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Archive for the ‘Ethiopian art’ Category

Finally! The blog becomes a book. Why did I do it? Initially I simply wanted to print my blog from start to finish in hard copy, to be able to reflect on to my experiences as recorded over three significant years of my life. What started out as a straightforward idea grew into a book project. I intended to make a few copies for family and friends, but with the cost of making more copies lowering the average price per book, my sister Kat urged me to go big.  “Print a lot, have a book launch and see what happens!”

Good things happened…

 

Book titleIt was a challenge to get it done so quickly, but when Cuso International Ethiopia invited me back in January 2016 to assist in the orientation of their first group of Assosa volunteers, I asked graphic designer extraordinaire Terry if he thought it was possible to get the book finished in time for me to take copies with me for Ethiopian friends. Over the past year and a half we had been working on it at a leisurely pace with no firm end date in mind. Suddenly with a deadline looming in two weeks, we worked at a frenzied pace to finalize the design and finish the edits. Thanks to the excellent support of Bