning, when we checked our inbox, we discovered an exciting short video in which Rayzak, a member of the Somali-born rapper K’naan’s crew, is shown wearing the Bernos Made in Africa shirt. Enjoy!

Bernos Tees blend hip and culture

By Tadias Staff

New York (Tadias) – It all started with a boring job that left graphic designer Nolawi Petros itching to do something artistic.

Designing test booklets for No Child Left Behind at his day job did little to satisfy Petros’ appetite for artistic creation.

“The truth is, I was at a job where I didn’t have a lot of creative things to do,” Nolawi says.

So he decided it was time to launch Bernos, an online t-shirt vending company that now doubles as a sort of virtual Ethiopian community center through an active blog.

He had been kicking around the idea of starting a t-shirt designing and making venture for some time.

“If it works, it works; if doesn’t, it doesn’t,” Petros said at the time, but he thought it was at least worth a try.

It did work.

In May 2005, launched Bernos with three designs: Addis Ababa Classic, a red shirt with the words “Addis Ababa” written in a font resembling Coca-Cola’s, an Abebe Bekila shirt, and a shirt featuring Desta Keremela, the staple candy brand found in pretty much every souk in Ethiopia.

bernos_inside1.jpg
Above: Bernos shirt with the words “Addis Ababa” written in a font resembling
Coca-Cola’s. (Photo: Bernos.org).

bernos_inside2_new.jpg
Above: A shirt featuring Desta Keremela, the staple candy brand found in pretty
much every neighborhood shop in Ethiopia. (Photo: Bernos.org).

The business is named after the heavy wool cloak that became a status symbol after being introduced to Ethiopia by the Arabs.

“Wearing the Bernos in Ethiopia was a lot like wearing a sheriff’s badge in the American West,” Bernos says on its website.

“Today, anyone can capture and celebrate some of Ethiopia’s history and the status of the Bernos by wearing one of our unique t-shirts.”

And if the fact that they’ve sold out of many of their designs is any indication, the Bernos t-shirt is a status symbol that more than a few people have bought into.

Petros says that for the 13 designs that the website has now, he’s probably designed another 30 that he’s decided to toss out or hold on to for later.

While Petros handles much of the design work, he has business partners handle the other elements of running a business: Dawit Kahsai handles finances, Meron Samuel is the head of marketing and sales, and Beshou Gedamu is Bernos’ t-shirt model and photographer.

So far, the venture has been built on volunteer labor—the partners view their time as their primary investment in the business, Petros says.

The Bernos site gets about 500 hits a day, mostly Abeshas on the East Coast, Petros says, but although the Bernos team are Ethiopians (Dawit Kahsai is Eritrean), they don’t see their venture as an “Abesha” or even an “African” brand.

Most orders do come from major U.S. cities with big Abesha populations: Oakland, Seattle, Washington, DC, and New York City, some order have popped up from more far flung locations—everywhere from Fargo, North Dakota to Mississipi.

Even though they’ve cornered the internet-savvy Abesha market that likes hip T-shirts, Petros says a little number-crunching reveals that market is still pretty small.

“Let’s say there are 500,000 Ethiopians in the U.S.—out of those, 20 percent use the internet, (and of those, some) are into fashion or T-shirts. So, when you think about it, we don’t have a big market,” says Petros.

About 30 percent of the T-shirts go to non-Ethiopians, and Petros says they’re trying to expand that number. That trend has been reflected in the shift in designs from the “Addis Ababa Classic” that launched the site to more recent designs named “Roots,” and “d’Afrique,” which have more pan-African appeal.

dafrique4inside.jpg
Above: “d’Afrique”, a more recent Bernos design. (Photo: Bernos.org).

roots4inside.jpg
Above: Another recent design named “Roots,” which has a more pan-African
appeal. (Photo: Bernos.org).

But Petros says he wants to branch out of that niche too.

“These t-shirts have mass appeal for all black people but also for white people,” Petros said.

With t-shirts that garner a broader following, Bernos hopes their line will eventually be carried by a national clothing chain like Urban Outfitters.

—-
Learn More about Bernos Tees at Bernos.org

Ethiopian-Groove: Boston’s Debo Band Playing in NYC

Tadias Events News
Updated: Friday, April 10, 2009

Debo Band, Boston’s 8-piece Ethio-groove collective, is playing in NYC
tonight at L’Orange Bleue (doors open at 10pm).

Jamaica Plain, MA: Debo Band has been cultivating a small but enthusiastic following in the loft spaces, neighborhood bars, and church basements of Boston for the past three years. But very soon, they will be playing for a much larger audience. In May, Debo will travel to Ethiopia to perform at the Ethiopian Music Festival in the capital, Addis Ababa. Their engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Now the band is getting ready with a busy schedule of hometown shows and will perform for the first time in front of audiences in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

Ethiopian-American jazz saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Harvard University, founded Debo in 2006 as a way of exploring the unique sounds that filled the dance clubs of “Swinging Addis” in the 1960s and 70s. Danny was mesmerized by the unlikely confluence of contemporary American soul and funk music, traditional East African polyrhythms and pentatonic scales, and the instrumentation of Eastern European brass bands. Ethiopian audiences instantly recognize this sound as the soundtrack of their youth, carried from party to kitchen on the ubiquitous cassette tapes of the time. And increasingly, erudite American and European audiences are also getting hip to the Ethiopian groove, largely through CD reissues of Ethiopian classics on the Ethiopiques series – not so coincidentally, some of the same people who are behind the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis.

Debo Band draws audiences from both mainstream America and Ethiopian American communities. They have opened for legendary Ethiopian greats such as Tilahun Gessesse and Getatchew Mekuria, who has lately been collaborating with Dutch punk veterans The Ex. Debo’s unique instrumentation, including horns, strings, and accordion, is a nod to the big bands of Haile Selassie’s Imperial Bodyguard Band and Police Orchestra. Their lead vocalist, Bruck Tesfaye, has the kind of pipes that reverberate with the sound of beloved Ethiopian vocalists like Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete. Although Debo Band is steeped in the classic big band sound of the 1960s and 70s, they also perform original compositions and new arrangements along with more contemporary sounds such as Roha Band and Teddy Afro.


Photo by Bruck Tesfaye

If you go:
L’Orange Bleue, NYC
10pm
430 Broome St.
NY, NY 10013
http://www.lorangebleue.com/
$10

Saturday April 11, 7:30 pm – Crossroads Music Series, Philadelphia
with Belasco/Jamal Trio (Philadelphia)
Calvary United Methodist Church
48th Street and Baltimore Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
http://www.crossroadsconcerts.org/
$8-12

Sunday April 12, 10pm – Babylon FC, Falls Church, VA
with East Origin Band (Washington, DC)
3501 South Jefferson St.
Falls Church, VA 22041
http://www.babylonfc.com/babylounge/
$10

Press Contact:
Danny Mekonnen
(903) 491-4118, cell
danny.mekonnen@gmail.com
http://www.myspace.com/deboband

Two Ethiopian-American Obama Aides to Watch in Washington Politics

Above: 23 year-old Yohannes Abraham (left) and 28 year-
old Addisu Demissie (right). Photo – Marvin Joseph–The Root/
The Washington Post.

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, April 9, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The election of Barack Obama as President has empowered and expanded the visibility of minorities in political leadership. The Root, a daily online magazine published by Washington Post and Newsweek Interactive, has named two Ethiopian Americans on its list of 10 dynamic young leaders to watch for in Obama’s Washington.

28 year-old Addisu Demissie and 23 year-old Yohannes Abraham are both graduates of Yale University. Both arrived at the nation’s capital after being initiated into politics, in what The Root describes as “the grueling two-year campaign, counting delegates, crunching polls, spinning the press, working doors and phones, managing armies of volunteers, reaping millions of new voter registrations and logging thousands of hours working for change.” Mr. Demissie is now serving as the National Political Director for Organizing for America, while Mr. Abraham is an Assistant to the Deputy Director of Legislative Affairs at the White House.

Mr. Abraham had joined the Obama presidential campaign in 2007 helping to win Obama’s first victory in Iowa. He campaigned in South Carolina, Ohio, Mississippi, and North Carolina before becoming the Regional Political Director in the battle-ground state of Virginia, his native state.

Canadian-born Demissie had previously worked on Kerry’s campaign and served as a key aide for Terry McAuliffe, before joining the Obama campaign and working as Get Out the Vote Director in Ohio.

Abraham and Demissie are cited by The Root as two of ten young Black Obama aides to watch in Washington Politics.

Read more at:

http://www.theroot.com/views/roots-talented-ten-yohannes-abraham

http://www.theroot.com/views/roots-talented-ten-addisu-demissie

Ethiopian Jazz, Ellington and more: LA Weekly’s Conversation With Mulatu Astatke

LA Weekly
By Jeff Weiss in weiss
Wednesday, April 8, 2009.

A Conversation With Mulatu Astatke: On Heliocentrics, Ethio-Jazz and Ellington

Rivaling Fela Kuti, King Sunny Ade, Franco, Tabu Ley Rochereau, and a handful of others, Mulatu Astatke ranks among the most influential African musicians of all-time. The father of Ethio-Jazz, the Berklee-trained Mulatu was the first of his countryman to fuse American jazz and funk, with native folk and Coptic Chuch melodies. The leading light of the “Swingin’ Addis-”era, Astatke is often acknowledged as the star of the epic Ethiopiques Series, At least, according to filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, who included songs from the Mulatu-arranged and composed, Vol. 4, in his ode to midlife melancholia, Broken Flowers. Read More.

Related: Ace to Ace interview with Mulatu AstatkeMulatu Astatqe (VIDEO)
In the Ethiopian musical world Mulatu Astatke is atypical, totally unique, a legend unto himself. He was the first Ethiopian musician educated abroad, object of tribute and admiration. Mulatu is the the inventor and maybe the only musician of Ethio-Jazz (Jazz instrumentals with strong brass rythms and traditionnal elements of Ethiopian music). Watch the video here.

Top 5 Passover Traditions From Around The World

Above: Newly-arrived Ethiopian Jews, dance and sing April
14, 1985 in Jerusalem during the open-air festival of Mimouna
to celebrate the end of Passover. After the fall of Emperor Haile
Selassie of Ethiopia, Israel had smuggled them out of Ethiopia.
(AFP/Getty Images)

Source: HuffingtonPost.com

5) ETHIOPIA: Ethiopian Jews’ history is strikingly similar to that of their Israelite ancestors. The Jewish community there underwent an exodus of their own in 1985, when Operation Moses and Joshua took almost 8,000 Jews from Sudan to a safe-haven in Israel, according to the Jewish Virtual Library. In commemoration of Passover and their own past, Ethiopian Jews break all of their dishes and make new ones to symbolize a complete break from the past and a new start, reports The Jewish Daily Forward. Want more interesting Passover trivia? Read more at HuffingtonPost.com.

Out of Ethiopia, Educated in Israel, and Back to Africa to Assist Rwanda

Above: Israeli navy soldiers walk towards a prayer ceremony held on the Ethiopian
Jews’ Sigd holiday on a hill overlooking Jerusalem. The prayer is performed by Ethiopian
Jews every year to celebrate their community’s connection and commitment to Israel.
About 80,000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel, many of them came in massive Israeli airlifts
during times of crisis in Ethiopia in 1984 and 1991. (AP)

Tadias Magazine
By Howard M. Lenhoff and Nathan Shapiro,
(Former Presidents of the American Association for
Ethiopian Jews)

Updated: Monday, April 6, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Today Ethiopian Jews who were rescued from Africa during Operation Moses in 1984 and subsequently educated in Israel, are returning to Africa to help educate orphans who survived the genocide in Rwanda. Is this the start of a unique new stage in the history of the Jews of Ethiopia?

Just 35 years ago fewer than 200 Ethiopian Jews were residents of Israel. Then, in 1974, the American Association for Ethiopian Jews (AAEJ) began its grassroots efforts to rescue and bring to Israel those who were suffering in Africa. Could we ever imagine that by 2009 over 100,000 Ethiopian Jews would become Israeli citizens?

It is good to know that we helped fulfill Hillel’s proverb of “To save a soul, is to save a nation.” AAEJ and Isreali rescues from the Sudan refugee camps between 1979 and 1984-5 began the saga; then Operations Solomon and Sheba brought close to 10,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel. The year 1991 saw the culmination of these heroic rescue campaigns in the dramatic airlift of Operation Solomon when 14,235 Ethiopian Jews were brought to safety. Thus, Israel in partnership with the AAEJ and other activists, and the U.S.A., did actually save a nation. (See Black Jews, Jews and other Heroes: How Grassroots Activism Led to the Rescue of the Ethiopian Jews, by Howard Lenhoff, Gefen, Jerusalem, 2007.)

As presidents of the American Association for Ethiopian Jews between 1978 and 1993, when we disbanded, we continue to take pride in the fruits of that mission today. Not only are the Ethiopian Jews living as free people in Israel, but their successes have continuously inspired and enriched the lives of tens of thousands of Israeli and American Jews who supported their rescue and adjustment in Israel.

Now we are thrilled to see the Ethiopian Jews bringing something else quite special to further enrich the multi-cultural nature of Israeli society and the status of Israel among the nations of the world: The Beta Yisrael are becoming an essential link in giving hope for a new life to orphans in Rwanda!

The JTA has already reported news of the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village presently being constructed by the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) in Rwamagana, Rwanda. The village is modeled after the Youth Aliyah Village of Yemin Orde, which was started to assist orphans from the Holocaust, and which played a major role in assisting the Ethiopian orphans, especially those who had lost their parents in the refugee camps of Sudan just before Operation Moses twenty-five years ago.

Why are we excited? Because nearly a dozen Ethiopian Israeli volunteers will be participating in the training of the Rwandans as resident teachers and staff of the orphans at the Agahozo Shalom Youth Village. All of these volunteers are Ethiopian Jews who escaped the poverty and wars of Ethiopia to become Israelis. Now they are returning to offer humanitarian assistance on behalf of Israel to save another nation in Africa.

The Israeli staff person serving as Deputy Director of Informal Education is the well-educated Ethiopian Jew, Shimon Solomon. He is assisted by a former Ethiopian paratrooper and animal husbandry expert, Dror Neguissi, who will serve as coordinator for the Ethiopian Israelis who will be volunteering at the village over the course of the next year.

The idea for the project was conceived in November 2005 and by January of this year 18 housing units had been built, each of them home for 16 Rwandan orphans. In March, during a field visit by the JDC, a remarkable episode took place. Will Recant, former Executive Director of the AAEJ, and now an Assistant Executive Vice President at JDC and the acting JDC Director on this project, observed a most beautiful and engaging exchange when Dror Neguissi went from house to house with his laptop to share with for the Rwanda orphans a PowerPoint illustrating his personal journey from Ethiopia to Israel. First there were photographs illustrating life as an Ethiopian Jew growing up in a typical village in rural Africa. Next he showed photographs of the trek through the Sudan and the refugee camps where thousands of Ethiopian Jews lost their lives. He concluded with photos of the Beta Yisrael orphans at Yemin Orde and in Israel.

The Rwandan students were surprised and moved by the presentation. They identified with Dror, who like them, had suffered and lost family in Africa, and like them, was African. The story gave them hope; maybe they too could go on to prosper.

Just think: What if Israel were to train many more of the Ethiopian Jews, to form an Israeli Peace Corps to educate orphans of Rwanda and of other African countries who are trying to survive the bloodshed, disease, and famines which plague them?

The journey of these Ethiopian volunteers is iconic; they’ve traveled out of Ethiopia, became educated in Israel, and returned back to Africa to help their African brethren. Thirty five years ago American Jews were campaigning for the rescue from the squalid refugee camps of the Sudan of the Ethiopian Jews including those who are now volunteers in Rwanda. Today we pray for Israel to train and send more of its Ethiopian Jews to help the destitute orphans of Africa.

For more information, contact H. M. Lenhoff, Prof. Emeritus, University of California, at 662-801-6406.

The New York African Film Festival

Above: The film Fighting Spirit by George Amponsah, UK/
USA/Ghana, 2007; 80m. In English and Ga screening with Siki,
Ring Wrestler Mamadou Niang, USA/Senegal, 1993; 12m.

Tadias Events News
By Tadias Staff

New York (Tadias) – Get ready for an incredible journey. The New York African Film Festival opens tonight with Behind the Rainbow, a riveting exploration of a pivotal rift in South African politics. Running at the Walter Reade Theater from April 8-14, The New York African Film Festival covers the most topical and vibrant facets of Africa today.

Read on for some highlights of the program. Click Here.

Legendary Artist Annie Lee Exhibits in Brooklyn

Tadias Events News
Published: Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Source: House of Art Gallery

New York – House of Art Gallery welcomes Ms. Annie Frances Lee – artist, gallery owner, and art distributor – in her first exhibition in Brooklyn.

Annie Lee is an internationally acclaimed artist and gallery owner known to art collectors the world over. Lee learned the ability to focus and stay on task from her childhood, because back then things were done on schedule–laundry on Monday, ironing on Tuesday, and so on. On Sunday the family would dress up and go to church. “Gimme Dat Gum!” recalls such a time. Annie thinks back with a warm smile on quarter parties, chicken in the box, saddle oxfords and the cute football player at Wendall Phillips High School, her alma mater.

A long time friend and school mate talked Annie into having her own show at his art gallery in 1985. The show was a tremendous success. Annie Lee is a humorist and a realist and her style has been referred to as “Black Americanna.” Her works are in Bill Cosby’s spin-off show “A Different World”: Eddie Murphy’s “Coming to America” and “Boomerang.”


Above image: By Annie Lee, “Juke Joint”
(Medium: Limited Edition Giclee, Edition Size: 995, Size: 15″ x 30″)

Ms. Lee has extended her creativity to designing high fashion dolls and doll clothing. She creating figurines of the characters she has developed, publishing the works of other artists, and opening her second gallery, one even larger than her first venture in Hazel Crest, Illinois.

Cover image: By Annie Lee, “Cue-T” (Medium: Limited Edition Giclee, Edition Size: 995, Size: 22″ x 30″)

If you go:
Artist Opening Reception
Saturday, April 4, 2009
6:00pm – 10:00pm

House of Art Gallery
373 Lewis Avenue
(between MacDonogh and Macon)
Brooklyn, New York 11233

RSVP events@nychouseofart.com or
call (347) 663-8195
www.nychouseofart.com

Jessica Rankin’s Solo Exhibition Featuring Embroidery

Tadias Events News
Published: Thursday, March 26th, 2009
(Opening Reception: Thursday, March 26th, 6-8 pm)

New York, NYThe Project is pleased to present Jessica Rankin’s second solo exhibition at the gallery featuring her embroidery works and a new series of drawings and watercolors. Rankin’s hand-embroidered panels of organdy resume her exploration of memory, geographic displacement and the passage of time. Embedded with personal, cartographic and scientific information, these detailed mosaics have also been inspired by the Enuma Elish, an ancient Babylonian epic poem about the creation of the universe.

Meandering between diaristic excerpts, poetic interludes and philosophical proposals, Rankin’s meticulously stitched textual patterns produce a field of non-linear associations reflecting the fragmentation and cross-referencing of lived experience in memory. With a visual vocabulary that relies heavily on the topographical and celestial—constellations, planets and river deltas, among others—Rankin integrates text and image to construct what she refers to as “brainscapes,” which function as abstract portraits of journeys, both physical and mental. In reference to past work, this new series of embroidery works were completed with a looser, more painterly approach with threads hanging from the organdy canvas. Delicately pinned an inch away from the wall, the translucent sheets of organdy allow Rankin’s handiwork to cast shadows, thereby adding a further level of depth and definition.


Above: Image: Untitled (detail), 2009, embroidery on organdy, 107 x 90
inches. (Courtesy of the artist and the gallery The Project).

Rankin’s drawings and watercolors pursue an alternate path in which details of landscapes come into focus. Trees, vegetation, rock formations, horizons, the Sun and the Moon are all featured as points of meditation for gestural brushstrokes and pooling washes of color.

Rankin was born in Sydney, Australia in 1971 and currently lives and works in Berlin, Germany. Recent solo exhibitions include White Cube, London (2007), P.S. 1 Contemporary Arts Center, Long Island City, NY (2006) and The Project, New York (2005), as well as selected group exhibitions at the Salina Art Centre, Salina, KS (2006) and Carlier l Gebauer, Berlin, Germany (2004), Artists’ Space, New York (2003), Greenberg Van Doren Fine Art, New York (2003), The Project, New York (2003).

If you go:
Opening Reception: Thursday, March 26th, 6-8 pm
The Project
37W 57th Street, 3rd floor
New York, NY 10019
T:+1 212 688 1585
F:+1 212 688 1589
www.elproyecto.com

Exhibition Honoring Helen Suzman

Tadias Events News
Published: Thursday, March 26, 2009

New York, NY: One of the most extraordinary women of our century, Helen Suzman devoted her career to the fight against apartheid in South Africa. As a tribute to her exceptional efforts, the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at the University of Cape Town, under the direction of Dr. Milton Shain, organized a graphic panel exhibition that captures her life work. This moving and inspiring exhibition – which was conceptualized, researched, and written by Millie Pimstone and designed by Linda Bester – will be on view at the Rotunda, Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC, from April 27 – May 1, 2009. The exhibition is sponsored through the Office of Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY).

On April 27, an opening reception will feature Ann Lewis, Margaret Marshall, the Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, and other noted speakers (Program in progress). The viewing of the exhibition and reception begin at 5:30pm in the Russell Caucus Room 385 above the Rotunda. The remarks are scheduled from 6:30pm to 7:30pm in the Caucus Room. The public is invited free of charge.

Helen Suzman: Fighter for Human Rights traces the life and times of a great South African. We are deeply honored and delighted that the role of this extraordinary woman will be recognized in Washington, DC,” said Professor Milton Shain, Director of the Isaac and Jessie Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research, University of Cape Town.

From the start of her political career that spanned almost four decades, Helen Suzman opposed the evils of apartheid and used the parliamentary system to challenge these inhumane policies. For thirteen years (1961-1974) she was the only Progressive Party member of Parliament and the sole opposition voice condemning apartheid. Through photographs, personal letters, quotations from speeches and news articles, this exhibition tells of the animosity, anti-Semitism and intimidation Suzman faced throughout her career. It also highlights her enduring friendship with Nelson Mandela which began in early 1967 when she met him at the infamous Robben Island Prison where he was a political prisoner.

Suzman was nominated twice for the Nobel Peace Price in recognition of her contribution to the pursuit of justice in South Africa. She received the United Nations Award of the International League for Human Rights in 1978. In 1989, Queen Elizabeth conferred on her an Honorary Dame Commander (Civil Division) of the Order of the British Empire. Suzman died on January 1, 2009, at the age of 91. Flags across South Africa were flown at half-mast while tributes poured in from around the world.

If you go:
Exhibition on View at the Russell Senate Office Building Rotunda, Washington, DC
(April 27 – MAY 1, 2009)

The United States tour of the exhibition is sponsored by the Dobkin Family Foundation and the Tolan Family Foundation.

For more information contact Exhibition Manager, Jill Vexler, PhD at 212-505-6427, jill@jillvexler.com or Publicist, Rachel Tarlow Gul at 201-503-1321, Rachel@otrpr.com.

Revocup: Ethiopian Coffee via Kansas

Tadias Magazine
By Tadias Staff

Published: Saturday, March 21, 2009

New York (Tadias) – While Starbucks lags behind on their promise to open a support center for its coffee farmers in Ethiopia, Kansas-based Revocup Coffee Roasters is giving back 10 cents for every cup of coffee and 1 dollar for every pound of coffee sold. After revisiting their birth place, the founders of Revocup wanted to change what they saw as the “deteriorating life” of Ethiopian coffee farmers (well-described in the documentary Black Gold). Ethiopia is known as the birthplace of coffee, and the coffee ceremony is an integral part of the nation’s heritage, which is yet another reason Revocup is keen on promoting fair trade for Ethiopian coffee.

Tadias recently interviewed Habte Mesfin about Revocup:

Tadias: Please tell us about Revocup?

Habte Mesfin: Revocup is a coffee roasting company and a coffee shop based in Overland Park, Kansas. Revocup Coffee Corp. was established to offer consumers a wide range authentic single origin coffee from Ethiopia in the freshest form possible.

Tadias: What inspired you to get into the coffee business?

HM: Coffee cafes are a familiar feature of American life. Every day millions of Americans stop at cafes for an espresso-based drink. People who would not have dreamed of spending more than 50 cents for cup of coffee a few years ago now gladly pay $3 to $5 for their cappuccino, mocha, or vanilla ice-blended drink. The public shows tremendous interest embracing and adopting the new coffee culture. However the quality of coffee offered in the shops has deteriorated. As an Ethiopian who grew up with a superior coffee culture and tradition we felt that it’s time to get into the business as well as share our heritage.

Tadias: Revocup brand is based on promoting freshly roasted coffee beans, similar to how we consume coffee in Ethiopia. Who is your target market in the U.S.?

HM: Our target market is not directed to a certain group or population. We are offering our product for people who seeks quality coffee. Revocup coffee strongly believes that freshness is very important, there is no short cut or substitute. Coffee should not be an industrial product. It is a farm product, which does not have a long shelf life. Coffee needs to be consumed while it is fresh. Based on this principle we are roasting our coffee per order and according to the amount of coffee that we sell in our store.

Tadias: On your website you mention that most professional
roasters in the industry agree that 95% of the coffee consumed in this
country is stale. Can you elaborate?

HM: This is very true. In order to give a good answer for this question we need to look into how the coffee supply chain works. Large coffee companies roast thousands of pounds of coffee at a time at remote locations and then send that coffee to be bagged to anther part of the country. Then it will go to a distribution center. From there it make its way to grocery stores. Once it makes it to the shelf you do not know how long it is going to sit on the shelf. By the time it gets into your hands as a consumer the coffee is old and stale. You don’t know when this coffee was harvested or roasted when you pay to buy it. The coffee that you take home has essentially lost its character, wonderful aroma and unique natural flavor. That is why almost all craft roasters agree on the above mentioned fact. The sad part is that there is no rule or regulations to enforce coffee companies to put a roast date on their coffee labels. Amazingly, they get away with selling stale products. We ensure the authenticity of our coffee at Revocup by disclosing the origin of coffee, and mentioning the country of origin and farm name. We also post the country’s flag as an identification mark on our label. In order to guarantee freshness we also include the roast date on each bag of coffee sold.

Tadias: Isn’t the coffee preparation from “crop to cup” time consuming for the fast-paced lifestyle in America?

HM: In order to enjoy a great cup of coffee it requires meticulous preparation from the farm all the way to your cup. Along the way so many things can go wrong to affect the bean quality. What we are doing is preventing potential causes of negative impact. The very first thing you do even if it is expensive, is to purchase authentic high quality single origin coffee and make yourself familiar with the beans, and develop a roast profile that can show the coffee character. Then roast the coffee per order prior to shipping and bag the coffee into a one-way degassing valve bag to prevent air intrusion. Finally, disclose to consumers when the coffee was roasted and advise them on appropriate ways of coffee brewing that enhances taste and flavor. I can understand that people may not have the time to roast coffee every morning like we do traditionally in Ethiopia. However, they can selectively purchase freshly roasted coffee from a local roaster such as Revocup and enjoy their cup of coffee while the full flavor is intact. I do not see a reason why people pay for dark roasted (burnt) pre-ground coffee that tastes like charcoal. In my opinion it is a great injustice to the farmers and the people who work hard to produce the coffee.

Tadias: Are all your coffee beans are from Ethiopia?

HM: We purchase coffee from all coffee producing countries. That includes Brazil, Guatemala, Kenya, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Colombia, Mexico, Indonesia Etc. But over 60% of our coffee comes from Ethiopia. We carry almost all Ethiopian coffees including Harrar, Sidamo, Yergacheffee, Limu, as well as special reserve micro lot selections like Beloy, Aricha, Aleta and Wondo.

Tadias: Do you have any less well known, unique brands at Revocup?

HM: We carry all sorts of coffee and each coffee has its own character and flavor profile. Our website, Revocup.com, lists over 42 different type of coffee. Consumers can also order our coffee online.

Tadias: Why Kansas?

HM: We initially moved to Kansas to get closer to family and relatives. Arriving here we realized that being located at the nation’s center was very convenient for transportation of our products.

Tadias: Thank you Habte, we’re glad to see an Ethiopian-owned company involved in fair trade coffee distribution and we commend your efforts!

Boston’s Debo Band Brings Ethiopian Grooves to North East Cities

Tadias Events News
Published: Saturday, March 14, 2009

Debo to Perform in Cambridge, NYC, Philadelphia,
and Washington, DC

Jamaica Plain, MA: Debo Band has been cultivating a small but enthusiastic following in the loft spaces, neighborhood bars, and church basements of Boston for the past three years. But very soon, they will be playing for a much larger audience. In May, Debo will travel to Ethiopia to perform at the Ethiopian Music Festival in the capital, Addis Ababa. Their engagement is supported by Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation through USArtists International with support from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Now the band is getting ready with a busy schedule of hometown shows and will perform for the first time in front of audiences in New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, DC.

Ethiopian-American jazz saxophonist Danny Mekonnen, a PhD candidate in ethnomusicology at Harvard University, founded Debo in 2006 as a way of exploring the unique sounds that filled the dance clubs of “Swinging Addis” in the 1960s and 70s. Danny was mesmerized by the unlikely confluence of contemporary American soul and funk music, traditional East African polyrhythms and pentatonic scales, and the instrumentation of Eastern European brass bands. Ethiopian audiences instantly recognize this sound as the soundtrack of their youth, carried from party to kitchen on the ubiquitous cassette tapes of the time. And increasingly, erudite American and European audiences are also getting hip to the Ethiopian groove, largely through CD reissues of Ethiopian classics on the Ethiopiques series – not so coincidentally, some of the same people who are behind the Ethiopian Music Festival in Addis.

Debo Band draws audiences from both mainstream America and Ethiopian American communities. They have opened for legendary Ethiopian greats such as Tilahun Gessesse and Getatchew Mekuria, who has lately been collaborating with Dutch punk veterans The Ex. Debo’s unique instrumentation, including horns, strings, and accordion, is a nod to the big bands of Haile Selassie’s Imperial Bodyguard Band and Police Orchestra. Their lead vocalist, Bruck Tesfaye, has the kind of pipes that reverberate with the sound of beloved Ethiopian vocalists like Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete. Although Debo Band is steeped in the classic big band sound of the 1960s and 70s, they also perform original compositions and new arrangements along with more contemporary sounds such as Roha Band and Teddy Afro.


Photo by Bruck Tesfaye

If you go:
Tour Dates:
Thursday April 9, 8pm – Club Passim, Cambridge
with Fishtank Ensemble (San Francisco)
47 Palmer St.
Cambridge MA 02138
http://www.clubpassim.org/
$12

Friday April 10, 10pm – L’Orange Bleue, NYC
430 Broome St.
NY, NY 10013
http://www.lorangebleue.com/
$10

Saturday April 11, 7:30 pm – Crossroads Music Series, Philadelphia
with Belasco/Jamal Trio (Philadelphia)
Calvary United Methodist Church
48th Street and Baltimore Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19143
http://www.crossroadsconcerts.org/
$8-12

Sunday April 12, 10pm – Babylon FC, Falls Church, VA
with East Origin Band (Washington, DC)
3501 South Jefferson St.
Falls Church, VA 22041
http://www.babylonfc.com/babylounge/
$10

Press Contact:
Danny Mekonnen
(903) 491-4118, cell
danny.mekonnen@gmail.com
http://www.myspace.com/deboband

The Art of Peace, Tesfaye Tekelu’s Journey & Ethiopia’s First Aikido Dojo

Tadias Magazine
By Tseday Alehegn

Published: Tuesday, March 10, 2009

New York (Tadias) – For the past three years, Tesfaye Tekelu, Co-Founder and Manager of the Awassa Youth Campus (AYC), has been training at Aikido dojos around the world. Last month, he completed leadership training courses and took his Black Belt exam under renowned Aikido instructor Richard Strozzi-Heckler Sensei in Petaluma, California. On February 11th, 2009, Senator Mark Leno awarded Tesfaye with the State of California Senate certificate of recognition in honor of his becoming the first Ethiopian Aikido Black Belt and Sensei of the Awassa Peace Dojo. The certificate highlighted Tesfaye’s “participation in the Aiki Extensions Training Across Borders Middle East Aikido Peace Conferences in Cyprus and in Zurich; developing the Awassa Youth Center and dojo program; and culminating in intensive Shodan-Ho training with senior instructors across America.”


Tesfaye Tekelu (Photo by Tadias/Chicago, November 2008)

Aikido, a non-competitive martial art was developed by its Japanese founder, Morihei Ueshiba in the 1920s. The term “Aiki” can be translated as “harmony” while “do” means “the Way.” Hence, Aikido is the way of harmony, a way of blending your energy with the energy of the universe and your fellow humans. Encompassing the power of breath, form, and awareness, Aikido techniques are used to protect both the attacked and the attacker from harm. Since its official registration in Japan as a martial art form in 1942, Aikido has spread to the West, and modern instructors, such as those affiliated with Chicago-based non-profit Aiki Extensions (www.aiki-extensions.org), use the art to nurture and develop social support and social networks. Aikido ideas have also been applied in areas such as education, psychotherapy, bodywork, mediation, and social conflict resolution.

The Awassa Youth Campus (AYC) was founded in February 2006 through the collaboration of Aiki Extensions non-profit group and the Awassa-based Debub Negat Circus, now known as AYC’s One Love Theater AIDS Education program. Since then, AYC’s program has expanded. It now offers a recording studio with instruments for learning music, a library (free and accessible to the community), an art studio and sports venues including a paved basketball court, a volleyball court, a soccer field, as well as the aikido dojo, recently built by students using bamboo and other local materials. It currently has an enrollment of 75 students, and classes are offered seven days a week.

As the main instructor at the Awassa Peace Dojo at AYC, Tesfaye has toured throughout Ethiopia to give Aikido demonstrations both to the general public and on Ethiopian national television. He has provided Aikido workshops to Addis Ababa Ministry of Education officials, inspiring them to move toward requiring aikido training for secondary school Seniors.

Tesfaye first met his mentor Donald Levine Sensei who was visiting the Awassa Children’s Center with his wife Ruth after receiving an honorary Doctorate from Addis Ababa University in August 2004. After watching a show by the children that incorporated gymnastics, martial arts, and street theater, Levine asked if anyone there knew about Aikido. When requested to demonstrate this art, Levine looked around for a volunteer and pointed to Tesfaye.

As Tesfaye recalls, “He [Levine] asked me to grab his hand and as I did so, at that moment, I felt something different than what I have known before from my practice in martial arts.” Tesfaye immediately asked Levine to teach him Aikido; lessons began every day when Tesfaye served as tour guide for the couple in remote parts of the Southern Region.


Tesfaye’s first tenkan with mentor Donald Levine

“My life journey started 200 km from Awassa, in a place called Amaro in Korate Village before I moved to Awassa,” Tesfaye shares. “I was born in a traditional house called a gojo bet (tukul), where there was no electricity, no telephone, and no running water.” There are several aspects that he loves about Awassa. “The town is surrounded by mountains and by a lake,” he enthuses “and the city is flat and leveled. If you want to see the town you have to hike up to one of the mountains surrounding Awassa. And once you’re up there you see the carpet of forest, and Awassa is nestled in that forest. It is a town where we grow up swimming in the lake, fishing, floating on boats, hiking in the mountains, and playing football. It’s a vacation place. For me it’s like Ethiopian California” he says comparing it to places he has discovered on his most recent training tour to the United States.

Awassa, serves as a capital for 56 southern tribes and Tesfaye admits it’s inspiring for him to see the town people living “in harmony, peace and respect” among such diversity. “It should be a model for our continent Africa,” he reminds us. He conjures up an image of us stepping out of a box or getting over a fence, demolishing the notion that color, politics, borders, religion, and tribe can divide us. “We have to reach out of that box and see each other as people and come together as one Africa. Then we can have a little Awassa in Africa,” he concludes. He believes that Ethiopia’s interfaith history, for example, is a model for the rest of the world. He points to his own family as an example and says “More than three religions are practiced within my family, and we are living together with love and respect.” He uses his life lessons to promote community programs such as the HIV awareness circus group and theatre. He describes AYC as “a place where street children and adolescents come to learn and share their awareness with each other.” AYC has an open-door policy and all community members are welcome to participate as members. Under his guidance the Awassa Peace Dojo is providing youth with an alternative to involvement in gang-related violence.


Tesfaye participates in training across borders program in Cyprus focusing on
reducing social conflict

Recently, Tesfaye embarked on an extensive dojo tour and training program in various U.S. cities in pursuit of a Black Belt in Aikido. “I have trained with one of O Sensei’s students, Saotome Sensei as well as with Levine Sensei, and Kevin Sensei in Chicago,” he says. He has also trained with various instructors in dojos located in Berkeley, Santa Cruz, San Diego, and Seattle. He took his Black Belt exam in Strozzi-Heckler Sensei’s Two Rock Dojo in Petaluma last month and awed his audience. Tesfaye was especially touched by the nature surrounding Two Rock Dojo, which reminded him of his own growing up experiences in Ethiopia.


Tesfaye took his Black Belt exam at Two Rock Dojo in Petaluma, California (Feb. 2009)

His trip to America also involved participating in a theater festival in New York City entitled “Performing the World” with two other AYC staff members. He also worked to raise funds for AYC projects. Among some of his most favorite moments he cites training and assisting Levine Sensei’s University of Chicago students in their Aikido class, as well as taking the Strozzi Institute Leadership course, which he felt was ‘”very powerful, and something everyone should get a chance to study.” Levine had also assisted Tesfaye in furthering his Aikido practice by sending him to training summer camps in Zurich prior to his training in America.

With such an intensive schedule, was there any time to unwind? He assures us he has had plenty of sight-seeing. He lists a plethora of U.S. cities that he has visited during his stay. “I have toured New York, Chicago, Colorado, Boston, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Petaluma, Santa Cruz, and San Diego,” he reports. “I don’t even remember all the names of places that I have seen.” He is excited to share that he also participated in a music video promoting Obama’s presidential campaign. “I had a chance to meet Obama in Pittsburgh,” he says happily. “I had a chance to fly a helicopter in California and went skiing for the first time in Seattle.”

“Now I understand what one means by the term “Western,” he says. He reflects on it and thinks aloud about what he can learn from the West. It makes him also pay closer attention to what he deems are “tremendous opportunities around us” in Awassa. “We have to see what we already have around and believe that every thing we dream is possible. It starts with us and is evident around us,” he urges. “That is what I am interested in: to work with youth and bring that awareness to my country and beyond.”

“Finally I am grateful for the people who understand the challenges we face, and those who help and support me in their action,” he says. He gives special thanks to Levine Sensei and all the instructors that he trained with in the U.S. and Europe. “I feel lucky to meet and know these great people across the country and to train with them, and I am very grateful” he adds. “I would like to thank them for their wonderful help and support.”


Tesfaye with students in Awassa.

“My wish,” he says “is to open more centers in Ethiopia, and within two or three years my mission is to have a Pan-African network.”

Within five years? “An African Youth Campus” he replies. “My vision is to work at the grassroot level across the continent and beyond to bring change and awareness to the next generation.”

Worldwide, change is definitely the word of choice this year.

—-
About the Author

Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine. She is a graduate of Stanford University (both B.A. & M.A.). In addition to her responsibilities at Tadias, Tseday is also a Doctoral student at Columbia University.

Movie Review: Cadillac Records

Above: In Cadillac Records, Beyoncé Knowles plays Etta James,
the legendary artists of a Chicago music label. (Sony BMG Film/
Eric Liebowitz)

Tadias Magazine
By Playthell Benjamin

Wow! An Instant Classic

Published: Monday, March 9, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Ever so often a movie comes along that captures the spirit of an age, Parkwood Pictures’ Cadillac Records is such a movie. A period piece set in the racially tumultuous era between the end of the great depression and the outbreak of World War II in the early 1940’s, and the turbulent 1960’s when the walls of segregation – which had defined the lives and art of the bluesmen in fundamental ways – came tumbling down, we follow the lives, loves and musical careers of the legendary Mississippi bluesmen who created the “Delta Blues.’ And one of the many achievements of this remarkable movie is the way it shows how their sound was the bedrock upon which a multi-billion dollar industry was built, as the musical styles that became world famous as Rhythm and Blues, Rock and Roll, and Hard Rock all evolved from these blues roots – what the perceptive music critic Robert Palmer calls “Deep Blues” in his authoritative book by that name.

As in any historical movie the sets, costumes, language, etc play a critical role in the ability of the film to transport us back in time. But the ultimate time machine is the music they played back then. The much celebrated Afro-American novelist Ralph Ellison, reflecting on the birth of Be-bop in Harlem’s “Minton’s Play House,” observed that “Music gives resonance to memory.” And as this movie is about the migration of Mississippi country blues musicians to the great city of Chicago, we have a treasure trove of sound portraits that mirror their journey.

As a student and teacher of history I am intensely interested in historical drama and fictions. I am especially thrilled when I see another important slice of black life successfully portrayed on the giant silver screen, where it literally becomes larger than life. And if Woodrow Wilson – a former US President and Princeton history Professor – thought D.W. Griffiths racist propaganda film Birth of a Nation was “history written by lightening,” Cadillac Records is history written with enlightenment.

Cadillac Record’s is remarkably candid in portraying the racist social etiquette and oppressive political system of white supremacy that it supported. And it does so without ever becoming preachy; the play remains the thing, and the imperatives of dramatic art are ever observed. In this film the muses are served in fine fashion; even while the harsh realities of the sharecropper south where hunger, poverty and random white violence were omnipresent, and the dangerous cities of the north with its seductions of vice and the catharsis of violence, are graphically portrayed.

This film however, does not stop at portraying the most obvious aspects of race prejudice and the discriminatory treatment that results from it, but also looks at questions of class and ethnicity and subtly meditates on how they have shaped the contours of American culture. There is a richness here that inevitably results when a film maker – who is, at their best, a celluloid dramatist – takes an honest look at the cultural complexity of the United States of America. For they are sure to find, as our former Mayor David Dinkins elegantly put it: “A gorgeous mosaic.”

In the opening scenes of this movie we are given an inside glimpse of what it was like being the poor son of Polish Jewish immigrants in Chicago in the portrayal of a young Leonard Chess. Convincingly played by Adrien Brody – a talented actor whom I first saw in The Pianist, a movie about the plight of the Polish Jewish community during the German Nazi occupation – Chess is hungry for success in America after the father of the lady he wanted to marry spurned his request for her hand with the pronouncement: “Your father and I are from the same shit hole in Poland. I didn’t travel all this way to have my daughter marry some schmuck from the same village!”

On another occasion when Muddy waters and Leonard chess were traveling the back roads of Mississippi by car Muddy asks Chess why his family traveled across the vast oceans from Poland to come to Chicago, Chess replies by asking him why his “ass left Mississippi” to come to Chicago? This episode alludes to the shared experience of African-Americans and Eastern European Jews who hailed from Poland and the Russian Pale. For both of them Chicago was a city of refuge and hope as they sought to escape racial discrimination and random violence. It is through the use of such representative anecdotes, accompanied by the employment of artful intelligent visuals, that much of the sociological depth and complexity of this story is simplified and given a human dimension. And like all good historical dramas, Darnell Martin, the writer and director of this splendid art film, have shown excellent taste and judgment selected the right issues and episodes to capture the zeitgeist of the era.

**********

From a purely artistic point of view this script was a writer’s delight. The characters that people this flick are the right stuff for the making of legends. Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, the harmonica virtuoso Little Walter ,and the legendary Willie Dixon, composer of blues hits such as “My Babe” and “Hootchie Kootchie Man” are all there These modern day troubadours took the trials and triumphs that comprise the vicissitudes of life universal to the human condition and set them to song – that’s why their music touched and inspired people across racial, ethnic, class, and national boundaries.

This should come as no surprise however, after all, as Albert Murray, the preeminent commentator on the philosophy, esthetics and cultural significance of the blues tells us in his seminal book Stomping the Blues: “The blues as music” is the antidote to “the blues as such.” In other words, while most people who hear the blues outside of its social and cultural context think of the music as sad, Murray argues that the blues sensibility is just the opposite of “sack cloth and ashes.” In fact, as the title of his book suggest, musicians stomp the blues to chase the Blues away.

All of this is captured marvelously in Cadillac Records and gives it the ring of truth. It’s insightfulness into the philosophy and esthetics of the blues is clearly on display in the way they portray the lives and personalities of the bluesmen and the milieu in which they thrived. As Mr. Murray has observed, the blues is more likely to celebrate the joi de vivre of Afro-American life than to wallow in self-pity and sadness. Put differently, the blues is party music, the cure for depression. And the bluesmen in Cadillac Records partied all the time as they created great art that continues to win the hearts of fans all over the world

Jeffrey Wright is as good playing Muddy Waters as Jamie Fox was playing Ray Charles, and Jamie won the Academy Award for his performance!” One can take the measure of an actor’s skill by the way they interpret the subtleties of character, idiosyncratic gestures expressed in body language and nuances of speech. I didn’t know Muddy Waters like I knew Ray Charles, but I feel the same way about Wright’s portrayal of him as Albert Einstein felt when the Rabbi’s demanded to know if the scientist believed his theories explained how god created the universe.

To wit Einstein replied: “No, but I know that he could have done it that way.” Wright is that convincing in the role. Having grown up around southern black musicians I am amazed at the accuracy of the portrait of them the actors render in Cadillac Records. It is a tribute to their diligence in preparing for the roles they sought to play. And anybody who was fortunate enough to hear them interviewed on BET and elsewhere, knows that these great performances were inspired by the actors’ profound respect for their characters.

Cedrick the Entertainer give a solid performance as the level headed Willie Dixon, and Eamonn Walker is sensational as The Howling Wolf, one of the most interesting and original of the Mississippi bluesmen. A man of imposing stature, Eamonn Walker can go from a smiling geniality to a murderous scowl with a twitch of his face muscles and a gesture from his heavily muscled ebony frame. When we consider the fact that he is a British actor, Walker’s amazing rendering of backwoods Mississippi speech through a marvelous control of his voice and an amazing ear for nuance, his performance is a tour de force that stands out in a cast of great performers.

It is a pity that the academy does not give awards for ensemble acting, because great performances are common fare in this film. For instance Columbus Short’s portrayal of the innovative harmonica virtuoso Little Walter would certainly qualify as a great performance by any objective measure. He was like a man possessed by the spirit of a great ancestor and had become one with his subject. Although I thought Moss Def was miscast as Chuck Berry since he looks nothing like him, Will smith would have been perfect for the part, his performance was splendid. After a while the physical disparity seemed trivial.

As any story about great blues musicians must be, the cast of Cadillac Records is male dominated and the narrative is told from the point of view these gun toting, free spirited, libertine song poets. A great part of the achievement of this film is the way in which it shows how the blues man was a symbol of black male freedom and potency in a society where the full power of the armed state was employed to crush any manifestation of it.

Having acknowledged the dominance of male concerns and the outstanding performances of the male actors, let me hasten to acknowledge that Gabriel Union and elegant hot chocolate beauty, revealed the depth of her talents as an actress playing the stoic but earthy wife of the ebullient philanderer Muddy Waters. And it remains true that casting Beyonce Knowles as Etta James was a singular act of genius. Having dominated the pop music charts for several years now, with this moving picture the great singer has come of age as an actress. Abandoning the glamorous persona that is her stock in trade, Beyonce gained over twenty pounds in order to give authenticity to her performance as the young Etta James – a boozy dope fiend who courted tragedy because of a deep inner-pain that she seemed to almost nurture as the source of her tortured, though profoundly beautiful, art.

This role demonstrates Beyonce’s range as an actress, for she is called upon to recreate emotions that cannot come from her well of experience with the ways of a dope fiend and bar fly who appears to have occasionally turned tricks when she was just starting out. In regard to all these tawdry matters, Ms. Knowles’ well is dry. Hence it is all artifice in the truest sense of the word, for interpreting the complex highly neurotic character that was the youthful Etta James, the illegitimate daughter of the legendary white pool hustler “Minnesota Fats,’ and a black prostitute he hooked up with. In the film she is obsessed with gaining the recognition of her father, and that is the deepest source of her pain.

Beyonce’s performance ranks right up there with Diana Ross’ portrayal of Billie Holliday, another tragic vocal genius, in Lady Sings the Blues, Angela Basset’s rendering of Tina Turner in What’s Love go to do with It? And Jennifer Hudson’s portrait of Florence Ballard in Dream Girls must be added to the list of great performances by black actresses in bio-pics. Hudson won the Oscar for her role, and Ms. Ross and Ms. Basset would have won if everybody played fair. However, unlike the other three ladies Ms. Basset cannot sing so she was forced to act her way through it, just as Halle Barry had done in her powerful portrayal of the beautiful and superbly gifted Dorothy Dandridge – a role I always thought would have been better suited for Vanessa Williams who, like Dorothy, is a triple threat. She can sing, dance, and act with seemingly equal facility – and she is brilliant at all three.

However the three singers all gave inspired performances in their roles, buoyed by the wonderful repertoire of American song that the role provided. While I do not intend to make invidious comparisons because I believe that both Ms Hudson and Ms Knowles are great singers – Prima Donna Absoluta’s of the dynamic Gospel/Soul style –I must nevertheless confess that I found Beyonce’s rendition of the Etta James hits ‘At Last” and “I’d Rather Go Blind Baby, Than Watch You Walk Away From Me,” to be without equal. When she sang “At Last” our spirits were buoyed by thoughts of past loves that now seem perfect, or we reveled in a newly found love; it was a joy. And when she sang I’d Rather Go Blind” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house…this writers eyes included. It was a bravura performance …Bravo!


About the Author:

Playthell Benjamin, former columnist for The New York Daily News, is a Harlem based critic, novelist and an award-winning journalist. His articles have been published in major publications and websites, including the The Guardian, The New York Daily News, BlackElectorate.com, and many more.

Chester Higgins: Omo Spirit Narrative

Tadias Magazine
Publishers’s Note:

Published: Thursday, March 5, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The following narrative is penned by Chester Higgins, Jr. He is one of the most significant photographers of his generation. He has been a staff photographer at The New York Times since 1975. One of the most indelible images of Emperor Haile Selassie was captured by him in 1973 in Addis Ababa. Higgins’ most recent photographs focus on the peoples of the Omo Valley of Ethiopia.

Omo Spirit: by Chester Higgins, Jr

Chester Higgins, Jr

I’m from that house, perched on a slope — near the gully, in that farming village of 800 people, inside the triangle of Alabama, Georgia and Florida. At the small age of nine, a dazzling light appeared in my room in the middle of the night, snatching me from sleep. At first, I was fearlessly curious. When I heard a voice coming out of the light, I screamed. Only decades later did I come to understand and appreciate the significance of this night and accept that perhaps I had been reached, my coordinates known, by the light of the Spirit.

In my part of the country people spoke matter-of-factly of “the Spirit.” I witnessed my Great Aunt talking away the pain of burned flesh and mixing herbs, and the enthusiastic, often shuddering, joyous celebration of the community of men and women touched by the Spirit each Sunday. Today, I find that interplay between our world of flesh and the Spirit still existing in Ethiopia. I felt it most acutely when I traveled this year to the South among the Omo people.

A year ago, I began to research these diverse groups of southern people who live in a triangle of Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya. Since my first trip to Ethiopia in 1973, I have heard stories of their life, once isolated, but lately being encroached on by tourists and insensitive government policies. The loss of land has made survival for some of the Omo groups precarious. I have long wanted to work with them.

Searching images and writings about these ancient groups, I found little to suggest their voices have been heard or their true faces seen. Too often when we photograph “exotic” cultures—people of Nature— otherness prevails. Would the people trust me enough to allow me to work with them? Something deep stirred within me. My challenge became to give voice to the sacred Spirit buried inside the veins of each of them.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

When I first encountered the Omo, I had to think about how much of what was before me was a shadow of the past, smoke of the present or a light from the future. In their homeland the relationship among the people, the land and the sky guides life in very pragmatic ways, revealing something about their spiritual sense of the cosmos. Against a dramatic starry backdrop, the Omo look for the sun’s appearance in different places on the horizon to tell the seasons. When twilight reveals the four stars of the Southern Cross, the two Pointers rising in a straight line at sunset and falling to the horizon at sunrise, they know the Omo River will soon flood. It is time to migrate to higher ground. When the flood recedes, they return to plant their crops.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

Culturally, the Omo’s definition of beauty and self-worth is radically different from the Western ideals I grew up around. Spiritually,they are human vessels brimming with the Spirit, very much akin to the folks of my childhood. They are anchored between the ground and the sky, flanked by yesterday and tomorrow. Looking into their eyes, I found myself in an intensity of spiritual reflection I was familiar with. Each subject’s face, countenance, accessories, decorative paint, scarification or tattoos and piercing was merely the starting point.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

What matters is what is going on inside. Could I find and connect with an engaging Spirit within people in what appeared to be such an alien culture? I came to each village with an interpreter specifically to sit with the village elders. I carefully selected candidates for my portraits, reaching out to touch each person to sense if our Spirits would spoon into each other. To make authentic interior images, I must have the complete cooperation of the subject.

I brought a full studio to southern Ethiopia. Technically for me the most important consideration in any photograph is light — or its absence. I find the light in Ethiopia to be the clearest. In the Amharic
language, the word for light is mebrat—a woman’s name. At an early age, I found pleasure in studying the nuances of light, watching its dance and its penumbra. I like to say that light is my mistress. She has been a major asset, helping me see more clearly.

Before the portrait sessions, I anchored cloth backdrops to light stands or just set up lights against a natural backdrop — creating a studio without walls. The burst of strobe first frightened my subjects, but once they understood that the careful preparations were directed at producing clearer representations of themselves, they began to place their trust in me, opening to reveal a deeper self, peeling away suspicion and reservation. To behold fully what is in front of my eyes, I always put my trust in the Spirit within to recognize the Spirit outside. When everything is complementary, an embrace can take place. I am invigorated when I feel this connection; it just happens. I believe the Spirit allows itself to be visualized, but refuses to be made a captive. But only when it manifests through the flesh can a subject’s interior be revealed.


copyright 2009 Chester Higgins, Jr.

During my sessions with the Omo, I felt that our Spirits embraced, leading me through moods and perspectives unique to the moment — and unique to them. I’ve since returned to New York, but the Omo people remain in their ancestral home, watching the heavens, by day the sun and at night the stars, that comfort their mystical dreams — dreams too deep for me to fathom. I made a visual litany with my camera, capturing the lines in their faces that mirror their spiritual trekking in time. I think of these images as a testament to spiritual moments that will remain an afterglow to their physical existence — much like a speeding meteorite, yet another expression of existence by the Spirit.

Learn more at ChesterHiggins.com

Eleni’s Kitchen Adds Taste of Ethiopia to Global Flavors

NYT
By FLORENCE FABRICANT
Published: March 3, 2009

Make room on your spice shelf for new contenders from afar…

Kulet, an Ethiopian sauce made with red peppers, is especially good in bean and lentil stews. It can also add a new dimension to pasta sauces and stewed meats.

Eleni Woldeyes, an Ethiopian cook in Hillsboro, Ore., is producing kulet in mild and hot versions. The mild is $4.49 for a 13-ounce jar, the hot is $5.49 for 12.4 ounces from eleniskitchen.com. Read more at the New York Times.

Related: Eleni’s Kitchen Red Pepper
Sauce was featured in the “Front Lines,”
a publication of Food Front, a Coop
Grocery Store in Portland, Oregon:

It all started with a dream to have simple-to-cook, yet authentically prepared Ethiopian sauce with which one could cook delicious meals at any time. With the knowledge of traditional Ethiopian cooking and with the help of her mother, Eleni spent almost two years looking for authentic Ethiopian spices at markets in Oregon. She brought together the best spices that resulted in her company’s first product: Eleni’s Kitchen Kulet-Red Pepper Sauce—sautéed/ simmered sauce (called Kulet in Ethiopia) prepared from onions, berbere (spiced red chili powder), vegetable oil (canola, soybean), garlic, ginger & other spices. This sauce is the base used to prepare gourmet stews (beef, lentils, chicken, etc). Made from all natural ingredients, making a stew from Eleni’s Kitchen Red Pepper Sauce is as easy: just add a few cups of water to a pot with a jar of the Red Pepper Sauce and lentils, beef or chicken, and cook for 30 minutes or until the lentils are done or the meat is tender. Eleni’s Kitchen, LLC is locally operated in Hillsboro. —Gary Koppen, your Grocery Manager

Learn More at eleniskitchen.com

Today at National Museum of African Art: Lecture on Lalibela

Above: Scholar Marilyn Heldman held a similar lecture at
UCLA in 2006.

By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Leading Ethiopian art historian Marilyn Heldman, author of African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia, will hold a lecture on Friday, February 27th, at the National Museum of African Art (950 Independence Ave., Washington, DC, 20560). She will discusses Lalibela, the world-famed pilgrimage site composed of churches carved from the living rock in the mountains of Lasta.

Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s historical cities and is almost completely Ethiopian Orthodox Christian. The city was intended to be a New Jerusalem in response to the capture of Jerusalem by Muslims, and many of its historic buildings take their name and layout from buildings in Jerusalem.

From the 16th to the middle of the 19th centuries, virtually the whole of the Middle East was under the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire. When one of the Zagwe kings in Ethiopia, King Lalibela (1190-1225), had trouble maintaining unhampered contacts with the monks in Jerusalem, he decided to build a new Jerusalem in Ethiopia. In the process he left behind one of the true architectural wonders of the world.

lalibela5.jpg
Above: Lalibela. This image is licensed under
Creative Commons Attribution.

lalibela7.jpg
Above: Lalibela. This image is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.

lalibela6.jpg
Above: Lalibela. This image is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution.

If you go:
Lecture by Marilyn Heldman

Venue: National Museum of African Art
Time: Friday, Feb 27 12:00p
Location: Washington, DC,
950 Independence Ave., Washington, DC, 20560

“Ethiopia” Song in Joni Mitchell’s Ballet The Fiddle and The Drum

Vue Weekly
Edmonton’s independent arts & entertainment weekly magazine
BY Sherry Dawn Knettle

When Joni Mitchell chose “Ethiopia” as one of four songs that would be added to The Fiddle and The Drum to create a full-length ballet, Jean Grand-Maître knew that matching his choreography to her African-influenced song would be the biggest challenge of his career.

“I’m a lyrical choreographer,” he says. “African dance is not something that white people like me can do. It’s not in our blood.”

In particular, he wasn’t sure about the complex, syncopated rhythms which dictated a different use of movement and body weight. But he and his airborne dancers, trained to defy gravity, would soon loosen up their joints by getting down low to the ground. To do that, they watched some African dance videos, and eventually found a compromise.

“We didn’t want to pretend to be African dancers,” he says. “We wouldn’t be able to rise to that occasion. So we took some of the basic African steps and transformed them, using some of our own vocabulary. We met half way—white man meets black man.

“It was interesting to see how the inspiration from African dance influenced my choreography to go in a direction I’ve never taken in my life,” he continues. “It was a big challenge, but everybody’s telling us now through the Prairie tour that it’s their favourite song in the whole ballet!”

The tour received rave reviews in January. After its world premiere in Medicine Hat, the company took the show through Alberta and Saskatchewan, where Mitchell grew up. That’s particularly important, as the show features her visual art and set design, and she chose music that would focus on world peace and the environment.

To that end, she chose “Woodstock,“ a peace song written for the historic music festival, and “Shine,” a lullaby.

“But it’s a lullaby no child should hear. It’s about children in countries where bombs are falling,” says Grand-Maître. “But Joni also sings about the beauty of the world. It’s a very poetic and beautiful ballad.”

The contrast in Mitchell’s music and lyrics was reflected in much of the choreography seen in a shorter work along similar themes that premiered two years ago when he juxtaposed war with romance and beauty. But some of the choreography from that show has been changed to integrate Mitchell’s visual designs. For example, Grand-Maître now allows the movement to pause occasionally, letting the audience focus on Mitchell’s art and music, which are often the centre of attention for many.

Mitchell herself hopes that through such exposure, people will get her environmental message. She wants the audiences to understand more about the best and the worst of humanity and life; to appreciate the planet’s beauty and to make changes before it’s too late. V

Fri, Feb 20 – Sat, Feb 21 (7:30 pm)
Joni Mitchell’s The Fiddle and The Drum
Presented by Alberta Ballet
Jubilee Auditorium (11455- 87 Ave), $30 – $90

K’Naan: The Somali-Canadian singer-rapper, mixing hip hop and Ethiopian jazz

Recap: K’Naan at The Annex
Madison Decider
by Scott Gordon February 11, 2009

K’Naan played hip-hop, several styles of African music, and lavish pop hooks Tuesday at The Annex, and his stage presence didn’t recall a typical MC. Even when he told the crowd, “I’ll be quite honest with you, I’m not feeling the energy in here,” he didn’t sound like a rapper trying to bark his audience into an exaggerated frenzy. “We don’t make imposition music,” he explained. He emphasizes musical variety over all that tiresome “Lemme hear ya say HO-OOO!” business. The Somali-Canadian singer-rapper and band had a lot of territory to cover, from songs of freedom to rapped boasts about making “50 Cent look like Limp Bizkit” (probably nothing Fiddy couldn’t do for himself, but witty all the same), from old African-music samples to triumphantly over-the-top guitar solos. Read more.

Photos And Video Exhibition: The Past And Future of Ethiopians in Israel (NYC)

Seven Generations:
Photos and Video by Avishai Mekonen

New York – These stunning works explore the past and future of Ethiopians in Israel. The exhibition juxtaposes what is being lost with the passing of older generations, and what new twists the younger generations are bringing to Ethiopian Israeli culture. Seven Generations presents a rare view of Ethiopian Jews from an artist within the community who is engaged in the struggle for a new identity.

If you go:
On View Feb 12 – Apr 30 -FREE
Opening Events: Thu, Feb 12
6-7 pm: Meet the Artist Talk with Avishai Mekonen
7-8 pm: Reception in the Gallery

Location: The JCC in Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Ave. at 76th St. (Program room assignments will be available at the JCC Customer Service Desk, in the lobby of the Samuel Priest Rose Building.)

Art Talk at Columbia University: Ethiopia’s Artistic Tradition

Above: Zerihun Yetmgeta working in his studio in Addis Ababa,
1992. Photo by Raymond Silverman (Source: MSU)

Published: Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New York (Tadias) – On Thursday, February 12th, 2009, Columbia University will host a lecture by Dr. Abebe Zegeye, Professor of Sociology at the University of South Africa and scholar at Yale University. His lecture entitled “The Magical Universe of Art: Ethiopian artist Zerihun Yetmgeta’s works” will focus on Ethiopia’s centuries old artistic tradition.

One of this fascinating African country’s most prominent artists, Zerihun Yetmgeta, has decided to exhibit his works in his home town, the city of Addis Ababa. Yetmgeta’s exhibition The Magical Universe of Art, is a collection of works that spans the artist’s 40 years of work. It follows the maturation of Yetmgeta’s artistic passion over the years, right up to the present. His art, always exceptional, has grown more fulsome, his talent for transposing traditional motifs of Ethiopian Christianity ­ its legends, magical practices, belief in spirits and demons and evil eyes – into contemporary art. Over time, his work has become more prodigious, more intricate and more laden with hidden meaning. This talk will provide further insight and explore Yetmgeta’s extraordinary talent.


Left: Portrait of Zerihun Yetmgeta (photo by Raymond Silverman). Right:
Wax and Gold, 1991. Mixed media on animal skin and wood. MSU Kresge Art
Collection, 94.24.


Dr. Abebe Zegeye will give the lecture on Thursday, February
12th, 2009 at Columbia University.

If you go:
Date: Feb 12th,2009
Time: 2:30-4:30pm
Location: Columbia University
Room 1512 International Affairs Building, 435 118th St.

Source: Columbia University

New York Times Photographer Chester Higgins: Southern Omo Tribes of Ethiopia

Tadias Magazine
By Liben Eabisa

Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Chester Higgins’ most recent photographs focus on the peoples of the Omo Valley of Ethiopia.

Higgins, Jr., is one of the most significant photographers of his generation. He has been a staff photographer at The New York Times since 1975. One of the most indelible images of Emperor Haile Selassie was captured by him in 1973 at Addis Ababa airport during the tenth anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now called the African Union (AU).

His body of work is a fluid, sensitive and in-depth diary of his explorations of the human Diaspora; they reflect his concern with his own humanity. Through his portraits and studies of living rituals, traditional ceremonies, and ancient civilizations, his viewers gain rare insight into cultural behavior — a window to another place and time.

“For the first time I visited the southern tribes in the Omo Valley. It was a step back in time. These various tribes live in the corner where Ethiopia, Sudan and Kenya come together,” Higgins said via email.

“We had to camp out for 15 nights, paid the people for posing, brought a carload of lighting equipment to setup my studio without walls, and had great fun making these images.”

You can view these stunning photographs at chesterhiggins.com.

Higgins’ photographs have appeared in ArtNews, The New York Times Magazine, Look, Life, Newsweek, Fortune, Ebony, Essence, Black Enterprise, GEO, The Village Voice, The New Yorker , Archaeology and Tadias.

—-
About the Author:

Liben Eabisa is the Founder & Publisher of Tadias Magazine. He is also the publisher of the book: Abyssinia of Today – Reissue of Robert P. Skinner’s memoir, a narrative of the first American diplomatic mission to black Africa. Liben Eabisa lives in New York City.
———

Related: Embracing Ethiopia By CHESTER HIGGINS

Chester Higgins, Jr.

New York (Tadias) – Long before I set foot in Ethiopia, the name itself summoned images of Biblical proportion for me and, I believe, for many other African Americans as well. In the Bible, ‘Ethiopia’ is a place of refuge, an amazing mystical land.

Then with the advent of Marcus Garvey and African nationalists, who rallied against the Italian invasion of Ethiopia during the Second World War, Ethiopia became a symbol of resistance to Colonialism. In the 1960s, when Emperor Haile Selassie appeared on national TV during a state visit to the US, millions more African American imaginations burned with the knowledge of an independent African people.

Not until the 1970s did the image and concept of Ethiopia, inspired by the reggae music of Bob Marley, gain extraordinary prominence in the minds of a young generation of African Americans. The Rastafarian Movement’s efforts to re-define the sanctity of Ethiopia and re-cast Emperor Selassie in a sacred light caught the imagination of young people as they swayed to reggae music. A new light had come out of Africa, but the beam started in the diaspora, this time in Jamaica.

In 1969 I had the good fortune to make a portrait of the renowned Harlem historian and teacher Dr. John Henrik Clarke. He was deeply committed to Africa and African people. My young mind was a parched field, and the many hours I spent with him, asking questions and hearing his answers, fertilized and watered that dry soil. Through him, my knowledge and understanding of Ethiopia grew. Dr. Clarke had this effect on thousands of Harlem residents and on students at Hunter College and Cornell University.

In 1973, on my first journey to Ethiopia, I attended the tenth anniversary conference of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), now called the African Union (AU). That year the conference was held in Addis Ababa. I came to photograph African heads of state; I wanted to share with African Americans my view of rulers responsible for African people.

him.jpg
Above: Emperor Haile Selassie (1973).
Photo by Chester Higgins.

For me the most significant ruler, the most interesting leader, turned out to be Emperor Haile Selassie. In my new book, Echo of the Spirit: A Photographer’s Journey (Doubleday 2004), I write: “…As I waited at the Addis Ababa airport for a glimpse of arriving dignitaries, my attention was pulled from the action around the arriving airplanes to a group of men making their way across the tarmac. I could sense the power of one man in particular before I could even see him.” Although he was of such small stature that he was dwarfed by the others alongside him, something about his aura so profoundly moved me that I lowered the camera so I could see him with both eyes. Only after he passed me did I learn that I had been in the presence of His Majesty Haile Selassie, the Emperor of Ethiopia.

Returning from that trip, I began to seek out Ethiopian students at Ethiopian restaurants and conferences to discuss my experience, encountering a mixed reception and political discontent. The students were receptive to my interest in their country, although none shared my enthusiasm for the emperor. Through the many students I have met over the years, I have discovered informative books and begun attending the Horn of Africa Conference, held annually at the City College of New York.

In July 1992, I returned to Ethiopia with my son Damani as my photography assistant. As I wrote in my book Feeling the Spirit: Searching the World for the People of Africa (1994), “The memory of being in his [Emperor Haile Selassie I] presence has remained an inspiration in my personal life. Damani, who has locked his hair, shares my love of His Majesty and reggae, the music of the Rastafarians who worship Selassie.”

So far I have been to Ethiopia about a dozen times. On each visit, I use my camera to make a record of contemporary and ancient Ethiopia. Spending weeks at a time, I have traveled in the North to the cities of Mekele, Gondar, Lalibela, Aksum, Bahir Dar, Dessie and Yeha. In the South, I have recorded sites and ceremonies in Nazareth, Debra Ziet, Awassa, Tiya and Tutafella.

fasiledes.jpg
Above: Fasilides Castle. Photo by Chester Higgins.

Ethiopia is indeed home to the earliest humans. In the National Museum in Addis are the bones of Dinquinesh, or Lucy, dating back almost 4 million years. In Aksum, I have seen the monumental mains of tombs and obelisks from earliest kingdoms. Also in Aksum, in 1000 BCE, Makeda, Queen of Sheba, turned away from the old faith of the Nile River cultures — the worship of the Sun that climaxed as the ancient Egyptian religion — and embraced the faith of the Hebrews. Here, too, Emperor Ezana converted to Christianity in 324 CE. The richness of the historic and photographic appeal of Ethiopia is revealed for me especially in the ancient monolithic stone churches of Lalibela and the more ancient Moon Temple in Yeha.

yeha-temple.jpg
Above: Yeha Temple. Photo by Chester Higgins.

axum_tomb.jpg
Above: Axum Tomb. Photo by Chester Higgins.

Today, Ethiopian people stand tall and proud, their feet planted securely on the land of their fathers and under the sky of their mothers. Ethiopians work hard, believe hard, and are driven hard to persevere by the vicissitudes of nature and life.

It has been a pleasure getting to know Ethiopia and her people.


Learn more about Chester Higgins at:chesterhiggins.com

Imagining Tobia & Ethiopia Whispers: Art Show at Westfield State College

Above: “Streams Of Consciousness II,” 2004. Mixed Media.
42″ x 27″, by artist Sofia Kifle.

Source: Westfield State College

Published: Monday, February 9, 2009

An exhibition entitled ‘IMAGinING TOBIA’, Video Installation and Presentation by Dr. Salem Mekuria, and the New England Premier of ‘Ethiopia Whispers’, paintings by Sofia Kifle are on display at the Westfield State College Downtown Art Gallery (Rinnova Building, 105 Elm Street, Westfield, MA). The show runs through March 7, 2009. Gallery Reception featuring Ethiopian music of Debo Trio and refreshments is scheduled for Thursday, February 12, 2009 (5:30 to 8:00 pm).

Professor Salem Mekuria will speak on February 12 and Daniel Tesfalidet will give the gallery talk on February 5 at the WSC Downtown Art Gallery.


Professor Salem Mekuria

Salem writes, I offer IMAGinING TOBIA as a mirror on which to reflect issues confronting the nation, and as a space in which to meditate on the disjunction between our ‘real’ and imagined knowledge of Ethiopia and its multi-faceted history. As an Ethiopian-American I examine my own gaze on my native land as I take in impressions of the variety and diversity of the landscape and its people. In this way, TOBIA (a vernacular pronunciation for Ethiopia) represents a travelogue recorded by a hybridized explorer’s camera, then layered and juxtaposed in infinite ways to create a multitude of meanings and associations. The triptych is a reference to Ethiopia’s traditional religious art. Salem Mekuria, originally from Ethiopia, is now a Professor of Art at Wellesley College in Massachusetts. She has worked with NOVA/Public Television and with numerous film productions focusing on issues of African women and development. Salem is the recipient of numerous awards, production grants, and fellowships. Her films have been broadcast internationally and have screened at venues around the world.

Sofia Kifle, Ethiopia Whispers

Drawing from her life growing up in Ethopia through simple colorful patterns and symbols Sofia Kifle’s paintings express the movements, journeys, and crossroads of her life experiences.

“My paintings incorporate the fusion of experiences, observation, influences and contemplation spanning my entire life. Growing up in my native Ethiopia, my childhood imagination was always moved by the ragged lines, the warm colors, the expressive eyes, and the stories told by ancient religious paintings in the churches. I am a gypsy who tries to tell eyeful stories by means of color, brush strokes, movements, shapes and characters. These stories visualize and portray my story, the stories of the Africans, the stories of the Americans and the stories of the world.”

Ethiopian Musicians of Debo Trio
Debo Trio is comprised of three members of the Boston-based group, Debo Band, an eight-piece Ethio-groove project. The trio performs chamber-like renditions of the funk and dance music for which Debo Band is known, while focusing on the more traditional elements of Ethiopian music, including the music of the *azmari*.

If you go:
Gallery Reception featuring Ethiopian music of Debo Trio, refreshments
Thursday, February 12, 2009 5:30 – 8:00 pm
Westfield State College Downtown Art Gallery,
Rinnova Building, 105 Elm Street, Westfield

More at Westfield State College.

Three Acts Win Big at the Grammys: Two Ethiopian-Americans seated among the stars

Above: Wayna (pictured above) and Kenna are the two
Ethiopian Americans who earned their seats as
Nominees at the 51st annual Grammy Awards ceremony
at Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday night.

NYT
By BEN SISARIO
Published: February 8, 2009

LOS ANGELES — At the 51st annual Grammy Awards ceremony, at Staples Center here on Sunday night, three disparate acts were in a close race, with hard-core rap, rock and an album of lush Americana vying for the top award.

But it was Robert Plant and Alison Krauss who won album of the year — for a total of five awards — for “Raising Sand” (Rounder), their album of luxuriant renditions of old rockabilly and country songs as well as original material. Lil Wayne, the bawdy and gifted New Orleans rapper, had a total of three, including one for a four-way collaboration. The British rock band Coldplay also had three awards. Read More.

Neo-soul singer from Bowie traded the West Wing for Grammys glory
Wayna’s “Lovin You (Music)” is nominated for a Grammy for best urban/alternative performance.
baltimoresun.com

Wayna: A Soulful Diva in the Making
By Tseday Alehegn
Tadias Staff Writer

New York (Tadias) – Friends and family may know Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen (Wayna) as the young University of Maryland alumna who double majored in English and Speech Communications, and went on to serve as one of the first Ethiopian American researchers at the White House under Former President Bill Clinton.

Recently, however, Wayna has waded into new waters and is beginning to make a name for herself among America’s favorite musicians. She’s nominated for a Grammy.

Wayna’s sophomore album Higher Ground, which propelled her to the prestigious nomination, was released in 2008. The new album, just like her debut CD Moments of Clarity, is an infectious blend of original songs that fuses soul, world, and hip hop sounds accompanied by lyrics on love, loss, faith and courage.

“I’ve poured some of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn into these songs,” Wayna divulges. Music has always been one of Wayna’s deep-seated passions, and her most recent tunes echo her personal struggles, hopes and victories through her own unique and passionate voice. Asked how she views herself and her work, she replies, “I would define myself as an artist who is constantly growing and searching for new ways to express myself vocally, lyrically, and musically. I search for the feeling of losing myself in a song, to create timeless music that speaks to people’s hearts and conveys important messages.”

Born in Ethiopia, Wayna immigrated with her family to the United States when she was just a toddler. As a young girl, she chased after her love of music by starring in popular musical theater productions like Annie, The Boyfriend, and Damn Yankees, as well as by touring with the children’s musical revue company Songs, Inc. Her college years continued to be a time of musical experimentation as she taught herself to play piano on the old Steinway in her dormitory. After being crowned Miss Black Unity of the University of Maryland and earning a one-year tuition scholarship, she went on to start a gospel quartet. The successful and talented quartet performed at the world renowned Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, where they placed as finalist in the Amateur Night competition.

Wayna soon received several opportunities to travel as a soloist with the gospel choir all the while unearthing her talent in singing. But it was after being invited to perform at her university’s annual tradition, A Tribute to African Women, that Wayna ended up writing the ballad that became her first original piece performed for an audience.

“On that day,” she recalls, “music became more than a form of entertainment or a source of comfort to me. I began to see it as a tool to heal and inspire people, including myself.”

Asked to identify her role models in the music world, Wayna chooses the colorful sounds of Chaka Khan, Donnie Hathaway, Billy Holiday, Stevie Wonder and the ’70s soul singer Minnie Riperton. She also enjoys listening to contemporary artists ranging from the soulful voices of D’Angelo and Jill Scott to emerging spoken word performer W. Ellington Felton.

For her personal role models, Wayna selects her mom Tidenkialesh Emagnu and her late aunt Yeshi Immebet Imagnu.

“It wasn’t always easy growing up as an Ethiopian-American, especially at the time I was coming of age,” she confesses. “Because there were far fewer of us here — far different from the experience Ethiopian teenagers have today.”

Remembering the strength and encouragement her family gave her, Wayna recounts lessons she learned at a young age:

“My aunt Yeshie Imagnu made it a point to teach me elements of our history and culture that weren’t obvious just by living in an Ethiopian home. And my mom, though she has resided in the U.S. for 25 years, is one of the truest representations of our culture that I’ve ever encountered,” she says with pride.

Now that she is older, she says she wears her Ethiopian-ness like a badge of honor.

“In fact, I’ve promised myself I will not go on stage unless I’m wearing at least one article of Ethiopian clothing or jewelry,” she adds. “It’s a symbol of who I am.”

In the end, what Wayna teaches us all is far deeper than her lifelong love of song; she teaches us to excel in every aspect of our lives.

“I would encourage Tadias readers to explore all their interests and talents — not just the ones that are validated by our community,” she says.

“What do you wake up thinking about in the middle of the night? What did you love doing for hours on end as a child? Those things are our passions, and we owe it to ourselves and our creator to develop and share them with the world.”

In short, she says, “There’s absolutely nothing we can’t do.”

Tadias Magazine congratulates Wayna on her nomination.

VIDEO: Watch Wayna’s debut video, “My Love”:

You can purchase her new CD at Amazon.com

Ethiopian-American Artist Prepares For Grammy Awards

Above: Wayna’s “Lovin You (Music)” is nominated for a
Grammy for best urban/alternative performance.
(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K.Lam / February 2, 2009).

By Tseday Alehegn
Tadias Staff Writer

Updated: Sunday, February 8, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Friends and family may know Woyneab Miraf Wondwossen (Wayna) as the young University of Maryland alumna who double majored in English and Speech Communications, and went on to serve as one of the first Ethiopian American researchers at the White House under Former President Bill Clinton.

Recently, however, Wayna has waded into new waters and is beginning to make a name for herself among America’s favorite musicians. She’s nominated for a Grammy.

Wayna’s sophomore album Higher Ground, which propelled her to the prestigious nomination, was released in 2008. The new album, just like her debut CD Moments of Clarity, is an infectious blend of original songs that fuses soul, world, and hip hop sounds accompanied by lyrics on love, loss, faith and courage.

“I’ve poured some of the hardest lessons I’ve had to learn into these songs,” Wayna divulges. Music has always been one of Wayna’s deep-seated passions, and her most recent tunes echo her personal struggles, hopes and victories through her own unique and passionate voice. Asked how she views herself and her work, she replies, “I would define myself as an artist who is constantly growing and searching for new ways to express myself vocally, lyrically, and musically. I search for the feeling of losing myself in a song, to create timeless music that speaks to people’s hearts and conveys important messages.”

Born in Ethiopia, Wayna immigrated with her family to the United States when she was just a toddler. As a young girl, she chased after her love of music by starring in popular musical theater productions like Annie, The Boyfriend, and Damn Yankees, as well as by touring with the children’s musical revue company Songs, Inc. Her college years continued to be a time of musical experimentation as she taught herself to play piano on the old Steinway in her dormitory. After being crowned Miss Black Unity of the University of Maryland and earning a one-year tuition scholarship, she went on to start a gospel quartet. The successful and talented quartet performed at the world renowned Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York, where they placed as finalist in the Amateur Night competition.

Wayna soon received several opportunities to travel as a soloist with the gospel choir all the while unearthing her talent in singing. But it was after being invited to perform at her university’s annual tradition, A Tribute to African Women, that Wayna ended up writing the ballad that became her first original piece performed for an audience.

“On that day,” she recalls, “music became more than a form of entertainment or a source of comfort to me. I began to see it as a tool to heal and inspire people, including myself.”

Asked to identify her role models in the music world, Wayna chooses the colorful sounds of Chaka Khan, Donnie Hathaway, Billy Holiday, Stevie Wonder and the ’70s soul singer Minnie Riperton. She also enjoys listening to contemporary artists ranging from the soulful voices of D’Angelo and Jill Scott to emerging spoken word performer W. Ellington Felton.

For her personal role models, Wayna selects her mom Tidenkialesh Emagnu and her late aunt Yeshi Immebet Imagnu.

“It wasn’t always easy growing up as an Ethiopian-American, especially at the time I was coming of age,” she confesses. “Because there were far fewer of us here — far different from the experience Ethiopian teenagers have today.”

Remembering the strength and encouragement her family gave her, Wayna recounts lessons she learned at a young age:

“My aunt Yeshie Imagnu made it a point to teach me elements of our history and culture that weren’t obvious just by living in an Ethiopian home. And my mom, though she has resided in the U.S. for 25 years, is one of the truest representations of our culture that I’ve ever encountered,” she says with pride.

Now that she is older, she says she wears her Ethiopian-ness like a badge of honor.

“In fact, I’ve promised myself I will not go on stage unless I’m wearing at least one article of Ethiopian clothing or jewelry,” she adds. “It’s a symbol of who I am.”

In the end, what Wayna teaches us all is far deeper than her lifelong love of song; she teaches us to excel in every aspect of our lives.

“I would encourage Tadias readers to explore all their interests and talents — not just the ones that are validated by our community,” she says.

“What do you wake up thinking about in the middle of the night? What did you love doing for hours on end as a child? Those things are our passions, and we owe it to ourselves and our creator to develop and share them with the world.”

In short, she says, “There’s absolutely nothing we can’t do.”

Tadias Magazine congratulates Wayna on her nomination.

VIDEO: Watch Wayna’s debut video, “My Love”:

You can purchase her new CD at Amazon.com

A lecture at Columbia University on Ethiopian artist Zerihun Yetmgeta’s works

Source: Columbia University

Published: Thursday, February 5, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Dr. Abebe Zegeye (pictured above) of the University of South Africa and Yale University will be presenting a lecture at Columbia University on February 12, 2009. The lecture is entitled : The Magical Universe of Art : Ethiopian artist Zerihun Yetmgeta’s works.

Ethiopia has a cultural tradition, and an artistic heritage that go back many centuries. One of this fascinating African country’s most prominent artists, Zerihun Yetmgeta, has decided to exhibit his works in his home town, the city of Addis Ababa. Yetmgeta’s exhibition The Magical Universe of
Art, is a collection of works that looks back over the artist’s shoulder upon 40 years of dedicated work. It follows the maturation of his artistic passion over the years, right up to the present. His art, always exceptional, has grown more fulsome, his talent for transposing traditional motifs of Ethiopian Christianity ­ its legends, magical practices, belief in spirits and demons and Œevil eyes – into contemporary art. Over time, his work has become more prodigious, more intricate and more laden with hidden meaning. This talk will provide further insight and explore Yetmgeta’s extraordinary talent.

If you go: Date: Feb 12, 20:30-4:30; Location: Room 1512 International Affairs Building, 435 118th St.; Columbia University.

Short- term paid work: Assistance with Film Translation Needed

Assistance with Film Translation:

Our film is an independent documentary that follows one girl as she is adopted from an orphanage in Addis Ababa by a (white) American family. Weynshet, the main subject of the film, is 12 when we meet her in Addis, 13 when she meets her adoptive parents and comes to America with them. We document her transition and transformation over the next 2 years and end with her first return trip to Ethiopia for a visit,at 16. It’s a film that ultimately deals with many of the experiences of international adoptees, as well as extending into the experiences of immigrants to the US. We filmed in Addis a number of
times over the last 3 years and much of our material is in Amharic.

For the moment we are looking for a good translator: someone who knows both Amharic and English well. And who understands the cultural nuances of both worlds, especially of contemporary Ethiopia/Addis Ababa. It can be difficult work to translate as the material is documentary video – not interviews – but real scenes unfolding, sometimes with questionable microphone coverage. It can also be very satisfying for someone with an interest in documentary film or journalism and also in teenagers or immigration, etc. It’s short- term, periodic, paid work.

People who are interested should send a note to my email address: susan@jumbofilm.com.

Bati: New Ethiopian Restaurant in Brooklyn Now Open for Business

Bati Yummy, Now Open for Lunch
VillageVoice.com
Posted by Hailey Eber

New York – Bati (747 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), the new Ethiopian restaurant in Fort Greene, is now open for lunch after a soft opening the weekend before last.

A friend and I tried Bati last weekend and had some of the best Ethiopian food either of us had had in recent memory. The restaurant is still waiting on its liquor license, so it’s BYOB for now, which does always help my culinary memory. We were more in a beer mood, so I grabbed a six pack at Fresh Gardens (729 Fulton Street, Brooklyn), an organic bodega just down the block that has a far better (and less pricey) beer selection than the Provisions market right next door to the restaurant. I assembled a mix-and-match six pack of craft IPAs, including my current favorite, Lagunitas, to complement the spicy food. If you prefer to grab wine, there’s the Greene Grape (765 Fulton Street) wine store one block over.

Once having procured proper libation to bring with, it was time to eat.

My dining companion is vegetarian, so we had a meatless meal, which isn’t a problem, since Bati, like most Ethiopian places, is quite veggie friendly. We started with Ye Timatim Fitfit ($5), a mix of tomato salad and torn up bits of injera–Ethiopian flat bread. The tomatoes tasted deliciously fresh on yet another dreary winter night and the bits of injera were brushed with just enough kibe–clarified butter with herbs–to impart a buttery goodness without heart-attack thoughts.

For our main course, we split a vegetarian combination platter ($14), which, with the appetizer, was more than enough for the two of us. Of the four dishes on the platter, the clear winner was the Buticha–ground chick peas blended with spices, onion, and pepper. It reminded me of a drier, fluffier Ethiopian take on hummus and provided a fresh, cool counterpoint to the warmer, saucier elements on the platter.

Owner Hibist Legesse has described the food as “traditional Ethiopian with a focus on nutrition and health” and the food tastes healthy in the ways one wants it to–the vegetables are fresher and the flavors cleaner than many other things we’ve scooped up with injera, and the injera itself is spongy and flavorful without being too heavy (very important when consuming with IPAs aplenty)–while still retaining the tasty unhealthy elements–butter!

The space itself is lovely. The panes of the large windows facing the street have been painted a shade of vermilion that perfectly complements the dark wood, and the artwork is minimal and soothing. Its dimensions are more East Village than Brooklyn, though, and the place can get a bit too cozy when full. Service is warm and friendly but still working out some kinks, as to be expected in the early weeks. It took a while to get our food and there seemed to be a napkin shortage, rather comical when you’re eating with your hands. All are minor inconveniences, however, easily washed down with another IPA. In a neighborhood has some great eating options from Africa—from South African fare at Madiba (195 DeKalb Avenue, Brooklyn) to Senegalese food at Abistro (154 Carlton Avenue, Brooklyn)–this Ethiopian addition is a very welcome one.

More from VillageVoice.com

Legacy of President Obama’s Mother

Malamalama:
The magazine of the University of Hawaiʻi

The candidacy and election of President Barack Obama drew international eyes to the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, where his parents met. But among some at the university, it is Obama’s late mother who stirs strong emotions of memory and hope.

Stanley Ann Dunham took an unconventional approach to life on both personal and professional levels. Her son’s book portrays her as an innocent, kind and generous; academics who knew her and reporters who have discovered her describe the idealism and optimism of her worldview and work ethic.

In her work, she was not a romantic, rather appreciating the artistic while dealing with the realistic, one contemporary observes.

Dunham was born in Kansas and attended high school in Washington State. Moving to Hawaiʻi with her parents, she entered UH in 1960. In Russian class, she met the first African student to attend UH, charismatic Barack Obama Sr., who moved in politically liberal, intellectual student circles that included future Congressman Neil Abercrombie. They married and had Barack Obama Jr. in 1961.

Obama Sr. left his family for Harvard and then Kenya. Dunham returned to UH, earning a math degree. She pursued graduate work, married another international student, Lolo Soetoro, and returned with him to Indonesia. There she began extensive research and fieldwork and welcomed the birth of daughter Maya Kassandra Soetoro, nine years Barack’s junior.

Although eventually divorced a second time, Dunham is credited with encouraging her children’s appreciation of their ethnic heritages. Read more.

Zrubavel: Ethiopian-Israeli Film to Premiere in New York

ZRUBAVEL

New York Premiere!

Winner of Best Film Award – 2008 Haifa International Film Festival

The first Israeli film by a team of Ethiopian Israelis. Itzhak, soon to be a bar mitzvah, dreams of becoming the Spike Lee of Israel and films a documentary about the neighborhood’s residents. He comes from an Ethiopian immigrant family led by his grandfather Gita. Gita, a janitor, insists on sending his son to a pretentious school despite the principal’s refusal to accept the boy. His dream is that his son will become an Israeli Air Force pilot, even though another son was killed while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. The daughter is romantically involved with a distant relative in violation of Ethiopian tradition, and another son becomes religious. A chain of events ignites a clash of generations – the Ethiopian traditions cherished by Gita and his wife, and the younger generation’s desire to assimilate to Israeli life.

Followed by Q & A with director Shmuel Beru,
performance with Ethiopian artist, Meskie Shibru-Sivan,
and Opening Night Reception.

Presented in cooperation with Be’chol Lashon and Bina Cultural Foundation, Inc.
Please RSVP to NewYork@BecholLashon.org or via phone at 212-217-0178

Treasure Trove of Ethiopian Music: Who is Tezera Haile Michael?

Above: The Swinging Sixties – The Police Band strut their
stuff in 1965/6.

Source: Radiodiffusion

Obsession. That is the word that describes Francis Falceto. He is the man behind the volume, and counting, Éthiopiques series on Buda Music. In April of 1984, a friend of his lent him a copy of a Mahmoud Ahmed album. A month later, he went to Ethiopia. Although it would be over a decade before the Éthiopiques discs started showing up in record shops around the world, he was responsible for the first release abroad of modern Ethiopian music with the reissue of Mahmoud Ahmed’s 1975 album “Erè Mèla Mèla” for Crammed Discs in 1986. But it is surprising, that in the span of the twenty three discs and two DVDs that have been released since 1997, that there is still plenty of territory that has yet to be covered.

The music of Ethiopia is the result of a very specific series of events. First, there is Emperor Haile Sellassie’s visit to Jerusalem in 1923. While he was there, two significant things happened: He heard brass band music for the first time and he met the “Arba Lijoch”. The “Arba Lijoch” were a group of forty Armenian orphans (Amharic “forty children”) living at the Armenian monastery in Jerusalem, who had escaped from the Armenian genocide in Turkey. They impressed Haile Selassie so much that he obtained permission from the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem to adopt them and bring them to Ethiopia, where he then arranged for them to receive musical instruction. They arrived in Addis Ababa on September 6, 1924, and along with their bandleader Kevork Nalbandian to become the first official orchestra of the nation. Nalbandian’s nephew, Nerses Nalbandian – who was a composer, arranger, chorus leader, and music teacher, would go on to become a core person to develop modern music in that country. Throw in Peace Corps volunteers bringing records from America, as well as the American military radio at Kagnew Station in neighboring Eritrea broadcasting the latest R & B, Soul, Rock and Pop hits, and you have a potent combination of influences that produced one of the most unique musical movements found in any country at that, or really any, point in time.

But all of that ended in 1975, when the Derg ousted Emperor Haile Selassie from power. The Derg, which means “committee” or “council” in Ge’ez, is the short name of the Coordinating Committee of the Armed Forces, Police, and Territorial Army and was a communist military junta led by a committee of military officers. Under their rule, the nightlife of Addis Ababa faded away and the record labels disappeared. The musicians were unable to leave the country, since emigration became almost impossible and they needed an exit visa to leave the country. The music may never have left Ethiopia, if it were not for the few vinyl records that managed to find their way out into the rest of the world.

The only information that I have been able to find about Tezera Haile Michael, is that he was primarily a songwriter and arranger, who’s songs that were recorded by Bezunesh Bekele, Mahmoud Ahmed (on all of his self released singles) and Tilahoun Gessesse. I have also seen him credited as a back up singer for some of the early recordings of the Imperial Body Guard Band, who are the backing band on this record. As far as I know, this was his only recording where he was the featured vocalist.


The album “Ayitchat Neber” by Tezera Haile Michael & Imperial Body Guard.
Catalog number PH 7-161 on Philips Records Ethiopia. No release date listed.

What Obama’s Presidency means to my daughter from Ethiopia

BY Jill Vexler

Updated: January 25, 2008

New York (Tadias) – About six months ago, my then seven year old daughter, Tibarek, awakened early one morning and called out to me. “Jilly, I had a dream. Joe Biden won! And that means that if he wins, Obama will win, too. So, you don’t have to worry!” I told her that her dream was wonderful and I hoped she was right. “Kids just know these things. Adults just have to listen to us sometimes.”

My prescient daughter was right and on Nov. 5th, I awakened her to say, “OBAMA WON!” “Stop kidding me!” she responded with a smile. “You’re sure?” And we, like the vast majority of Americans and the world, started our day with a profound smile.

I’m still digesting Obama’s victory and what it means to me. Each time I hear someone on TV, I think “Oh, that’s what it means.” Optimism. Potential. The fruits of hard work. The core of what America means to the world. My elation that a man of high intelligence, calm and caring has won is reinforced by the flood of emails from friends around the world who are SO excited with us – the friend in Amsterdam who was invited to FIVE parties to watch the results, the friend in Tel Aviv who sees a new day in the Middle East, my “sister” in Mexico City who is crying with emotions for future generations.

There’s also a profoundly personal joy in Obama’s victory that I haven’t fully articulated, but it goes something like this: Because I am Tibarek’s mom, I feel an extra connection to the joy of the African American and African communities here and all over the world that a black man is the new leader of America. I am overjoyed that Tibarek has been in the US during this formidable time, when women leaders are the norm, Spanish is the language she hears and is picking up, and black faces are those of our leaders. She’s living a life in which news that “Uncle Bruce and Uncle Mitch are getting married!” is met with “I thought they already were.” Her visual vocabulary is vast with fluid definitions of who’s who and who can be what. Rabbis and Episcopal priests are women. Her elementary school teachers are Chinese American, African and Caribbean American, white, Latina, scarf-wearing Muslims. Her generation sees diversity as the norm while ours saw “white men” as the norm. She voted with me for Hillary for Senator and Obama for President; we canvassed for Obama in Pennsylvania; we talk about policy and fairness. I love it that she will see little girls who look like her living in the White House. I am proud to have participated in activities which show her in the importance of being involved.


Tibarek checking in at a polling station


Campaigning in Scranton, Pennsylvania

And herein, I feel an almost secret connection, perhaps my own little invention, of closeness to the man and his family. Obama’s white anthropologist mother brought him up in a world where different cultures, looks, languages, religions and nationalities were daily fair. This was formative. His deeply ingrained values are reflected in his ease with cultures, from his approach to foreign policy to his take on domestic diversity. Each time Obama talks about world cultures, diversity in America, intercultural understanding, his comfort with true multiculturalism exudes. Problems are not swept away but are approached under a larger umbrella of respect for the human experience and the need to understand multiple perspectives. With this in the forefront, Obama and his team bring new energy and intellect to find creative solutions. What a glorious contrast with the Republicans for whom an understanding of multiple perspectives was seen as unpatriotic.

I am Tibarek’s white anthropologist mother who also lives in the world where a huge embrace of “other” is the norm. Two years ago, Tibarek’s Ethiopian mother entrusted me to take her beyond the family’s limited resources, expand her world, grow and blossom. I promised her I would and am taking this amazing person along for every possible opportunity that comes our way or that we can create. I hope I am giving Tibarek the tools for living in a hugely diverse world, enjoying differences and learning from them. I want her to know and be comfortable with her many identities: African, Ethiopian, American, Texas, from a bi-racial Jewish family with Episcopalian god-parents and friends and family from every point on the globe. And I hope she, like Obama, will take the ball and run with it as she makes positive contributions to the world she will encounter.

From knocking on doors in Pennsylvania, I figure she’ll soon be knocking on another door on Pennsylvania Avenue, this time for a play date.


Scranton, Pennsylvania

Cover Image: Jill Vexler, a New York City based anthropologist,
who specializes in curating exhibitions about cultural identity
and social history, with Tibarek, her seven year old adopted
daughter from Ethiopia, outside the polling station in Greenwich
Village, NYC
.

Historic Duke Ellington Boulevard Boasts of a Jazzy Past

Above: Jazz great Duke Ellington toasts with Emperor Haile
Selassie after receiving Ethiopia’s Medal of Honor in 1973.
(Photo: Ethiopiancrown.org)

Columbia Spectator.
Historic Boulevard Boasts of a Jazzy Past
By Rosie DuPont
Published January 23, 2009

To the average Morningside Heights resident, 106th Street may seem pretty ordinary.

Maybe you’ve had a consultation with Joshua the Psychic on 106th Street and Columbus Avenue, or perhaps you’ve wandered past Innovation Bike Shop on 106th Street after eating delicious Ethiopian food at Awash. If you search “106th Street NYC” on Google, you’ll find a link to “The Bedbug Registry: Bed Bug Report 61 West 106th Street” and “Gypsy-Cab Driver Slain on E. 106th Street.”
Just an average New York City block, right? Think again.

One-hundred-and-sixth Street was once home to the renowned jazz musician Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington. Ellington lived in a townhouse on 333 Riverside Dr. and 106th Street for a number of years, and owned two other houses on the block where his sister Ruth Ellington Boatwright and his son, Mercer, lived.

In honor of Ellington’s memory, 106th Street was officially renamed Duke Ellington Boulevard in 1977, three years after his death. Read more at Columbia Spectator.

Want to learn an Ethiopian language? New Blog to help you reclaim your mother tongue

BY chitra Aiyar

January 23, 2009

If you are interested in participating, email a few sentences about why you want to participate to the email provided at the bottom by February 1, 2009. Subject line – “mother tongue blog”

What it is?
A community blog consisting of participants committed to learning, relearning, mastering, claiming, reclaiming their mother tongues, whatever language it may be. Participants commit to spending at least 15 minutes a day towards their goal and posting weekly to the group about their process – both the struggles and successes. The blog provides both community and accountability for what can often be a daunting journey. The blog will launch on february 21, 2009 – international mother language day – and will continue for one year. The blog will be accessible only to participants, not the broader public. At the end of one year, we are hoping to use the blog as the basis for an anthology about reclaiming one’s mother tongue and at the very least, offer a guarantee that all participants will make progress towards reclaiming their mother tongues.

Background
For a long time, I’ve been hunting for a good book on learning language as an adult and never found one that met my specific needs. I decided that I should put together an anthology, specifically about learning one’s mother tongue which I think is a different process from just learning a foreign language. And since I do best when I learn in community I am starting this blog that will be filled with participants learning different languages but probably facing similar struggles. I believe very strongly that hearing each others stories and processes may be the push that we need to reclaim our mother tongues. I am hopeful that this blog can help people work through whatever mental and emotional blocks they might have about learning language and offer solidarity in the struggle.

Logistics
If you want to participate, please email a quick summary about who you are and why you are interested in participating by february 1, 2009 to chitra.aiyar@gmail.com subject line “mother tongue blog”. All participants will receive further information about how the blog will function. Once the blog starts, it will only be open and accessible to registered participants

How is mother tongue defined?
Self-defined, it could be the language your mother or father speaks or the language that your grandparents speak or any language that you feel that you should speak. “mother tongues” are distinct from “foreign languages” which don’t carry the weight of ancestral roots or shame or exile…

Who can participate?
Anyone! The more diverse a group the better – please recruit your friends and family. And it would be wonderful to have participants not based in the US.

Do I have to have a certain level of proficiency in the language?
No, beginners and great conversationalists are both welcome. We want anyone who feels that they want to improve their skills, regardless of where their starting point is.

How will the blog help me to learn a language?
We’re not going to be providing specific instruction in specific languages although individuals who are learning the same language can connect and some tips and strategies may be relevant to different languages. The main purpose is to have a collective place to document the process of learning – the struggles and success – and to have some accountability after the initial excitement fades.

What is the connection between this blog and a future anthology?
I am hoping that the blog can serve as the basis for a future anthology – participants can write essays based on their experiences over a year and this can be interspersed with individual blog posts. Of course, no writings will be used for the anthology unless the author is willing – you can participate in the blog and not have anything published in the anthology.

I am a private person and scared of blogs
Me too! Access to the blog will be limited to participants and all participants will be encourage to use usernames if they are uncomfortable with revealing who they are.

One year is a long time – What if I am not ready to make that commitment?
Then this might not be the time for you to participate. We’re not necessarily looking for fast or advanced learners or people who have the luxury to study for hours a day, but we are looking for thoughtful individuals willing to commit to a daily practice of 15 minutes over a one-year period and willing to share their process with others.

Any other questions?
Email chitra.aiyar@gmail.com

Ethiopia still hiring, despite global economic slowdown

Primary source: PRWEB

According to Ezega.com, a web portal that lists new jobs in Ethiopia, the sectors that registered the most new jobs were in the following broad categories: Engineering, Accounting and IT Ethiopian jobs.

1. Engineering – This category attracted the most vacancy ads during this time. Roughly 20% of all jobs posted at Ezega.com were engineering jobs. In this category, Civil Engineering took the lion’s share of new jobs, distantly followed by Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

2. Accounting and Finance – The next largest number of jobs were in Accounting & Finance. This area accounted for about 14% of all jobs posted at Ezega.com. Accounting jobs were the single largest group in this category, followed by Finance, Auditing and the like.

3. Information Technology – IT jobs made up the third largest jobs group in Ezega jobs database. It accounted for about 10% of all jobs posted at Ezega.com. Software Engineers and Networking professionals seem to be in equal demand in this category, followed by the rest of Computer Engineering jobs.

As one might expect, salaries vary widely from company to company, job to job, and region to region. Most companies do not advertise what they will pay ahead of time. Typically, in Ethiopian vacancy ads, salaries are posted as negotiable and/or dependent on experience. However, based on interviews we conducted with some job hunters, in the private sector, graduates in IT and Engineering with 2-3 years of experience may expect, on average, 3000-4000 ETB per month. Workers with longer experience and/or higher degrees may command a lot more money.

Although Ethiopia’s economy did well in last few years and the job market improved, some employers we contacted do not appear to be happy with the pool of talent they are getting. The most common complaint appears to be shortage experienced and disciplined workforce. And even if they get such employees, they seem to be frustrated by the fact that these workers change jobs so frequently and, in some cases, with little or no advance notice at all.

“I had an employee who quit on me on the spot the other day”, said one contractor. “To add insult to injury, this fellow came back a few days later to ask for a letter of recommendation, totally oblivious to the disruption he created.” This problem was also voiced by other investors who, in a survey conducted for World Economic Forum, ranked “poor work ethic in national labor force” among the top five biggest problems in doing business in Ethiopia.

Due to global economic slowdown, the jobs market in Ethiopia appears to be cooling of late. However, the long-term prospect looks good. The trend in outsourcing and the move towards low cost labor and resources should favor countries like Ethiopia. But this will also depend on whether the country can provide the necessary infrastructure and good business climate to support growth. Although much has been done and achieved in recent years, there is a lot more to be desired in this regard.

Internet service remains very poor and expensive in Ethiopia. One line dialup internet service that works intermittently can cost a company as much as 1,500 ETB per month. And if you can withstand ETC (Ethiopian Telecommunication Corporation) bureaucracy, 128Kbs broadband internet service will cost you 7,500 ETB for installation and 3,140 ETB per month thereafter. 2Mbps broadband costs 103,400 ETB to install and 41,500 ETB per month for service, roughly 200 times what it would cost in the USA. Sadly, the government has been unable to provide a decent service so far and unwilling to cede control in this area, depriving the country the incredible power of this new medium.

Note: Ezega.com advertises on Tadias Magazine.

Hot Shots from Obama Inauguration

PHOTOS FROM THE INAUGURATION

Barack Hussein Obama became the 44th president of the United States Tuesday, and called on Americans to join him in confronting what he described as an economic crisis caused by greed but also “our collective failure to make hard choices.” Read more.


The swearing-in of President Barack Obama


“Choose hope over fear”


George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush greet Obama and his wife Michelle
on the North Portico of the White House


Obama and his wife Michelle bid farewell to Reverend Luis Leon outside St. John’s
Episcopal Church (JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)


Crowds fill the National Mall


Magic Johnson, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, California Arnold Schwarzenegger,
and Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson stand on the inaugural stage


Director Steven Spielberg sits with wife Kate Capshaw


Elie Wiesel arrives


Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY) and other members of congress arrive on the inaugural
stage

Washington: It’s Party Town U.S.A.

Above: Bruce Springsteen put on benefit concerts for Obama
during his campaign and has a new album set to drop at the
same time as the inauguration – it’s likely you’ll see him in D.C.
for the gala events.Credits: Brandon/AP

DAILY NEWS

BY PATRICK HUGUENIN

Sunday, January 18th 2009


Beyonce will sing ‘At Last’ for Barack and Michelle
Obama’s first dance at inauguration. (Credits: Weiss/ News)

D.C. set for three days of celeb-filled
bashes celebrating Obama


Gabrielle Union at the BET Honors during
the preparations for the inauguration of
President Barack Obama. Roca/News

Washington is gearing up for one heck of a party for Barack Obama.

The District has been transformed by an influx of gala-goers and celebs, all here to fete Obama’s entrance to the White House.

Three straight days of star-studded concerts and cocktail parties are the talk of the town (along with hope, change and Michelle Obama’s wardrobe).


Beyonce will perform her rendition of
‘At Last’ for the Obamas’ first dance at
Inauguration. (Micelotta/Getty)

The party circuit kicked off Sunday afternoon when Obama took to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to host the “We Are One” inaugural concert, with a lineup that reads like the guest list to the Grammys.

Beyoncé, Mary J. Blige, Bono, Garth Brooks, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban, John Legend, Usher, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, will.i.am and Stevie Wonder will all wowed the crowd.

Look out for Tiger Woods, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx, Tom Hanks, Steve Carell and Queen Latifah. If you’re not in D.C., you can catch the action on HBO. Read more.

Here is the text of Obama’s speech at the Lincoln
Memorial on Sunday, January 18, as prepared for delivery:


The Obamas at the Lincoln Memorial for the star-studded
concert celebrating Tuesday’s inauguration.

I want to thank all the speakers and performers for reminding us, through song and through words, just what it is that we love about America. And I want to thank all of you for braving the cold and the crowds and traveling in some cases thousands of miles to join us here today. Welcome to Washington, and welcome to this celebration of American renewal.

In the course of our history, only a handful of generations have been asked to confront challenges as serious as the ones we face right now. Our nation is at war. Our economy is in crisis. Millions of Americans are losing their jobs and their homes; they’re worried about how they’ll afford college for their kids or pay the stack of bills on their kitchen table. And most of all, they are anxious and uncertain about the future – about whether this generation of Americans will be able to pass on what’s best about this country to our children and their children.


At the Lincoln Memorial

I won’t pretend that meeting any one of these challenges will be easy. It will take more than a month or a year, and it will likely take many. Along the way there will be setbacks and false starts and days that test our fundamental resolve as a nation. But despite all of this – despite the enormity of the task that lies ahead – I stand here today as hopeful as ever that the United States of America will endure – that the dream of our founders will live on in our time.

What gives me that hope is what I see when I look out across this mall. For in these monuments are chiseled those unlikely stories that affirm our unyielding faith – a faith that anything is possible in America. Rising before us stands a memorial to a man who led a small band of farmers and shopkeepers in revolution against the army of an Empire, all for the sake of an idea. On the ground below is a tribute to a generation that withstood war and depression – men and women like my grandparents who toiled on bomber assembly lines and marched across Europe to free the world from tyranny’s grasp. Directly in front of us is a pool that still reflects the dream of a King, and the glory of a people who marched and bled so that their children might be judged by their character’s content. And behind me, watching over the union he saved, sits the man who in so many ways made this day possible.

And yet, as I stand here tonight, what gives me the greatest hope of all is not the stone and marble that surrounds us today, but what fills the spaces in between. It is you – Americans of every race and region and station who came here because you believe in what this country can be and because you want to help us get there. It is the same thing that gave me hope from the day we began this campaign for the presidency nearly two years ago; a belief that if we could just recognize ourselves in one another and bring everyone together – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; Latino, Asian, and Native American; black and white, gay and straight, disabled and not – then not only would we restore hope and opportunity in places that yearned for both, but maybe, just maybe, we might perfect our union in the process.This is what I believed, but you made this belief real. You proved once more that people who love this country can change it. And as I prepare to assume the presidency, yours are the voices I will take with me every day I walk into that Oval Office – the voices of men and women who have different stories but hold common hopes; who ask only for what was promised us as Americans – that we might make of our lives what we will and see our children climb higher than we did.

It is this thread that binds us together in common effort; that runs through every memorial on this mall; that connects us to all those who struggled and sacrificed and stood here before.

It is how this nation has overcome the greatest differences and the longest odds – because there is no obstacle that can stand in the way of millions of voices calling for change.

That is the belief with which we began this campaign, and that is how we will overcome what ails us now. There is no doubt that our road will be long. That our climb will be steep. But never forget that the true character of our nation is revealed not during times of comfort and ease, but by the right we do when the moment is hard. I ask you to help me reveal that character once more, and together, we can carry forward as one nation, and one people, the legacy of our forefathers that we celebrate today.

Inaugural Bash: Words and Photos to Get You in Festive mood

Photos by Scout Tufankjian

New Yorker Scout Tufankjian, 29, knows something about foresight.

Last month, photos she started taking two years ago featuring a political long shot named Barack Obama hit bookstores in a sweeping, intimate portrait (“Yes We Can,” PowerHouse, $29.95) of the President-elect’s historic campaign. (Read more about the photographer at NY Daily News)


‘This country remains the greatest on Earth, not because of the size of our military
or the size of our economy, but because every child can actually achieve as much
they can dream.’ – ‘Meet the Press,’ July 25, 2004.
Credits: Miami, Florida, October 21, 2008 © Scout Tufankjian


‘I’ve always been clear that I’m rooted in the African-American community but not
limited to it.’ – The Washington Post, July 27, 2004.
Credits: En route to Hamilton, Indiana, August 31, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?
Hope – hope in the face of difficulty. hope in the face of uncertainty The audacity of
hope!’ – From the 2004 Democratic national Convention speech in July 2004 in Boston.
Credits: Greensboro, North Carolina, May 5, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘My little girls can break my heart. They can make me cry just looking at them
eating their string beans.’ – Houston Chronicle, Oct. 29, 2006.
Credits: Chicago, Illinois, November 4, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, then we should ask ourselves
whether we truly believe in them at all.’ – From his autobiography, ‘The Audacity of Hope.’
Credits: Denver, Colorado, October 26, 2008 © copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘At their core Americans are decent people. And there is a sense of hope that
people can change this country together.’ – Times of London, Dec. 11, 2006.
Credits: Unity, New Hampshire, June 27, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘There is not a liberal America and a conservative America – there is the United
States of America. There is not a black America and a white America and Latino
America nd Asian America – there’s the United States of America.’ – From his
keynote speech to the Democratic National Convention, July 2004.
Credits: St. Paul, Minnesota, June 3, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘I was never the likeliest candidate for this office.’ – Victory speech, Nov. 4, 2008.
Credits: Chicago, Illinois, November, 4, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


‘America, we are better than these last eight years. We are a better country
than this.’ – From Democratic National Convention, August 28, 2008, Denver, Colorado.
Credits: Des Moines, Iowa, January 2, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian


The Democratic National Convention.
Credits: Denver, Colorado, August 28, 2008 © Copyright Scout Tufankjian

More photos at NYDailyNews.com

Minyeshu: An eclectic but faithfully Ethiopian artist

Afrik.com
By Anissa Herrou, translated by Will Garthey Mould
Saturday 17 January 2009

Minyeshu: “Proud to be Ethiopian”

Minyeshu’s second album, Dire Dawa, is an introduction into a colourful world. Rich with folkloric influences and modern tones, the album’s repertoire ensnares the listener with Minyeshu’s suave and warm voice. A fully accomplished artist in her own right, she captivates her audience with bewitching dance steps. In an interview with Afrik.com the young artist talks about her music, her culture and her beloved country, Ethiopia.

Minyeshu’s musical adventure started in Adis Ababa some years back. After successfully graduating from a training course at the National Theatre as a full fledged artist, she packed bag and baggage and hit European capitals with an incalculable dose of motivation.

Her first album titled Meba was released in 2002 and is a blend of traditional Ethiopian music with modern Western arrangements. Six years later, October 2008, she is back with an invitation to discover yet another dazzling album, Dire Dawa. Just like her village of birth, which also goes by the name Dire Dawa – between the Ethiopian capital, Adis Ababa, and Djibouti – the artist’s second opus is vivacious, colourful, energetic and refreshing.

Minyeshu talks about her influences, her wishes as well as her hopes. Read the interview at Afrik.com.

Memo to Obama Team: Wine and Dine in Little Ethiopia

By Tadias Staff

Published: Thursday, January 15, 2009

New York (Tadias) – The Washingtonian Magazine, D.C.’s top source of information for dining, shopping and entertainment has tips for the new Obama team on how they may ease their transition to the nation’s capital, which incidentally is home to one of the largest and most vibrant Ethiopian communities in the country.

The magazine lists the usual hot spots like Ben’s Chili Bowl. But that’s just the icing on the cake. The newbies are forewarned that they’re not real insiders until they have ventured to Little Ethiopia, the nickname for the neighborhood on U Street NW, in the Shaw section of Washington known for its cluster of Ethiopian restaurants and shops. The Washingtonian recommends the delicious chili-laced tibs and wet at Etete restaurant.


The chili-laced tibs and stews at Etete are good
examples of one of the city’s most enduring ethnic
cuisines. Photograph by Matthew Worden.

And if you’re in town for Inauguration, here is an expanded list of Washington D.C.’s Ethiopian restaurants courtesy of Ethiopianrestaurant.com:

Abiti’s
1909 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Addis Ababa
2106 18th St NW
Washington, DC 2000

Awash
2218 18th St NW
Washington, DC 2000

Axum
1934 9th St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Continental
1433 P St NW
Washington, DC 20005

Dynasty Ethiopian
2210 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Habesha Market
1919 9th Street NW
Washington DC 20001

Dukem
1114-1118 U St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Etete
1942 9th St NW
Washington DC 20001

Fasika’s
2447 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Lalibela
1415 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

Madjet
1102 U St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Meskerem
2434 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Habesha
1119 V St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Roha
1212 U St NW
Washington, DC 20009

Nile
7815 Georgia Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20012

Queen Makeda
1917 9th St
Washington DC 20001

Salome
900 U St. NW
Washington, DC 20001

Sodere
1930 9th St NW
Washington DC 20001

U Turn
1942 U St NW
Washington, DC 20001

Zed’s
1201 28th St NW
Washington, DC 20007

For an Ethiopian Painter in Paris, new levels of public recognition

Fikru Gebre Mariam in his Paris Studio - 2005 (Courtesy photo)

Tadias Magazine
By Donald N. Levine

Published: Thursday, January 8, 2009

New York (Tadias) – Featured in exhibitions in two prestigious French galleries in Autumn 2008, Galerie Alternance in the north and Galerie Cabotse in Paris, the work of Fikru Gebre Mariam has reached new levels of both aesthetic power and public recognition. The moment is ripe for looking back at Fikru’s oeuvre and taking a fresh look at his artistic development.

Inspired to pursue an artistic career after winning an award at age 13 at the International Children’s Painting Exhibition in Beijing, Fikru began formal study at the Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts, founded a half-century ago by the distinguished artist Ale Felege Selam, who introduced modern methods of teaching drawing and painting, which he had studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the 1950s. There he became a protégé of instructor Tadesse Mesfin, who not only taught him painterly skills but gave him a graphic theme which he would embrace, struggle with, and grow through, ever since. The motif was a variant of a genre of contemporary Ethiopian painting sometimes glossed as “2 women,” a phrase used to represent women doing everyday tasks like spinning and making pottery, as shown in one of his paintings. Although some Ethiopian artists often dismiss their works in this genre as mere touristic products, not expressive of their true selves, others have turned it into a serious genre. In Fikru’s hands, it became a vehicle for one epiphany after another. He has gone from depictions of groups of women standing, to more abstract representations, often with masks, to purely abstract creations.

At each phase similar qualities strike the viewer. They convey a blend of rich hues, emotional intensity, immediacy of impact, and a touch of austerity. If asked to compare them to European artists, I would say that Fikru’s compositions offer a blend of Modigliani figures in a Giacomettian “Still Ladies” stance presented with Braquean geometric abstraction. In a conversation with the artist, Fikru let me know that Braque was indeed his favorite artist. Even so, there is no mistaking the deeply Ethiopian flavor of these paintings. They display hints of Ethiopian miniatures and church paintings. They are imbued with African earth tones. They use the colored garments of Harari women. They capture the somber mood of much Ethiopian life.

rsz_1rsz_cover.jpg
The Dream – 120×120 cm – Oil on canvas – 2004. Upcoming
shows – 2007: solo exhibition National Museum, Addis Ababa,
Ethiopia. 2007: May 1-30: solo exhibition, Galerie François 1er,
Aubigny sur Nère (18700), France. Opening on May 5th at 5pm.
2008: summer: Galerie Alternance Guy Lignier, Hardelot, France.

rsz_painting-1.jpg
Blue dream 100×81 cm Oil on canvas 2004. Painting by Fikru
G/Mariam (Addis Ababa & Paris).

The world of Ethiopian painters is, like much else about contemporary Ethiopian life, divided between those who have remained at home and attempted to be true to Ethiopian realities, and those who have emigrated and whose offspring evince a passion to emulate Western styles to a high degree. With studios in Paris and Addis Ababa, where he spends half a year each, Fikru savors all he can of both worlds. He insists that it is essential for his art that he remains close to his Ethiopian roots–and indeed has continued to live in his father’s gibbi until now. At the same time, Fikru finds it no less essential to spend half of each year abroad. As he wrote me, “I believe the freedom of being out of Ethiopia has amazing value in my life and work. Both in Europe and the U.S., especially in Paris . . .visiting museums and art galleries bring dramatic important changes in my work. It is like seeing yourself in the big mirror, even if you think you know yourself.”

Seriousness but not somberness is immediately evident when one meets the artist–a rugged, good-looking, almost athletic Ethiopian male in his mid-thirties. He could be, and really is, an assiduous businessman. He works without stop, producing a seemingly endless flow of polished products. His studios in both cities are packed with canvasses like rush-hour traffic. This enables him to live fairly inexpensively and yet maintain a wealth of paintings for sale, in contrast to Ethiopian artists in the Diaspora who often find it difficult to make ends meet.

Even so, it is not mainly a commercial motive that drives his prolific output. His social conscience remains alive and well; his many awards include posters against AIDS and for Family Planning. Beyond that, Fikru’s being patently manifests his relation to art as a vocation in the deeper sense. It offers him a constant challenge to let his spirit grow. This is one reason why I believe his work has such an impact on viewers. It certainly had on me.

That said, the exceptional value of the art of Fikru Gebre Mariam may lie in its capacity to mediate Ethiopian and Western worlds, yet at a level that marks him as one of Ethiopia’s most acclaimed international painters.

Learn more about Fikru Gebre Mariam at www.fikru.fr.

About the Author:

Donald N. Levine is the Peter B. Ritzma Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Chicago. “He is the author of many books, chapters and articles on Ethiopia and has had direct involvement in Ethiopian affairs since the 1960s. His works on Ethiopia include: Wax and Gold: Tradition and Innovation in Ethiopian Culture (1965), now reprinted by Tsehai Publishers and Greater Ethiopia: The Evolution of a Multiethnic Society (1974), a second edition of which, with a new preface was published, in 2001. Other publications include Visions of the Sociological Tradition (1995) and, most recently, Powers of the Mind: The Reinvention of Liberal Learning.” (The Ethiopian American.). Professor Levine’s research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education.

Images from Ethiopia

Above: Andrew Geiger stands in his studio at Eastside Brick
surrounded by images from Ethiopia for his
upcoming show. – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon


Flathead Beacon

By Keriann Lynch , 01-03-09

Photographer Andrew Geiger is afraid the subjects of his favorite work are going extinct.

The self-sustaining tribes scattered across the remote regions of Ethiopia. An elderly woman in Burma whose ethnic group had been all but wiped out. Centuries-old architecture and traditional rituals, dress and cultural norms.

“I go back to some of these places and everyone is wearing Nike-swoosh T-shirts,” Geiger, of Kalispell, said. “It disgusts me because I don’t think my kids will get to see these places and people. And I want to capture the rawness of what the reality is now in my pictures.”

In addition to a busy commercial photography schedule, Geiger has made it an ongoing personal project to document countries where he feels capitalistic or Western ideas are changing the culture at a rapid rate. After becoming interested in that type of work, Geiger began in earnest after being successfully treated for cancer about eight years ago.

“It was kind of an epiphany,” he said. “It made me think if I was going to do this I needed to get going, and really amped up my efforts.”

Since then, the project has taken Geiger to Burma, Mali and, most recently, Ethiopia.

On Jan. 22, Geiger will bring his work much closer to home, marking the opening of his new Kalispell gallery with a free event and a series of images from Ethiopia. Geiger’s gallery is in the lower level of the Eastside Brick apartments, the site of the old Kalispell hospital on Fifth Avenue East.

Geiger’s photos from Ethiopia feature tribes where life has remained largely unchanged for thousands of years. With detail shots and portraits, Geiger’s photos pay particular homage to the beautiful array of body art by scarring, piercing and painting used by the Mursi tribe.

One of the most famous of all the indigenous Ethiopian tribes, the Mursi are located in the Southern Omo Valley. Geiger’s trip there began with a stop at a military headquarters where he and his traveling companions were assigned two armed guards. From there, Geiger’s interpreter, a pre-teen boy, helped him communicate with the native residents.

“It’s surreal,” he said. “In some of these places, if you don’t have a local, you don’t get in.”

But as evidenced by his work, Geiger’s planning, patience and interpreter gained him extensive access. There are close-up shots of Mursi women who split their lower lip and insert a round clay plate at a young age, stretching the bottom of their faces into a broad oval. Men and women alike cut their skin in elaborate patterns, rubbing ash in the wounds to infect them and create a raised look.

Geiger even photographed a cow-jumping ceremony, a traditional event marking a Mursi boy’s transition to manhood. As part of the day-long ceremony, Mursi women taunt and encourage the tribe’s men to hit them with wooden switches.

“It’s bloody and intense and unlike anything we think is OK or normal,” he said. “But when you’re there, it’s different. You’re an observer, but also kind of an invader.”

Geiger spent most of his childhood in Glendive, before moving to Kalispell where he graduated from Flathead High School. He accepted a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Montana but, already an avid photographer, left school about a year later to start shooting full time.

Geiger freelanced across the western states and Australia before moving to New York to establish a larger and more diverse client base. But the more connections and work he found in New York, the more he ended up returning to Montana.


Andrew Geiger in his studio – Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon

“People kept sending me on assignments out here,” he said. “They figured that because I was from Montana I could shoot it better. Finally, I decided enough of this, I’m moving back.”

For the past 12 years Geiger and his family, wife Dena and daughters Hannah, 5, and Madison, 1, have lived in Kalispell. Geiger satiates his love for travel with photo assignments around the country and abroad – and, of course, with his private project.

He has traveled to more than 25 countries – a number he describes as “not that many, not enough” – and his client list includes names like Cabela’s, Audobon, Field and Stream, Forbes, Newsweek, People, Timberland and Discover, among others.

“A lot of photographers like to stick to one kind of work, say commercial or portraits or landscape,” Geiger said. “I can’t do that; I’d get bored. And being able to do a lot of different things has sort of become my niche.”

If You Go:
Gallery Opening, Images from Ethiopia
Andrew Geiger’s Gallery, 723 5th Avenue East Loft #44B, Kalispell
Jan. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

Top Ethiopia Related Websites of 2008

By Tadias Staff

Published: Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Tadias Magazine announces its first annual top websites. Along with the traditional listing of news websites by traffic, we have included our own top 10 non-profit organizations and top 5 sites in the following categories: business, arts & literature, fashion and entertainment.

Ethiopian News Websites as Ranked by Traffic and Their Popularity among the U.S. audience (Site Profiles by Alexa)

According to Alexa, a web information company, Nazret.com has the largest global traffic. Nazret is followed by Ethiopian Review and Ethio Media. The following are Alexa’s traffic rank of the top 10 Ethiopian news Websites:

1. Nazret.com has a traffic rank of: 57,550

2. Ethiopianreview.com has a traffic rank of: 73,402

3. Ethiomedia.com has a traffic rank of: 154,911

4. Cyberethiopia.com has a traffic rank of: 192,692

5. Ethiopianreporter.com has a traffic rank of: 225,250

6. Ethiopiazare.com has a traffic rank of: 273,235

7. Abugidainfo.com has a traffic rank of: 285,451

8. Waltainfo.com has a traffic rank of: 308,950

9. Ethioforum.org has a traffic rank of: 345,551

10. Aigaforum.com has a traffic rank of: 349,520

Note: Video site EthioTube has a traffic rank of: 242,399

Ethiopian news websites as ranked by their popularity among the U.S. audience
(Site Profiles by Quantcast)

Quantcast.com stats show U.S. traffic per month, and Ethiopian Review is listed as reaching 84,000 U.S. monthly people. Nazret has approximately 47,000 US People and is followed by Ethio Media, which reaches approximately 33, 000 U.S. monthly visitors. Below are a few more descriptions of top Ethiopian sites by Quantcast:

1. Ethiopian Review
The site attracts a more educated, largely male, HH income up to $60k, middle aged, mostly African American group.The typical visitor reads Washington Post and visits pbskids.org.

78% Male
22% Female
85% African American
4% Caucasian
0% Asian
1% Hispanic
11% Other

2. Nazret.com
The site caters to a HH income up to $60k, heavily male, highly educated, mostly African American, 35-49 following. The typical visitor uses LowFares.Com, and listens to National Public Radio.

71% Male
29% Female
87% African American
3% Caucasian
1% Asian
1% Hispanic
8% Other

3. Ethiomedia
The site caters to a mostly African American, heavily male, more educated, middle aged audience. Reader demographics include:

74% Male
26% Female
89% African American
1% Caucasian
1% Asian
1% Hispanic
9% Other

4. Ethiopia Zare
This site reaches approximately 9.8k U.S. monthly people. The site attracts a largely
male, HH income up to $60k crowd.

73% Male
27% Female
(Ethnic data, not available)

5. Abugida
The site appeals to a middle aged, primarily male, mostly African American, more educated following.

86% Male
14% Female
78% African American
4% Caucasian
0% Asian
1% Hispanic
13% Other

6. Aigaforum
The site attracts a heavily male, mostly African American, HH income up to $60k, 35-49, more educated audience.

86% Male
14% Female
89% African American
4% Caucasian
0% Asian
0% Hispanic
6% Other

7. Cyberethiopia
The site appeals to a mostly male, mostly African American, HH income up to $60k, middle aged audience.

79% Male
21% Female
83% African American
4% Caucasian
0% Asian
0% Hispanic
12% Other

8. Tadias.com
The site caters to a college educated, African American, middle aged, somewhat male crowd.

58% Male
42% Female
46% African American
31% Caucasian
10% Asian
2% Hispanic
11% Other

9. Addis Admass
The site caters to a college educated, African American, middle aged, male crowd.

94% Male
6% Female

10. Ethio-politics
The site caters to a college educated, African American, middle aged, male crowd.

82% Male
18% Female
————————–

Tadias’ Top Ten Non-Profit Organizations

1.) Dir Biyabir (dirbiyabir.org)
Dir Biyabir works in Ethiopia to reduce extreme poverty by investing in people and building their capacity to help themselves. Their projects include providing vocational training and fostering entrepreneurship, building schools for local children, planting trees and rehabilitating the environment, improving local healthcare.

2.) U.S. Doctors for Africa (usdfa.org)
U.S. Doctors for Africa is a humanitarian organization committed to increasing access to medical care for diseases and conditions affecting the people of Africa. By mobilizing and distributing medical manpower, supplies, and equipment to medical institutions throughout the continent of Africa, U.S.D.F.A is able to provide medical and preventative healthcare and capacity-building to regions of Africa without available medical services. US Doctors for Africa believes that health care is a basic human right, and recognizes that a healthy population is essential for growth, development, and prosperity in every society.

3.) Safe House Ethiopia (safehouseethiopia.org)
Safe House Ethiopia was founded in 2006 to help poor children stay off the streets and continue their education. Safe House residence programs include: education scholarships, teenage counseling program, healthcare, and community outreach. Safe House Ethiopia is unique in that it emphasizes a whole family program and keeps children united with their parents and relatives.

4.) Ethiopia Reads (ethiopiareads.org)
Ethiopia Reads believes that education is the key to improving the lives of the next generation of Ethiopians, a country filled with children, and that book are the key to fostering a genuine love of learning. Ethiopia Reads projects include establishment of the Shola Children’s Library, school library development program, children’s book publishing program, and a librarian training program in Ethiopia.

5.) Gemini Healthcare Group (ghcg.org)
Gemini Healthcare Group is a not-for-profit that provides healthcare to women and children in Ethiopia by revitalizing the health and social service infrastructure. The organization is run by volunteers and pediatricians. Current projects include: building and supporting a children’s hospital in Ethiopia, improving health care infrastructure, promoting health education, providing health screening and mass immunizations, and recruiting and retaining local healthcare workers.

6.) Ethiopian Children’s Fund (ethiopianchildrensfund.org)
The Ethiopian Children’s Fund (ECF) is a non-governmental organization dedicated to helping those most vulnerable and least able to help themselves – primarily children without parents. ECF’s flagship in Ethiopia is its Education & Development Programe in Aleltu (EDP) – an innovative integrated establishment for the protection and development of highly disadvantaged children and their communities suffering from extreme poverty and social problems such as HIV/AIDS.

7.) Girls Gotta Run Foundation (girlsgottarun.org)
The Girls Gotta Run Foundation (GGRF) is a volunteer organization founded in 2006 to raise money to provide support for impoverished Ethiopian girls who are training to be runners. Training to be athletes allows them to stay in school, avoid early marriage, and gain personal independence. Besides athletic shoes, GGRF provides money for training clothes, extra food (“calorie money”), coach subsidies, and other training-related expenses.

8.) Awassa Peace Dojo (www.aiki-extensions.org/projectsAwassa.asp)
Aiki-Extensions’ Ethiopian dojo offers Aikido training and classes for kids and adults six days a week in Awassa. Aikido activities are part of a youth program that includes One Love Theater’s gymnastics AIDS-awareness show, as well as other learning opportunities in art and music. Aikido work enriches the socially conscious Awasa Youth Theater program’s repertoire and provides hands-on training in conflict resolution skills for youth.

9.) D.E.S.T.A. for Africa (destaforafrica.org)
D.E.S.T.A for Africa is a non-profit cultural organization to address the lack of adequate photographic training in Ethiopia. Through education and self-sustainable opportunities, Ethiopian photographers can promote a balanced view of their country. The acronym stands for Developing and Educating Society Through Art, and the organization seeks to promote cultural development through the use of photography by providing workshops, exhibitions and creative exchanges.

10.) Worldwide Orphans Foundation (wwo.org)
Worldwide Orphans Foundation recently opened its WWO-AHF Family HealthCare Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. WWO’s aims to transform the lives of orphaned children by taking them out of anonymity and helping them to become healthy, independent, productive members of their communities and their world. The WWO-AHF Family Center in Addis Ababa is a full-service care facility for treating and monitoring the care of orphans and children in families with HIV/AIDS, and for the treatment of adults with HIV/AIDS. The Center helps to bring orphaned children into the mainstream of community life. In addition to life-saving pediatrics and antiretroviral medications, the Center offers a host of programs, including nutritional cooking and job training. Children have dedicated play areas in the clinic and participate in art and music projects. In collaboration with Right To Play and UNICEF, WWO has developed and facilitates an orphan soccer league in Addis Ababa.

Other Top 5 Favorites Listing

Business
———–
Ethiopian Yellow Pages
Ethiopian Business Online
EthioMarket
Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa
Ethiopian Restaurants

Arts & Literature
———
Addis Art
Etiye Dimma-Poulsen
Julie Mehretu
Dinaw Mengestu
Ayane Gidada

Fashion
—————
Helm Magazine
Liya Kebede
Gelila Bekele
Taytu Made in Ethiopia
Bernos

Entertainment
——————————

Getachew Mekuria and the Ex
Kenna Zemedkun
Wayna Wondwossen
Meklit Hadero
Addis Zefen



Tadias’ 20 Favorite People of 2008

By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, December 29, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Here are our 20 favorite people of the year that we interviewed and/or featured their work in 2008. The numbers are not rankings of their achievements. We look forward to 2009. Happy New Year!

20) Selam Mulugeta (Former Obama Campaign Staffer)

Ethiopian-American Selam Mulugeta worked as a staff member for President-Elect Obama’s successful 2008 campaign for the White House. Ms. Mulugeta, who formerly served as a Congressional staffer and Special Assistant to Rep. Mike Honda (D-Calif.), founder and Chair of the Congressional Ethiopia and Ethiopian American Caucus, served as a Field Organizer for the Obama/Biden campaign in Northern Virginia. Obama won the state on November 4th, 2008, becoming the first Presidential candidate from the Democratic party to do so in more than 40 years. Read more about Selam Mulugeta.

19) Bekele Geleta (The New Boss at Red Cross)

Ethiopian-born Bekele Geleta, 64, was appointed Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 2008. Mr. Geleta previously served as General Manager of International Operations for the Canadian Red Cross. He spent five years in prison in Ethiopia, but later served as a Cabinet Minister and the Ethiopian Ambassador to Japan. He went to Canada as a refugee in 1992 with his wife, Tsehay Mulugeta, and their four sons. He started a new career in humanitarian work in Ottawa , serving with Care Canada, Red Cross and other organizations, which eventually led to this current prestigious post. Read our interview with Bekele Geleta.

18) Beejhy Barhany (Founder, BINA Cultural Foundation)

Beejhy Barhany (pictured above with her husband at the Ethiopian Millennium celebration concert at Joe’s Pub. on Saturday, May 31, 2008), is the Director of BINA Cultural Foundation and the chief coordinator of the 2008 Ethiopian Millennium Events Series in New York, which included a concert, an art exhibition, a film festival and an interfaith panel discussion. Tadias Magazine congratulates Mrs. Barhany on a successful series of events.

17) Chef and Author Marcus Samuelsson

Marcus Samuelsson, who was born in Ethiopia and raised in Sweden, is best known as the co-owner of New York’s finest Scandinavian restaurant, Aquavit. After having excelled at the Swedish side of his culinary heritage, Mr. Samuelson traveled extensively throughout the African continent, and shared with us some of the most profound lessons that he learned about Pan-African cuisine. He culminated his journey with his award-winning book, The Soul of a New Cuisine, and a new African Restaurant. Read our interview with Marcus Samuelsson.

16) Haile Gerima (Award Wining Director)

Ethiopian-born director Haile Gerima (pictured above left with Tunisian Culture Minister Abderraouf Basti) scooped several international awards in 2008 for his new film “Teza”. Tadias Magazine congratulates Mr. Gerima on his well deserved recognition. Read More.

15) Yohannes Gebregeorgis (CNN Hero)

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, one of the Top Ten CNN Heroes of 2008, was recognized by CNN for his remarkable efforts to bring free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of children in Ethiopia, including the country’s first Donkey Mobile Library. Mr. Gebregeorgis, 59, was born in Ethiopia and came to the United States as a political refugee in 1981. He eventually put himself through college, earning a graduate degree in library science and worked as a Librarian in San Francisco for nearly two decades before embarking on his current project. He currently lives in Ethiopia. Read our interview with Yohannes Gebregeorgis.

14) Getatchew Mekurya (king of Ethiopian saxophone)

The legendary saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya stole the show at a historic concert on August 20, 2008, at Damrosch’s Park in NYC. “The concert closed with a gripping performance by Mr. Mekurya, the king of Ethiopian saxophone…” noted a columnist for The New York Times, and we couldn’t agree more. We likewise salute Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete, who both performed at the show. Read more.

13) Aida Muluneh (Photographer)

Photographer Aida Muluneh, whose current exhibition is being hosted by Berlin’s Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (through November 1st, 2009), established an NGO in 2008 to train a new generation of African photographers to compete in the global media industry while reshaping the image of Africa to reflect their personal experiences. Read More.

12) Dr. Ebba Ebba (Founder, Gemini Health Care Group)

Dr. Ebba Ebba (above left), founder of Gemini Health Care Group, a non-profit established to provide health care to Ethiopian children, hosted two notable events in 2008: a health care forum in July at George Washington University and a fundraiser in Atlanta to benefit the building of a children’s hospital in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Read more.

11) Philipos & Sara (Queen of Sheba Restaurant in New York)

Philipos & Sara of the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant in New York demonstrated why crowds are flocking to their midtown Manhattan eatery at the first Annual Choice Eats tasting event organized by The Village Voice in 2008. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant was one of thirty-three favorite restaurants of Voice food critic Robert Sietsema, author of Secret New York. Sietsema has reviewed more than 2,000 restaurants in the last 14 years and this year’s Choice Eats covered samples from all corners of the world. Read more about this event.

10) Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru (The Ethiopian Nun Pianist)

Emahoy Tsege Mariam Gebru, the 85-year-old Ethiopian nun and renowned classical pianist and composer, performed at a sold out benefit concert for the first time in 35 years in June, 2008, in Washington, DC. She captured an eager audience, along with seven young performers who shared the stage with her. Read more.

9) Artist Assegid Gessesse (“Memory Tourist”)

Assegid Gessesse exhibited his spirited mixed media prints in 2008. “I am a memory tourist,” Gessesse says referring to our favorite print entitled ‘Addis Abeba’ – a vivid collage reflecting architecture, the urban/rural dichotomy, and use of space. Read More.

8. Teodross “Teo” Avery

What does Teodross “Teo” Avery have in common with jazz giants Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, and Arturo Sandoval? They all have graced the stage of The Blue Note, one of New York’s legendary jazz clubs. Teo, a talented Ethiopian-American musician is carving his own niche in hip-hop jazz. He has recorded and collaborated with powerhouse musicians including: Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Shakira, Wu Tang Clan, Ethiopian artists Abegaz Shiota and Henok Temesgen, and Amy Winehouse. Films such as Love Jones, Brown Sugar and Beauty Shop also carry songs he has either written or produced. His own lyrics entitled New Day New Groove and My Generation capture the proactive, idealistic and determined energy of his generation. Read the interview with Teo Avery.

7) Zelela Menker

Zelela Menker’s OP-ED pieces on Tadias in 2008 advocating for the election of Barack Obama generated a healthy discussion. We first met Zelela Menker while covering an Obama rally in New York on Feb 2, 2008. Zelela was born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. She is a graduate of Mount Holyoke College (MHC) in South Hadley, Massachusetts, where she majored in Critical Social Thought with a concentration on Health Disparities and Healthcare Policy. Read More.

6) Kedist Geremaw (Obama Organizing Fellow)

Kedist Geremaw, a health care administrator in Washington, D.C., was one of the 3,600 individuals who were selected and trained as an Obama Organizing Fellow during the summer of 2008. Mrs. Geremew has accomplished much as an Obama Organizing Fellow, and the creativity, dedication, and optimism that she and her colleagues displayed was inspiring, commendable, contagious, and has our respect and recognition. Read more about Mrs. Geremaw.

5) Abaynesh Asrat, Founder & CEO of NNN

Ethiopian-born Abaynesh Asrat was recognized with “The Sojourner Truth Award” in 2008, which is given each year by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Abaynesh is a member of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church delegation to Ethiopia in 2007, which took place as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium.

4) Professor Donald Levine

Professor Donald Levine’s thoughtful and insightful opinion articles during the Presidential Campaign of 2008 was much needed and appreciated by our readers. He is a colleague of President-Elect Barack Obama from their teaching days at the University of Chicago. He is a Professor Emeritus of Sociology and his research and teaching interests focus on classical social theory, modernization theory, Ethiopian studies, conflict theory and aikido, and philosophies of liberal education. Read More.

3) Professor Ayele Bekerie

Dr. Ayele Bekerie ‘s scholarly papers on historical topics, such as the story of St. Yared, the great Ethiopian composer, choreographer and poet, who lived in Aksum almost 1500 years ago, was one of the most popular articles among our readers. Ayele Bekerie, an Assistant Professor at the Africana Studies and Research Center of Cornell University, is the author of the award-winning book “Ethiopic, An African Writing System: Its History and Principles” (The Red Sea Press, 1997). Bekerie’s papers have been published in scholarly journals, such as ANKH: Journal of Egyptology and African Civilizations, Journal of the Horn of Africa, Journal of Black Studies, the International Journal of Africana Studies, and the International Journal of Ethiopian Studies. Bekerie is also the creator of the African Writing System web site and a contributing author in the highly acclaimed book, “ONE HOUSE: The Battle of Adwa 1896-100 Years.” Bekerie’s most recent published work includes “The Idea of Ethiopia: Ancient Roots, Modern African Diaspora Thoughts,” in Power and Nationalism in Modern Africa, published by Carolina Academic Press in 2008 and “The Ancient African Past and Africana Studies” in the Journal of Black Studies in 2007. Bekerie appears frequently on the Amharic Service of Voice of America and Radio Germany. He is a regular contributor to Tadias Magazine and other Ethiopian American electronic publications. His current book project is on the “Idea of Ethiopia.” Read More.

2) Ted Alemayuhu (Founder & Chairman of USDFA)

Ethiopian-born Ted Alemayuhu (pictured above right with friends – Russell Simmons left – at Cipriani Wall Street on October 17th, 2007), is the Founder & Chairman of U.S. Doctors for Africa (USDFA). He was one of the featured keynote speakers at the 2008 Health Disparities Conference at Columbia University. Mr. Alemayuhu is preparing to host the gathering of over 20 African First Ladies for their first-ever U.S.-based health summit on April 20-21, 2009, at the RAND Corporation in Los Angeles. Read More.

1) Tibarek (Tadias’ Favorite Person of the Year!)

Eight year old Tibarek, who traveled with her adoptive mother from their home in New York to Scranton, Pennsylvania, to knock on doors for Barack Obama and Joe Biden, is our favorite person of the year! We choose Tibarek not only because we love her charismatic personality, but also because she symbolizes the diversity and vibrancy of the Diaspora’s next generation. Read more.

Editor’s Note: The numbers are not rankings of their achievements. We honor each person listed. Happy 2009!



How normal will life be for the Obama girls?

Above: President-elect Barack Obama appears on stage with his
daughters Sasha, center, and Malia, right, for his Election Night
victory speech in Chicago on Nov. 4, 2008.
(Emmanuel Dunand / AFP – Getty Images file).

The Associated Press via MSNBC

Dec. 27, 2008

NEW YORK – They’re only 10 and 7, and already designers are angling to dress them. They’ve been on the cover of People and Us Weekly. And there’s that standing invitation — unlikely though it is to be redeemed — to the set of “Hannah Montana.”

Malia and Sasha Obama are unquestionably the world’s most famous tweens, and they haven’t even moved into the White House yet. When they arrive, do they have even a chance at the normal existence their parents have often said they want for them?

A look at history suggests that the media, at least, will keep their distance. Chelsea Clinton, 13 when she entered the White House, was largely left alone at the request of her parents. Amy Carter, who came at age 9, was allowed to live a fairly normal life. And the much younger Kennedy kids were kept from the public glare by their mother, Jackie, who even set up a school for Caroline at the White House.

But this is a different world, one where photos and video can be snapped not just by mainstream photographers but anyone with a cell phone, and uploaded to the Web within minutes. It’s also a world where kids, now a powerful consumer force, eagerly devour news about celebrities closer to their own age: Miley Cyrus, for example, or the “High School Musical” bunch.

Are the Obama girls celebrities in their own right?

“If you’re talking about people who fascinate the public, then yes, absolutely,” says Larry Hackett, managing editor of People, which has featured the Obama family on its cover three times. “But if you mean celebrity in the sense that we can cover their every move, then no. These are kids.” Read More.

Alexa: Top 20 Sites in News and Media

By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, December 26, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Tadias Magazine will announced its first annual listing of the top ten websites on New Year’s Eve Wednesday, December 31, 2008. The listing will include Ethiopian American related websites (not all Ethiopian) in several categories including news, business, art, fashion, entertainment, music, internet radio and non-profit organizations. If you would like your website to be considered for inclusion or have ideas or suggestions to share, please contact us at info@tadias.com.

In the mean time, here are Alexa’s top sites in news and media under the following categories: Society, Ethnicity, African, and African-American. See if you can find Tadias.com.

Source: Alexa
All listings in the ‘News and Media’ category and its subcategories ordered by popularity.

1. Vibe Magazine

Covers hip hop/urban culture with a focus on music. Articles, interviews, and subscription information.
More site info for Vibe

2. EURWEB.com

Home of the Electronic Urban Report (EUR).
More site info for eurweb.com

3. DiversityInc

Daily website reporting on diversity and the bottom line, includes a career center with over 20,000 jobs from companies looking to recruit a diverse audience. Site info for diversityinc.com Site Info icon

4. AfricanAmerican News And Information

“The source for news,entertainment, sports,politics,education and other topics of interest to the AfricanAmerican community. Constantly updated. Includes large Black History section. More site info for tncn.con.

5. Sister 2 Sister magazine

Online version of the popular magazine covering the world of black entertainment. More site info for s2smagazine.com

6. Black Enterprise

Information regarding entrepreneurship, technology, personal finance and other minority business issues. More site info for blackenterprise.com.

7. TheSource.Com

The online version of the popular Hip-hop music magazine that provides news coverage of urban music, African American issues, youth culture and politics. More site info for thesource.com.

8. The Final Call Online

Companion site to the paper of the same name, published by Minister Louis Farrakhan. More site info for finalcall.com

9. Ebony Magazine Online

Ebony magazine is one of the oldest African American magaznes and most successful. It provides business, health, fashion, sports, entertainment and general news about African Americans. More site info for ebony.com.

10. Target Market News.com
Provides corporate marketing news that targets minorities, including African Americans. More site info for targetmarketnews.com.

11. Multiple Shades of You Online

msoy online is an e-comunnity for people of color. Search Engine, Black Teen Zine, clipart, forums, entrepreneur resources, blogs, everything and all things black is on msoy. More site info for msoyonline.com.

12.Tadias

Online magazine that is tailored towards the Ethiopian-American community. Topics covered include business, health, opinions, fashion, art,culture, history, reviews, parenting, diaspora, music and events. More site info for tadias.com.

13. Politopics

Centrist political commentary from an African-American perspective. More site info for politopics.com.

14. San Francisco Bay View

Weekly newspaper dedicated to the enlightenment and empowerment of the African American community with news and views not offered by traditional media. More site info for sfbayview.com.

15. Redding News Review

Providing up-to-the-minute black news updates. More site info for reddingnewsreview.com.

16. Mybrotha.COM – Online Magazine For Black Men

Online magazine dedicated to providing information, education and entertainment resources to Black men and the Black Community. Site info for mybrotha.com.

17. Upscale Magazine

Provides business and entertainment news, health, beauty, and lifestyle information for African Americans. More site info for upscalemagazine.com.

18. BlackPressUSA

The joint web presence of America’s Black community newspapers and the NNPA News Service – the last national Black Press news wire. The only national website featuring news exclusively from African-American journalists and Black community publications. More site info for blackpressusa.com.

19. MIMI Magazine

A lifestyle magazine for young African women, covering fashion, fitness, entertainment and cultural issues. More site info for mimimagazine.com.

20. BlackElectorate.com

Where culture, economics and politics meet. More site info for blackelectorate.com.

Related: Hot Blog | Top 10 Ethiopian Websites – 2008

Top 10 Events of 2008 Covered by Tadias

Year in Review by The Tadias Team

Published: Thursday, December 25, 2008

New York: (Tadias) – The following are our top ten favorite Ethiopian-American related events that we attended and/or featured in 2008. We wish all our readers “Happy Holidays!” We look forward to the New Year, and to continue highlighting events and personalities that make ours one of the most vibrant immigrant communities in the country. Happy New Year from all of us at Tadias.com!

Counting down: Top 10 Events of 2008 Covered by Tadias

10). The seventh annual anniversary of Little Ethiopia in L.A.

The seventh annual anniversary of Little Ethiopia took place in Los Angeles on September 14, 2008. The celebration was organized by the Little Ethiopia Business Association, which is chaired by Woizero Negest Legesse. Among the most active organizers of the event were: Mesob Restaurant, Rosalind Restaurant, Rahel Vegan Cuisine, Nyala Restaurant, Ferede Child Care Center, Selam Travel, and the Ethiopian Airlines. The office of the Mayor of Los Angeles and City Councils also provided assistance for the event. Read more about this event.

9). The Annual Ethiopian Soccer Tournament (D.C. 2008).

North America’s largest African soccer tournament, hosted by the Ethiopian Sport Federation of North America (ESFNA), was held in the nation’s capital this year. The Washington D.C. Metropolitan area is home to one of the largest Ethiopian population in the country, and tens of thousands of Ethiopian immigrants attended the event this year on July 4th weekend. Read More.

8). Historic Ethiopian out of doors Concert in New York

On the evening of Wednesday, August 20, 2008, Damrosch’s Park in New York was packed with Ethiopians and curious New Yorkers who were treated to an astonishing concert of fusion rock, jazz and Ethiopian music. The historic event at the Lincoln Center’s out of doors concert series, one of the longest-running free summer festivals in the U.S., featured Mahmoud Ahmed and Alemayehu Eshete accompanied by the Either Orchestra, and the legendary saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya in collaboration with Dutch band the Ex. The trio performed for the first time at Damrosch’s Park. Read more and see hot shots from the event.

7). Ethiopia 2000 @ the Schomburg Center

The final event of the Ethiopian Millennium Celebration Series hosted by the BINA foundation included a panel discussion entitled “Ethiopia: The Three Faiths” at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, which attracted a diverse and large audience on Saturday, June 21, 2008. Read more about this event.

6). Sojourner Truth Awards Celebration

Abaynesh Asrat: Distinguished Women Awardee
Ethiopian-born Abaynesh Asrat, Founder & CEO of Nation to Nation Networking (NNN), was recognized with “The Sojourner Truth Award,” which is given each year by the National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. Abaynesh is a member of Harlem’s legendary Abyssinian Baptist Church delegation to Ethiopia in 2007, which took place as part of the church’s bicentennial celebration and in honor of the Ethiopian Millennium. Other awardees, that were honored at the 80th Annual Founder’s Day of the New York Club of Women’s Clubs, include: Robert T. Johnson (The District Attorney of Bronx County since January 1, 1989), Debra Wallace (Ebony Magazine), Kim M. Williamson (Director of Prime Time Programing for Food Networks in New York City), Joyce Johnson (CEO of the Black Equity Alliance), among others. The event took place on Sunday, April 27, 2008, at the Eastwood Manor in Bronx, NY. Read more about Abaynesh’s work at NNN.

5). Obama & McCain at Columbia University Forum

Presidential nominees Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain participated in a discussion regarding the importance of engaging in service and civic responsibilities on the seventh anniversary of 9/11 in New York at Columbia University. The Presidential Forum was part of a two-day summit which included speeches by Al Gore, Governor Patterson, Columbia President Bollinger and Barnard Provost Elizabeth Boylan. The forum was moderated by Judy Woodruff of PBS’ “NewsHour” and Richard Stengel, managing editor of Time magazine. Read more and view photos of this event.

4). Ted Alemayuhu’s Keynote at Columbia University

The third Annual Health Disparities Conference at Columbia University was held on Friday, March 7th and Saturday, March 8th, 2008. Ethiopian-born Ted Alemayuhu, Founder & Chairman of U.S. Doctors for Africa, was one of the featured keynote speakers. View photos from this event.

3). Sheba Highlight at Choice Eats 2008

The Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant in New York was featured at the first Annual Choice Eats tasting event organized by The Village Voice, the nation’s first and largest alternative newsweekly. The event took place on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at the historic Puck Building in Manhattan. Queen of Sheba Ethiopian restaurant was one of thirty-three favorite restaurants of Voice food critic Robert Sietsema, author of Secret New York. Sietsema has reviewed more than 2,000 restaurants in the last 14 years and this year’s Choice Eats covered samples from all corners of the world. Read more about this event.

2). CNN Hero in New York

Yohannes Gebregeorgis, 59, was recognized by CNN for his remarkable efforts to bring free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of children in Ethiopia, including the country’s first Donkey Mobile Library. One of the Top Ten CNN Heroes of 2008, spoke at Cafe Addis in Harlem, New York on Saturday, December 13, 2008. Tadias TV was there to record the event.

1). The day Barack Obama was elected President

Nothing this year tops the spontaneous celebrations that broke out around the world on November 4th 2008, the day Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States. Memorable photos from this historic day was captured in Harlem by Tadias Magazine’s contributing photographer Jeffrey Phipps. View photos from election night 2008.

Ethiopian Web site of the Year Results (Mestewat.com)

Source: Mestewat.com

Society of Ethiopian Web Developers annual election of the Best Ethiopian Web site of the year is here.

Best Design and Look
1. Ethiopian Review
2. EthioTube.net
3. Abugidainfo.com

Originally News and Content
1. Ethiopian Review
2. Abugidainfo.com
3. Aiga forum

Read more at Mestewat.com



Skoto Gallery is pleased to present Visionaries and Outcasts

Above: Michael Ince, River Bird Landing, 2008, black locust
wood, southern yellow pine, stone, glass, 84x96x36 inches.
(Photo: Zabby Scott).

Source: Skoto Gallery

New York - Skoto Gallery will present Visionaries and Outcasts, an exhibition of recent works by Michael Ince (USA), Olalekan B. Jeyifous (USA/Nigeria) and Pefura (France/Cameroon). The reception is Thursday, December 4th, 6-8pm and the artists will be present.

Despite their varied traditions and personal cultural backgrounds the three artists in this show respond to the challenges of developing strategies of survival and resistance in emerging societies, and in the process create aesthetic forms that respond to the consequences of political, economic and social crisis caused by policies of international financial organizations such as the IMF and the World Bank. Each of the artists explore issues such as the deterioration in standard of living, environmental degradation, renewable energy, unemployment and migration that are likely related to the contradictory result of globalization due to policies that force these societies to devalue their currencies against the dollar; lift import and export restrictions; balance their budgets and not overspend; and remove price controls and state subsidies. This has led to the formation of mass movements and protests in every continent as people organize to combat the pillaging of lands, resources and livelihood.

Michael Ince has always been motivated by a deep connection to nature, but over the years, the ability of social and economic policies to impact the natural world and its endangered state have become central to his practice. His sculpture installation River Bird Landing, 2008 is elegant in its poetic evocation of the fragility of our ecosystem as a result of the undermining of environmental rules and regulations. His forms, reduced to its essences are derived from nature and culture, and still suggest the actual objects to which they refer. They are the product of much thought and simple design that are meticulously crafted. He grew up in Brookhaven, Long Island where, when not in Paris, he lives with his family on a small farm surrounded by buildings of his making, planting carrots, rearing chickens, making prints and drawings, and birding. A 1964 graduate of Bowdoin College, he traveled to India as a Peace Corps, and has subsequently returned on a major pilgrimage. He is widely exhibited in galleries around the US and in Paris; and in several collections.

Olalekan B. Jeyifous draws from his background as an architect to create works in digital media that are expressive of architectural considerations and the vicissitudes of life that continue to shape and reflect the changing contours of urban landscapes such as the favelas of Brazil, overpopulated cities such as Lagos, Mexico City or Mumbai, as well as areas such as the oil-rich Niger Delta of Nigeria.


Above: Olalekan B. Jeyifous, The Outer-City Settlement, digital media on
paper, 40×60 inches.

His work does not seek to assert formal solutions to spatial problems, but instead exists as a vehicle for social critique and establishing unique visual languages, ultimately striking the balance between design informed by the notion of industrial production and design informed by the practical and psychological needs of the inhabitants of “contested” spaces. He was born 1977 in Ibadan, Nigeria, and graduated from Cornell University School of Architecture, Art and Planning, Ithaca, New York in 2000. Recent exhibitions include Studio Museum in Harlem and The Kitchen, NYC 2008, The Drawing Center, NYC 2006, International Architecture Biennale, Rotterdam, Netherlands 2005, and the New Museum of Contemporary Art, NYC 2003.

Pefura’s portraits of African immigrants living in the Parisian suburb of Montreuil are pleasingly complicated, and merge themes of race, migration and social identity with personal experience and art-historical references. They are layered with profound sociopolitical subtexts, combine painterly gestures of expressionism with the critical distance of conceptual art and provide insightful understanding of the human condition. Pefura was born 1967 in Paris to Cameroonian parents and obtained a diploma in Architecture from Ecole d’Architecture, Paris-Tolbiac in 1999. He has actively practiced as an artist since the early 1990s and is widely exhibited in Africa, Europe and USA. Residencies include Cite des Arts Internatiionale, Paris in 1999 and La Source – Atelier V. Guerolde in France. Collections include Fondation Guerlain, Paris and Conseil General de l’Europe, France.

Learn more about the gallery at : skotogallery.com

Assegid Gessesse’s mixed media prints

Above: Assegid Gessesse at Green Desk in Brooklyn’s
DUMBO neighborhood, Tuesday, November 18, 2008
(Tadias)

By Tadias Staff

Published: Friday, November 21, 2008

New York (Tadias) – The Green Desk Wall Space, in Brooklyn’s DUMBO neighborhood recently exhibited Assegid Gessesse’s spirited mixed media prints. “Working in a style that is both abstracted and photographic, Assegid, creates works of atmospheric beauty and emotional poignancy,” writes Gabriel Abraham, Production Designer and Art Director, in his short review of the artist’s work. “His work uses graphics, drawings, photographs and news clippings to create layers of images that evoke history, mythology, mystery and beauty along with conflict of dislocation and alienation.”

“I am a memory tourist,” Gessesse says referring to our favorite print entitled ‘Addis Abeba’ – a vivid collage reflecting architecture, the urban/rural dichotomy, and use of space.


Addis Abeba by Assegid Gessesse

“All the iconic images, including the Volkswagen, that are incorporated in that work are what I remember as a child. The woman represents the city. ‘Addis Abeba’ for me is a women. And the spelling is intentional, that’s the way I think Addis Abeba should be spelled. ”

Born in 1964 in Addis Abeba, Ethiopia, and trained in Canada as an Artist and Designer, Gessesse draws from both African and Western influences – a blend of classical, secessionist, and contemporary. He has exhibited his work extensively in North America and Africa, and was recently commissioned by the Open Society Institute’s East Africa branch to create a series of images under the theme “Freedom Now.” Gessesse currently resides in New York City.

Reviewing Gessesse’s current exhibit, Abraham notes: “By definition, ephemeral, the quality of Assegid’s prints recalls the fleeting nature of life, and most importantly, memory. His prints eloquently capture the transience of diaspora, recollections of the past, preserving only hints of a moment in time, while allowing all but the scene’s essence to fade into abstraction. Assegid gives a particularly touching commentary on the passing of time and life.”

If you missed the Brooklyn show, you have another chance to view or purchase the art work at Settepanni’s in Harlem (196 Lenox Ave at 120th street, 917.492.4806). The show will be on display for one more week.



San Francisco Sunday Oct 5: Free Ethiopian Cultural Show–Circus– & Aikido

Source: Awassa Children’s Project and Aiki Extensions, Inc.

Updated: Saturday, October 4, 2008

San Francisco – On Sunday, October 5, come see Tesfaye Tekelu, dance and aikido instructor, and Meshu Tamrat, theater director and gymnastic trainer, as they present a variety of colorful performances never before seen in the United States.

Their five-week nationwide tour promotes the Awassa Youth Campus. This unique center offers a range of learning opportunities for young at-risk students, through dance, theater, music, art, academic tutoring, and the discipline and nonviolence education of aikido. Its OneLove Theater carries out HIV/AIDS awareness campaigns through free public performances all over Ethiopia.

With your help and our collective hope we can sustain and nourish this mission– assisting children orphaned by HIV/AIDS, educating the region about HIV/AIDS prevention, and offering alternatives to violence in the solution of social problems.

Event Detail: Sunday, October 5, 2008, 7:00pm–PERFORMANCE at THEATER ARTAUD
450 Florida Street, San Francisco, CA 94110, 9:00pm–RECEPTION at the CIRCOLO LOUNGE
500 Florida Street.

For more info, contact Adoria – 415-516-2231 or Kris (krislefan@gmail.com) 323-387-2770.

A Doctor’s Memoir: Ethiopia’s Troubled Health Care System

Editor’s Note:

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Ethiopian-born Sosena Kebede (pictured above left) served as an Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at Hanover Regional Medical Center until April 2006. She spent her childhood in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Botswana before settling in the United States in 1988. She holds a B.S. from Duke University, and an M.D. from the University of North Carolina. Dr. Sosena spent five weeks volunteering at Tikur Anbessa (Black Lion) Hospital in Addis Ababa in the spring of 2006. The following is an excerpt of her memoir (first published on Tadias Magazine in 2007) that details her personal experience at one of the largest health care facilities in Ethiopia.

We hope Dr. Sosena’s observations will spark a healthy debate on the subject and hopefully the discussion will focus on finding solutions . As always, we warmly welcome your comments.

A Doctor’s Memoir
By Sosena Kebede

May 3, 2006

So I woke up at 8:45am after going to bed at 11:00pm last night and I reported to duty at Tikur Anbessa Hospital (hereto referred to as TAH).

The hospital is run down, there is barely enough lighting to see your way in the hallways, the wards reek of a mixture of antiseptics, body odors, and whatever else. Medical equipments are scarce, outdated and in some cases out of commission.

sosena2.png
Above: There is barely enough lighting to see your way in the hallways.
Photography by Sosena Kebede

The Out patient Clinic (OPD) is mainly run by resident physicians. Consultants usually see subspecialty patients and are available for consultations. Patient rights including a right to privacy or modesty is barely existent. Patients are examined in a semi-office type room with one stretcher in the room. There is no gown, no privacy in that small room. Patients have to undress in the full view of the doctor and the nurse as well as who ever else may be around at the time in that small room. (Oh, the cell phone of the doctors rings at times in the middle of exams and the doctor interrupts the exam while the patient is lying half naked and talks on the phone. Later on, I found out that the cell phone is used as a pager equivalent in this hospital so to be fair most calls seem to be work related). What topped my experience today was when the examining physician at one time literally pinched an older woman’s pendulous left breast by the nipple and raised the whole breast up in the air like a tent while listening to her heart! I was mortified, and I so badly wanted to slap his hand off of her.

sosena3.png
Above: The Out patient Clinic (OPD). Photography by Sosena Kebede.

Because not all patients can be seen by a consultant some complicated cases are seen by residents alone which made me feel uncomfortable to say the least. Today, one of the residents came to ask the cardiologist’s opinion on how to manage an elderly gentleman who apparently is in third degree heart block intermittently (A heart conduction abnormality that can be fatal). There is no pacer (a pacer, as the name implies, is a device used to” pace” the heart when its intrinsic ability to pace its own rhythm fails) and the gentleman declined admission for monitoring purposes citing financial reasons. It turned out that he couldn’t afford any medications either. Decision was made to send him out and have him come back in three weeks!! Wow. I felt helpless; as I am sure these physicians have million times over. I gave the old man some money for medications. He kissed my hands and I walked out chocked up, knowing that he is one of many, and one couldn’t possibly help all… I saw the physicians exchange glances as I walked out. Perhaps they were amused by what they perceived to be a naïve gesture on my part. Perhaps, they thought here is another American trying to be a hero.

Clearly the volume and the acuity of care is way above what these exhausted and frustrated physicians can handle. The system seems to be crumbling and I wondered how they make it day to day, patients and physicians alike.

At the end of a long day, I stood looking outside the window on 8th floor while waiting for my ride to go home. I saw a beautiful landscape of Addis. A spectacular chain of mountains cradle rows of shacks and rusty tin roofs. The high rises that pop their heads above the shacks don’t hide the story of this city. This city holds some of the wretched of this world.

8th-floor-offices.jpg
Above: 8th floor offices. Photography by Sosena Kebede.

May 4, 2006

I attended grand rounds today and was once again impressed by the quality and clarity of presentation and the professional attitudes of the residents and even more impressed by how bright they are as demonstrated by their wide differential diagnoses. I sat at the back of the conference room proud to call them my people. I don’t think my residents in America with all the information excess at their fingertips and a lot of spoon feeding could generate as much differential and show such insight into disease processes as these residents.

In the department of Internal medicine, there is one lap top and LCD projector that is kept in the main office but the residents use overhead slides for their presentations. The screen for projection is torn at the corner and is held by a wide masking tape and creates an indentation on some of the hand written words that project on its surface. I struggled to read their hand written presentation but I preferred to listen to them anyway, so it didn’t matter.

Diagnostic modalities such as CTs and echos are hard to come by. The hospital does not have an MR. The single CT scanner the hospital has, I am told is broken and has been so for the last 12 months! Patients who require CTs will have to go to private clinics to get them done. With a prohibitive cost for these diagnostic procedures most patients who need them can’t get them.

The physicians here work under some of the most emotionally devastating circumstances, with very little reward and no job satisfaction whatsoever. I found out that every physician now works at a private clinic to supplement their income at the government hospital. This includes the resident physicians as well.

There is no heart hard enough and a mind so callus that it can’t feel pain, outrage, disbelief, and despair at what I am seeing in Ethiopia.

Out of the many sad cases here are a couple that I will probably never forget. We saw a 20 some year old male who came to the cardiology clinic for follow-up of his cyanotic heart disease. He was born with “a hole in his heart” and because of this defect the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mix and gives patients such as this one “cyanosis”( bluish hue to their coloring), which is one of the hallmarks of low oxygen in the blood. During this visit, the patient is told to continue taking his medications (which will not fix the problem!) and “try and pursue his chance to go abroad to get definitive treatment”. The only way to cure this type of defect is by surgical method and that is not available in Ethiopia. Of course this young man, who is a college student can’t go abroad and he will die here. I wondered what he is studying and how long he will stay alive. Ethiopia’s life expectancy is about 43 years of age, I don’t think he will make it that far.

An 18 year old girl who looks not a day older than 13 (she is severely malnourished) came with her dad for follow-up of her shortness of breath and trouble lying flat. During physical exam her heart looked like it’d pop out between her left sided rib spaces and you barely have to put your stethoscope on her chest to hear the loud booming murmur (a heart murmur is a sound made as blood rushes out of the heart chambers via its valves and can be a sign of heart valve problems). She had distended neck veins and is breathing heavy. This girl has a very sick heart, and you didn’t need to be a doctor to see that. I saw her echo live and the cardiologist, (who is clearly very bright and in my opinion second to none) pointed out the girl’s massively stretched heart chambers and the severe valve leakages. She is clearly a surgical case but he pointed out because of her malnourishment he didn’t think that ENAHPA (Ethiopian North American Health Professionals Association, a group of Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian health professionals from North America that are expected to come mid May to do cardiac surgeries) will consider her to be a good surgical candidate. The girl’s father who accompanied her has sad eyes and didn’t say a word and seems to have no clue as to what is going on with his daughter. The little girl spoke in whispers I could barely hear, and she kept her eyes down cast and continuously wrung her fingers that were folded on her lap. The name and the body frame may change but this case and the whole scenario was déjà vu all over again for me.

There is a frighteningly minimal amount of conversation that goes on between patients/their families and these doctors. The patients and their families who at times travel several kilometers to make it to this hospital are so mishandled starting at the hospital gate all the way to the clinics. Part of this ill-treatment that I perceive (the Amharic word “Mengelatat” I think fits the bill better than any other English term I can come up with) I believe may stem from a general lack-luster “customer service” practice in our culture. Also, my experience has been that harsh words are freely hurled by people in “authority” to people who are perceived to be either inferiors or subordinates in some ways without fear of repercussions. A hospital guard who carries a gun is at liberty to scold a family member of a patient at the hospital gate; as would an older man in car to a female pedestrian, an adult to a child or a physician to a patient, just to name a few. Added to that, the frustrations that come from working under such difficult conditions may make people appear to be heartless. Regardless, it is a sad state of affairs.

b8.jpg
Above: B8. Photography by Sosena Kebede.

Today, I felt overwhelmed by all I saw. After work I met with a friend of mine at a café (there is a miracle right there, my good old southern friend from Wilmington North Carolina, now sitting across the table from me in the country of my origin!) and I broke down and cried about this whole package of life in Ethiopia. He cried with me.

May 8, 2006

The residents essentially manage most of the patients. While I rounded on hematology patients with one of the Hematologist, I was impressed by these residents as they discussed the management of leukemias, multiple myelomas etc. They know the chemotherapeutic agent dosages, all the side-effects. They administer and monitor treatment after consultation with the sub specialist. Infectious diseases are plentiful in kind and number in Ethiopia. I had to acquaint myself anew with some of the tropical diseases such as Leishmaniasis and Schistosomaisis etc, which I was once taught in the US as topics of historical significance in the western world.

Before rounds I was listening to a bunch of residents discuss a case of pleural effusion (fluid in the lungs) and its managements. They know what they are talking about and the camaraderie and team play exhibited seems to be far superior to what I have seen in America. I was also very happy to overhear that they do most of the medical procedures and although limited, do have access to ultrasound guided thoracentesis,(a method by which fluid from the lungs is drained using ultrasound guidance). Most of these guys (unfortunately with the exception of two females they are all guys) seem to be highly motivated, after having arrived at this stage of their lives after much trials and tribulations. (Naturally, there are exceptions to the rule). They work under such suboptimal conditions, with very limited support system, and meager educational resources. Their motivation to learn makes me wonder if I will ever want to teach in
America again.

May 10, 2006

I had a very full day today-long rounds and lectures to the residents. What a pleasure though.

I have had some opportunities to mingle with people and form friends in the hospital and outside of it. The recurring theme among physicians and non-physicians is that people in Ethiopia are increasingly being made to abandon intellectual/ academic pursuits for entrepreneurships in order to survive. (There is nothing wrong with entrepreneurship or business if done honestly, but it should not be the only means of existence in a modern society). One young professional couple shared with me how some of their close friends who have only high school education have gone into “business” and are living large, whereas people like them who have invested a significant number of years in education are left to struggle to make ends meet. Their expertise for knowledge transfer and their contribution to pulling Ethiopians out of the dark ages of ignorance seems to be overlooked. The way I see it, Ethiopian intellectuals are given very little incentive to make this country their home.

While discussing this topic with one individual I heard very disturbing news about a parliamentary discussion that was televised recently. Apparently, the prime minister of Ethiopia was discussing with members of the parliament on how Ethiopia can improve its Chat business in the international market. Chat is a marijuana like substance that is grown in Ethiopia and has an addictive and mind altering properties. This recreational drug is now creating a huge problem among the youth and adults alike and is blamed for a significant number of road fatalities especially among long distance truck drivers who drive while under the influence. Everyone can list many bad public policies, but this one defies explanation and borders on insanity.

May 11, 2006

I saw an elderly male carrying an emaciated adolescent kid and walking up the steep hill via the Radio Fana road going to TAH today. Beside him, also was a middle aged guy carrying a plastic bag. I saw them trudging up that steep hill in silence, obviously exhausted from a long journey, and quite clearly unable to afford a taxi fare to bring a sick child to the hospital. I wondered how long they traveled today and where they came from. I wondered what illness the child had and what other “mengelatat” (harassment) awaits them starting at the TAH gate. I wondered when they will eventually be able to see a physician. I also wondered if that child was going to walk out of TAH alive…

I see many elderly and sick people climbing the stairs at TAH all the way up to the 8th floor because the only one functioning elevator (that sometimes fails to function) is reserved for those who are severely sick such as those who require stretchers. I helped carry a heavy bag for a lady walking up the stairs this afternoon. She was very happy to share the burden and was talking to me in between halting breaths until one of the ladies who works in house keeping on 5th floor addressed me as “doctor”. At that point, the lady I was climbing the stairs with took the plastic bag I was helping carry from my hands, thanked me profusely and went her way, without even giving me a chance to say that it was no big deal.

I also see rows of people sitting on the benches and on the floors of the hospital waiting for their turns to see a doctor. Some look like they need to be in ICU immediately. Not that the medical ICU which has 4 beds and the most rudimentary cardiac monitors and not much else, will avail much of anything, but at least they will be in a bed of some sort. From what I gathered there are only two mechanical ventilators in the ICU; there are two “crash carts” (carts that hold emergency medications and defibrillators in the event of cardiopulmonary arrest)-one in the ICU the other in the OPD area. Emergency medications are not always available, therefore medical emergencies in general have a predictable dismal outcome.

During lunch break today a very soft spoken and pleasant laboratory technician was talking about how tuition for her daughter has increased by 50% and she and her husband don’t know how they are going to be able to keep their only child in the same school. Everywhere I turn I hear “sekoka” (woes). Sometimes it is almost impossible to comprehend this level of social devastation in one country. The poor have clearly grown poorer over the past decade or two, and the minority of “middle class” are frantically struggling not to join others into the quick sand of poverty. There is wide spread sense of hopelessness and dejection in people of all ages, and gender. People are preoccupied with trying to figure out how they can make it from one day to another.

I talk about misery sitting in an upscale café/bookstore, eating grilled veggie sandwich, drinking green tea, and working on my lap top. I have my palm pilot and cell phone on the table, both very much operational and invaluable even here in Ethiopia. On the bottom floor of this beautiful contemporary café called Lime Tree café is a snazzy day spa called “Boston Day Spa, Where luxury and Glamour Meet”. I am very comfortable. When I am done writing this piece I will walk across the street of Bole, where rows of internet cafes, pastry shops, high end boutiques and shiny high rises are lined up. I might as well be in America. I will eventually walk into a two storey beautiful house where the maids will wait on me. Now that is much better than I have it in America. This is what I call the “artificial” life of Addis Ababa. This is a life that only a very small minority of Ethiopians live.

Many things annoy me even infuriate me, but none like people who measure developmental advances of the country using these “artificial” methods. Rome was not built in a day, and nor will Ethiopia be. I am not against road constructions and the erection of high rises. I am not necessarily against the SUV driving, designer clothing wearing, Sheraton Hotel partying, Europe vacationing crowds. I am however against those who use this minute fraction of the reality in Ethiopia to measure “development”. I am against complacency and indifference to the pressing issues of basic human needs food, shelter, clothing, health care, education and safety to all the people of Ethiopia.

May 12th 2006

There were four successive bomb blasts in Addis today. One was close to TAH and it occurred while I was giving a lecture on Sub acute Bacterial Endocarditis to the medical students. Everyone looked pretty unmoved by the whole thing and outside the building it was business as usual. People on the street either talked about something entirely different, or they casually made comments about how they believe the government itself is responsible for these blasts. Two of the four blasts happened in a taxi and a bus (I could very well have been in one of those taxis), and a total of four people died with over 20 injured, some very seriously. Waiting for a taxi to go home right after the blast I saw a group of people sitting at a café near Ambassador Hotel having a good old time. The thought that came to mind was that Ethiopians have become accustomed to death and dying of all forms including terrorist killings that they carry on their lives pretty much how the Israelis and the Palestinians must carry on. Just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse…!!

May 15, 2006

I keep fairly busy at TAH, and I am enjoying getting to know people a little bit better everyday. One of the physicians asked me today why I wanted to come to Ethiopia to work. This is a well seasoned physician that has served in the institution for a long time and I think he wanted to know if I knew what I would be getting myself into. I know that Ethiopia’s problems are complex and individual efforts may be miniscule but if there is enough of us I believe the scale will eventually tip. The scale may not tip in my life time but I am willing to leave my “negligible” contribution on the offering plate.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by all that is wrong around here, but in my simplistic personal view, there is still a lot of untapped sources. These sources are easy to miss because they are not big and they don’t leave visible dents on the surface of our problems, and they certainly don’t make the headlines. Most of these sources are also not measured in monetary in kind, and thus may appear not to be that valuable. I am thinking of the power of compassion that moves us to own the pain and suffering of others and make it our own. I am thinking of daily acts of simple kindness at individual levels. I am thinking of touching other human beings, both literally and figuratively. During rounds I made sure I laid my hands on each patient and addressed them by their names. I also always asked the patients and their families if they had any questions before we left their bedside. I made it my business to communicate to them by words, attitudes and actions that their issues concern me and they matter to me. Two days ago, the father of a 15 year girl with leukemia shook my hand and said to me in Oromiffa (was translated to me by one of the residents who speaks the language) that for them to” be touched by a doctor is like medicine itself ‘.

I will always remember what someone said to me: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care”. If the students and the residents I worked with this month will remember only this piece of advice my time with them has been worth it.

Talking of simple kind acts, today’s was a special one. I was leaving TAH when a woman asked me where the “cherer kifle” (radiation room) was. Of course I didn’t know where it was but since she and a young man are bringing a very sick elderly woman who could barely walk, (she was moaning and looked like she was about to collapse), I offered to investigate for them. Once I found out it was on 2nd floor, they asked if the “lift” (elevator) will automatically stop on the floor, apparently it was their first time to take an elevator. I took the elevator with them and walked them to radiation oncology and gave their chart to the nurse and inquired for them when they will be seen. There are no wheel chairs, no hospital staff that help triage these sickly patients. The radiation/oncology area it turned out was quite a walk and I kept looking behind me at the sick woman and the man supporting her and said words of encouragement such as “Ayezwot desrsenale” (loosely translated: hang in there, we are almost there”). After we arrived in the radiation room the elderly lady sat on the bench she took my hand and kissed it (for the second time in 10 days, and it brought tears to my eyes. Such deep gratitude, for such a small act…) and said some of the most beautiful merekat (blessings) to me. The one that stood out the most was “Enkifat enkwan ayemtash” (“may you not even stumble”). I loved hearing that. I bowed my head several times, in acknowledgement, Ethiopian style, and said my Amens to all the blessings. It touched me so much, that it surprised me. In a land where verbal cursing is not uncommon it is good to hear a torrent of blessing for a change.

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Above: With one of my favorite patients. Photography by Sosena Kebede.

June 16, 2006

I was rushing out through the OPD gate to meet someone for lunch when I run into one of the residents I know. We talked about what it is like to work and live in Ethiopia as a physician. My conversations with the same physician although not entirely based on a new theme gave me a reinforcement of what most intellectuals/professionals in this country are feeling. He told me that his salary rated among the highest but for a family of seven (five kids and a wife) it will be sufficient for two weeks only. Like many others he is also supplementing his income with a second job in the form of a private clinic work. He recounted that once upon a time, he too had great aspirations and dreams to bring about a change in the society. He told me after several episodes of banging his head against a brick wall he has decided to lead a quite life and support his family. This physician, who is soft spoken and accomplished, like many others has contributed a lot to that institution and to the country at large. How many peoples’ dreams and visions have died, I wondered.

I am reminded of the Biblical verse that says “a small yeast will leaven up an entire dough”. This is true of good as well as bad influence (“leaven”). I do believe, that though we might not see this happen in our generation, if we are determined we can be the leaven, the catalyst, to bring about a paradigm shift in this country. We can be the catalysts who will initiate the process of change from the cycles of poverty to self sufficiency.

I was very fortunate and truly feel honored to have met so many people that have done so much and have the potential to do so much more in Ethiopia. Some are tired, others are tiring out. That is why we need reinforcements to be deployed to them. With all the apprehensions that I feel at times, I can’t wait till I go back to Ethiopia. One of my self assigned missions now is to recruit as many as are willing to be part of that reinforcement.

Interview: A Green Photographer With His Lens on Ethiopia

By Tadias Staff

Published: Monday, September 1, 2008

New York (Tadias) – When Andarge Asfaw returned to his childhood home, Ethiopia, he had not been there for 27 years. What he experienced and photographed upon his initial return pushed him to get more involved in environmental work, and to use photography as his tool of choice.

Asfaw attended Cornell University and he is a graduate of Hallmark Institute of Photography. His work has been highlighted by Newsweek, Vanity Fair, Esquire and The Washington Post. And recently, his environmentally conscious work was featured by The Valley Advocate. Asfaw works as a professional photographer and currently lectures at the Washington School of Photography, the Art League School and the Metropolitan Center for the Visual Arts.

He spoke with Tadias about his photography career, his trip to Ethiopia and his new book, Ethiopia From The Heart (Cover image above).


Andarge Asfaw

Tadias: Let’s start with your career as a Photographer. How did you start?

A. Asfaw: My father was a serious amateur photographer. He gave me my first camera at the age of 12. I adored it. I always knew that I would become a photographer. When I left Ethiopia, I went to England, then the US, where I began my college studies. I continued on to complete my photography education at The Hallmark Institute of Photography. After graduating, I went to New York City and worked in a catalog house. This was an invaluable experience because I learned how to work efficiently since production deadlines were tight. From there, I relocated to Washington, DC and began working in a fast-paced design firm. Eventually, I started my own commercial photography studio in the 80’s, F/STOP STUDIO.

Tadias: What were your early experiences?

A. Asfaw: My father used to show slides of his own images on a large screen. His work showed landscapes and people. They were transporting and powerful. It was something I always looked forward to. Looking at snapshots in daylight cannot compare to a slideshow in the dark. The mood is more dramatic.


Running Through The Fields. © Andarge Asfaw


Awash National Park. © Andarge Asfaw

Tadias: The source of the passion?

A. Asfaw: I’ve always been a visual person. I don’t say it in words, I show it. Each time I photograph a subject, I’m looking to preserve it. Later after I see the work, I decide which of these photographs asks to be shared. This urge to photograph, calls me back again and again. This is my creative process.

Tadias: What prompted you to return to Ethiopia? Was there an alternate photography project that you had envisioned before returning?

A. Asfaw: I returned to Ethiopia in 1993. The purpose of my first trip back was to rediscover by myself and to photograph the land and the people as I remembered them from my childhood. I had not been there for 27 years. I have to say, the emotional impact was overwhelming. The country had been ravaged. A lot of the beauty and the magnificence that I remembered had vanished.

Ethiopian culture is rich in tradition. I am thankful that my parents were part of a generation that was strong and dignified. The opportunities and bounty that life offered me then, aren’t available to the youth of today. Even though Ethiopians are humble and respectful of each other, change has affected the whole culture.

Tadias: Please describe your travels in Ethiopia and highlight both the high points and lows of your journey and photographing experience.

A. Asfaw: I can’t say that it wasn’t rough working through all of my feelings of loss for places that were so much a part of my history. However, I returned to Ethiopia several times, not all for personal reasons. I was commissioned in some cases. Certain trips that I made were to help organizations that were fundraising. When you’ve been hired by a client, you approach photography openly. You don’t have the same raw feeling that you get when you’re creating personal work. I was productive during that time for those that I was serving. This was good for me. I grew in strength with each visit back and eventually clarified my goals and was healed. I set out to reveal the beauty of Ethiopia to the world.


Hamer Siblings. © Andarge Asfaw


Genet Mariam Church. © Andarge Asfaw

Tadias: You mention that your current book Ethiopia from the Heart reveals the environmental issues that are not usually covered in other photography projects on the region. How will your work bring more needed attention to these concerns?

A. Asfaw: Well, with interviews like these, this is a great start!

Through exhibiting and lecturing about “Ethiopia from the Heart”, I hope to build a community that will support my future efforts to facilitate environmental stewardship in Ethiopia and in everyone’s own backyard. The more recognition the book gets, the stronger the message becomes. Book sales fund tree-planting in Ethiopia through Greener Ethiopia and Trees for the Future.

Tadias: There are no words or descriptions to accompany the photographs in your book? Why did you opt for such a layout?

A. Asfaw: There seems to be a lot of energy around this topic. The title of each image can be found at the back of book. In this information age, we always want to know more – faster. Flipping to the back of the book is slower. What’s the rush? Fine-art is meant to be enjoyed. A lot of photography icons of the past did much of the same. The page layout for “Ethiopia from the Heart” was created by my photo editor and dear friend, Donna T. Jones. Her final decision to have the images unencumbered by text encouraged the fluidity of page movement and kept the design elegant. I loved the final product.

Tadias: You will be exhibiting your current work at the Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography in mid-September. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

A. Asfaw: The Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography in Turner Falls, Massachusetts, graciously invited me to exhibit my work from “Ethiopia from the Heart”, which explores the richness of Ethiopian landscape, culture and wildlife. There will be a book signing and illustrated artist talk on Saturday, September 13, 2008, beginning at 6:45PM. Book sales fund tree-planting projects in Ethiopia. The Non-Ethiopian community is receiving my work with open arms. I would love to see support from the Ethiopian Community up North at this opening.


Morning Rays in Tigray Village. © Andarge Asfaw

Tadias: What is the message that you want most to convey to the Ethiopian diaspora? Your photography fans? Environmentalists?

A. Asfaw: I refuse to believe that “we can’t fix what’s been broken”. It will take time and patience, but rejuvenation and change can and will happen in Ethiopia. On the cover of Ethiopia from the Heart, I chose a photograph of a straw flower. In Amharic, Ayderki, which means “everlasting”. That is my true message.

As for my photography followers, many thanks for your praise and encouragement. I especially thank my students for their enthusiasm. “Ethiopia from the Heart” conveys a message that photographers not only document history, they make it. Artists continue to expose the issues and get attention. And for our brothers and sisters in the environmental movement, partner with others to create a stronger network. You all are amazing.

Tadias: What is your next project?

A. Asfaw: Tough question for the diverse amount of subjects calling out to be photographed. But one thing is for sure, I’m not done with Ethiopia, yet. There is another book on the horizon.


Digital prints from Ethiopia From the Heart are on display through Sept. 21 at Gallery 85, Hallmark Museum of Contemporary Photography, 85 Ave. A, Turners Falls, Massachusetts, (413) 863-0009. Copies of the book are available at the museum as well as at www.ethiopiafromtheheart.com.



Do you Couchsurf? Note From Canada via Ethiopia

Above: Maskarm k Haile in Sosussvlei, Naimibia. Sand dunes
of Sossusvlei are known to be the highest dunes in the world.

Tadias Magazine
By Maskarm K. Haile
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Published: Monday, August 25, 2008

Addis Ababa (Tadias) – I live in Canada and I am writing this from Ethiopia on my way to Sudan. Couchsurfing all along.

How many of us crash on our friend’s friend or friend’s cousin’s couch when traveling? We may even put a little extra effort into researching and getting connected to “someone who knows somebody” at the destination we intend to arrive at.

These days budget travelers are using the internet to build a network of individuals who are willing to let them crash on their couch – creating a better world, one couch at a time. It is called “Couchsurfing”.

Couchsurfing is not about getting a free accommodation only, it’s about creating more meaningful relationships that go beyond race, culture and other barriers, across borders, countries and continents.

I have always been a travel junky. I love meeting people and experiencing new cultures. I constantly look for ways to travel safely and cheaply. So finding couchsurfing was a coming home of sorts. Not only for the free accommodation, but also getting to meet people from all walks of life made it much more appealing to me. The organization has 630,976 members in 231 countries representing 44,359 cities. Its mission: “CouchSurfing seeks to internationally network people and places, create educational exchanges, raise collective consciousness, spread tolerance, and facilitate cultural understanding.”

Since I have become a member officially I have successfully surfed 15 couches in 12 countries including Canada, England, Singapore, Australia, South Africa, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and made 110 real life friendships and contacts along with 4 virtual ones. I also serve as a Nomadic Ambassador organizing events and meeting couchsurfers along my Trans-Africa travels. The couchsurfing site is fully run by volunteers from around the world and it restores faith in humankind and the world we live in. It’s even more mesmerizing how quickly we learn to trust one another, when the host who has just picked you up from the airport, for example, drops you home and gives you their house keys because they need to be somewhere else that night.

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Moment with a polar Bear, Northern Ontario, Canada

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Southern Ethiopia – in Turmi village, Humer Region

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Lake Malawi

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Namibia

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At the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent

There is always excitement about meeting new couchsurfers. Whether you meet for a visit at a local museum, a cup of coffee, or a gourmet meal at a fancy restaurant one thing is guaranteed, there is a conversation flow that goes on, be it on travel, politics, culture, relationship, environment, family – every topic is discussed with understanding and interest. The amount of knowledge and wisdom shared with fellow couchsurfers never ceases to amaze me, as well as their continued effort to make this world a better place.


About the Author:
Maskarm Kebede Haile resides in Montreal, Canada. Her first travel journal, My Humanitarian Journey to Africa, appeared in Tadias in 2003.

You can learn more about Couchsurfing at couchsurfing.com

Afewerk Tekle: His Brush is Stronger than the Machine Gun

By Tseday Alehegn
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Updated: August 17th, 2008

New York (Tadias) – Speaking about his life-long dedication to the fine arts, Maitre Afewerk Tekle instills in us the importance of using art to inspire people, to uplift nations and to create an optimistic view of life.

“What we do today must reflect today’s life for tomorrow’s generation and pave the way for the future generation,” he asserts with passion and reflection. He teaches us that “art is in every fabric of life.”

He was born in the town of Ankober in Ethiopia on October 22, 1932. Having grown up in an Ethiopia battling fascist Italian forces, Afewerk was acutely aware of the destruction of war and the need to rebuild his native home. Intent on acquiring skills that would allow him to contribute to Ethiopia’s restoration, the young Afewerk settled on pursuing his studies in mining engineering.

His family and friends, however, had already recognized his inner talent in the arts. Around town he was know for his drawings on walls using stones, and for possessing a curious and ever reflective mind. Despite his natural gravitation to the art world, at the age of 15 Afewerk was chosen to be sent abroad to England to commence his engineering studies.

Maitre Afewerk recalls being summoned by Emperor Haile Selassie to receive last-minute advice prior to his departure.

“To this day I cannot forget his words,” the Maitre says pensively. “The Emperor began by counseling us to study, study, and study.”

“He told us: you must work hard, and when you come back do not tell us what tall buildings you saw in Europe, or what wide streets they have, but make sure you return equipped with the skills and the mindset to rebuild Ethiopia.”

Maitre Afewerk confides that this sermon rang in his head each time he was tempted to seek the easy life, free from the responsibility of rebuilding his nation and uplifting his people.

As one of the earliest batch of African students admitted to exclusive boarding schools in England, Afewerk faced culture shock and the occasional strife caused by English bullies. Yet he remained steadfast in pursuing his studies. He especially excelled in courses such as mathematics, chemistry and history, but it was not long before his teachers discovered his inner talent for the arts.

With the encouragement of his mentor and his teachers, Afewerk decided to focus on refining his gift and enrolled at the Central School of Arts and Crafts in London. Upon completion of his studies he was accepted as the first African student at the prestigious Faculty of Fine Arts at Slade (University of London). At Slade, Afewerk focused on painting, sculpture and architecture.

Upon returning to Ethiopia, Maitre Afewerk traveled to every province, staying at each location for a period of up to three months, immersing himself in the study of his surroundings and absorbing Ethiopia’s historical and cultural diversity. He reflected on and pushed himself to become an Ethiopian artist with world recognition.

“I had to study Ethiopian culture,” the Maitre states, “because an important ingredient of a world artist is to have in your artwork the flavor of where you were born.”

He passionately adds, “My art will belong to the world but with African flavor.”

Above all, Maitre Afewerk worked diligently in the hopes of using his artwork as a social medium with which to highlight the history, struggles and beauty of his native home. Although he was educated abroad, he fought against what he called “the futile imitation of other artists’ works, Western or otherwise.’’

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Left: Mother Ethiopia, 1963, 100x125cm Oil on Canvas. Middle: Lady from Wollo, 1991, 70x35cm,
Oil on Canvas. Right: Remenbrances: Detail of the Head, 75x125cm, Oil on Board

With the message of rebuilding Ethiopia still ringing in his ears, Maitre Afewerk quickly decided to relinquish the ministerial post assigned to him upon completion of his university studies, and opted instead to devote his full attention to painting and exhibiting his artwork both at home and abroad.

At age 22, Afewerk Tekle held his first significant one-man exhibition at the Municipality Hall in Addis Ababa in 1954. He followed up his success by conducting an extensive study tour of art in Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece, paying particular attention to collections of Ethiopian illustrated manuscripts as well as acquiring skills in stained-glass artwork.

Returning home he was commissioned to create religious art for St. George’s Cathedral. He also worked on some of the first sculptures depicting Ethiopian national heroes. His designs and inspirations were soon printed on stamps and national costumes. Most notably, he conceptualized and designed the elaborate stainedglass window artwork in Africa Hall at the headquarters of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

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Left: The Artist Working on the head of H.E Tedla Bairu, the first Chief Executive of Eritrea, 1967.
Middle: The finished Sculpture & the Model of the same in Stone, 1967. Right: Head of a Jamaican
girl, Bronze, 1953

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Left: Ras Makonen, Harrar, 1959. Middle: “Defender of his faith” (project for statue) Abuna Petros
square A.A., 1967. Right: “Young Defender of his country” (Project for youth square A.A. , 1959)

With the income and savings he acquired by selling his artwork Afewerk designed his own 22-room house, studio and gallery, which he nicknamed ‘Villa Alpha’.

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General view of ‘Villa Alpha’ from outside

By 1964 Maitre Afewerk had held his second successful exhibition, thereafter followed by his first exhibition abroad in Russia, the U.S.A. and Senegal. Touring African nations at a time when Africa was under the yoke of colonialism, Afewerk Tekle used his paintbrush to fight for the dignity and honor of African people.

Focusing on the struggles ensnaring black people, he shared his quest for liberation and equality, naming his artwork with titles such as Backbones of the African Continent, Africa’s Heritage, and African Unity.

“Your brush can be quite stronger than the machine gun,” he says. “I wanted to show how you can write Africa through your artwork, what it means to have liberty, to have your fellow humans completely equal.”

The theme of African independence and the interrelationship of African cultures are indelibly etched in Maitre Afewerk’s paintings.

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Afewerk Tekle at Stanford University on March 7,
2004. (Photo: Tadias Archive)

Many art critics have tried, time and time again, to label and categorize his work as having either European or African influence, and sometimes even both. However, he tells us that “you should be free and liberated in your thoughts and style. Your art should speak to you in your hidden language.”

Maitre Afewerk notes that 10% of his work is considered religious art while at least 50% echoes Ethiopian influence. But there is room for him to explore and develop his own style that speaks to his inner muse.

Today, Maitre Afewerk’s art is known and celebrated throughout the world, and indeed he has achieved his dream of becoming an Ethiopian artist with world recognition. He has uplifted Ethiopia, and at the same time his art has been infused into the daily life of his community and fellow citizens.

Walking or driving around Addis few years ago, it was difficult to miss his art projects depicting today’s heroes such as Haile Gebresellasie. At the bottom corner of the painting there is an Amharic phrase that says it all: Yitchalal! (It’s Possible!).

“At the end of the day, my message is quite simple,” he says. “I am not a pessimist, I want people to look at my art and find hope. I want people to feel good about Ethiopia, about Africa, to feel the delicate rays of the sun. And most of all, I want them to think: Yitchalal!


Photos of art work from maitreafewerktekle.com. Learn more about the artist at the same website.

About the Author:
Tseday Alehegn is the Editor-in-Chief of Tadias Magazine. Tseday is a graduate of Stanford University (both B.A. & M.A.). In addition to her responsibilities at Tadias, she is also a Doctoral student at Columbia University.

Events Journal: Ethiopian Girls Gotta Run NYC art show

Above: Girls Gotta Run Foundation exhibition at Phoenix
Gallery in New York (Photo by Susan Liebold).

Tadias Magazine
Updated: July 13th, 2009

Publisher’s Note

New York (Tadias) – Dr. Patricia E. Ortman, a retired Women’s Studies Professor and an artist, is the director of Girls Gotta Run Foundation. The group held an exhibition last week at Phoenix Gallery in New York titled Shoes, Shoes, Shoes. The objective of the show was to raise funds to buy athletic shoes for Ethiopian girls to support their participation in sports and help them continue their formal education.

Although seven of the top-ten earning athletes in Ethiopia are women, the nation’s girls’ enrollment in school is among the lowest in the world. Many girls and their parents have begun to see careers as professional runners as viable options. Many who train in order to stay in school and keep their options open, can, with the help of caring others, overcome many of the obstacles in their way.

The exhibit is on display and art for sale through September 29 and gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 11:30 – 6 p.m.

The following is Pat’s journal.

By Patricia E. Ortman
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On Tuesday afternoon, Beth Cartland, Jim and I met at the Gallery to unwrap art and hang the exhibit. Along with Linda Handler, the Gallery Director, we tested and tried and eventually arrived at what we believed to be a lovely configuration of the pieces, all the while being shadowed by our filmmakers Andy and Nick. Beth, Jim and I were still there when everyone else left about 6:30 or so but finally called it a day around 7:15 ourselves, agreeing to meet when the Gallery opened again at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday to finish off all of the assorted odds and ends that inevitably accompany such a venture. So Wednesday found us again at the Gallery until about 2:30 or 3:00, at which time we could finally say “Fini!”

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Photo by Susan Liebold

On Thursday evening, we arrived at the Gallery almost half an hour early to find guests, including Westchester Track Club Founder/Coach Mike Barnow and several Ethiopian members of the Club, already there. It was a whirlwind of activity from then until after 8 p.m. when guests were literally shooed out of the building in order to close it.

Other guests in attendance included Adrienne Wald, the WTC Club’s Newletter Editor in Chief, who arrived shortly after Coach Mike with several more Club members and additional friends; New York participating photographers Susan Liebold and Leah Beth Goodman, Leah bringing a crowd of Goodman family and friends; Lauren Mills, a NYC artist newcomer to GGRF; DC artists Jane Pettit, Gail Rebhan, and Joyce Ellen Weinstein.

Runners from Ethiopia were especially excited to speak with Susan about her photos of Ethiopian girls.

Altogether I would judge we had about 50 people come specifically for our exhibit. But it’s hard to say because there were several other openings in the building, two in the same gallery, and some people who had come for those also stopped in to see ours. So, we sold four pieces and continued to expand the universe of people who know about the cause.

“The opening’s success was a tribute to all your hard work. Enjoying it was delightful!” —Participating Artist Jane Pettit

“The opening was fantastic and I’m confident we’ll help raise lots of money to buy running shoes for the girls of Ethiopia.” —Participating Photographer Leah Beth Goodman

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Photo by Susan Liebold

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Photo by Susan Liebold

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Photo by Susan Liebold

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Photo by Susan Liebold

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Photo by Susan Liebold

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Photo by Susan Liebold

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Photo by Susan Liebold

Learn more about the foundation at: girlsgottarun.org

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Interview with Miss World Ethiopia

Above: She’s got brains, beauty and a serious sweet tooth.
Meet Jiitu Abraham. Recently, we had a chance to sit
down and chat with the Ethiopian beauty queen.

Tadias: How does it feel to be crowned “Miss Ethiopia World”?

Jiitu Abraham: I feel blessed and honored. I fasted for two months prior to the competition. I asked GOD to make it clear to me if I should go, or if it was just going to be a waste of my time. I didn’t actually buy my ticket until 3 days before the competition. I am honored because I am the first American-born Ethiopian to win this title.

I was happy to see that organizers such as Andy Abulime, and the competition’s judges, were progressive enough in their thinking to understand that you don’t have to be born in Ethiopia to be an Ethiopian. The country of your birth doesn’t prevent you from taking pride or interest in the country that raised the parent(s) who raised you.

While I have received a lot of negative feedback from many, I stand my ground in believing that to be Ethiopian is something that you are born being regardless of your birth country, not something that can be given or taken away from you. With all the children being born to Ethiopian parents in the US and other countries outside of Ethiopia, there is no way that I can or will allow someone to tell me that we are not real Ethiopians, or not Ethiopian enough. We might have had different experiences growing up but that is what is going to make us a more eclectic and successful community. If encouraged and supported properly, Ethiopians, from all backgrounds, can come together and fuse their different life experiences and knowledge to better the social, economic, and political situation in Ethiopia. Being born outside of Ethiopia was not our choice, neither is being Ethiopian. It just simply IS our reality.

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Tadias: Who is your role model and why?

JA: I have different role models for different aspects of my life. As far as life goes, I don’t have to look far for a role model, because my parents, Abebe Abraham and Azenegash Hailu Abraham, are my role models. They have showed me through their actions that the only way to achieve your goals is through hard work and determination. They taught me that there is no speed-pass to success. True success can only be earned through hard work. They also made sure to instill in me the importance of trying to live your life for God, because without him nothing is possible.

When it comes to pursuing a career in entertainment, I would say my role model has been Will Smith. I specifically remember one interview he did for MTV, in which the reporter commented on his acting and rapping talents. Will replied, “I might not be the best actor or the best rapper, but one thing I can say for sure is that I am the most determined.” That day I made this statement my motto. I repeated this statement to myself over and over again while competing in Ethiopia. I was so nervous. I was full of self-doubt.

The girls were so beautiful and all I can remember thinking was “You are out of your league.” But I had to keep saying to myself, “You might not be the tallest, the skinniest or the prettiest, but you CAN be the most determined.” Repeating this statement to myself over and over and over again, coupled with the constant verbal affirmation of my parents is what allowed me to give 110% to pursuing a life-long dream.

Tadias: Where do you see yourself five years from now?

JA: In five years, I would like to see myself as the President/CEO of my own entertainment company. The company would be focused on International Americans. I would like to help shape the media’s image of first-generation immigrants, like myself. Our experiences growing up are unique and have yet to be focused on by mainstream media.

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Tadias: Name three things you can’t live without… Okay, make it five.

JA: I am glad that you moved it up to five. I couldn’t narrow it down to three. First and foremost, I couldn’t live without my relationship with God. It is hard being young in the world today. There is so much more of a pull from the secular world than the religious one. It is easy for someone to get lost. I try to keep His word with me at all times, so hopefully when I am put in a tough position I can make a smart decision.

Secondly I would choose my family, my mom, Azenegash Hailu Abraham, my dad, Abebe Abraham, and my brother, Yohannes Abraham, a very handsome, Yale University student. They are my rock and my strength. I couldn’t go through all the ups and downs of life and pursue a career in the oftentimes fickle entertainment business, if I didn’t know that I will always have them there at the end.

Thirdly I would choose my friends, Dana, Betty, Tessi, Jen, Michelle, and Abbey, who are my extended family. They support me at my shows, encourage me to pursue my dreams, and most importantly, they are always there when I need to take my mind off a hard day’s work, and just have fun!

My fourth choice would be sweets! Some people have a sweet tooth, I, on the other hand, have sweet teeth (plural). If it were up to me I would eat sweets for every meal. I know my health-nut mom is cringing at this statement, but it is true. While I do my best to heed the health advice of my mother, I have yet to allow a single day of my adult life to pass without sneaking in at least one piece of cake or chocolate.

Lastly I would chose playing. While I love to get dressed up for a night on the town, I enjoy playing more. I love nothing more than spending a whole Saturday or Sunday swimming in a local lake, hiking in West Virginia, or biking. Actually, I just got back from a 3-day, 184-mile bike ride from Cumberland, MD to Georgetown, DC. It was wearisome but I enjoyed the serenity of being outside, in nature, without the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Tadias: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?

JA: I was named “Honorary Ambassador of Goodwill to Israel.” While my father and I were in Israel, on a religious pilgrimage, the Minister of Tourism, Mr. Avraham Hirchson, presented me with the title “Honorary Ambassador of Goodwill to Israel.” I also got a chance to meet with Senator Barack Obama, United States Senator for Illinois, and discussed my mission as Miss Ethiopia World. We also discussed ways in which to seek and gather public support and recognition for the foundation supported by the Miss Ethiopia World title, the Ethiopian Life Foundation, and its causes.

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Also, I am a senior anchor for ENBS (Ethiopian National Broadcasting Services). ENBS is currently the only Amharic and English language program focused on informing and educating the Ethiopian Community and interested public residing in the Washington, DC area. ENBS presents issues pertaining to Ethiopians, Ethiopia, and its surrounding African countries. The show airs every Saturday between 4-5pm on MHz Networks.

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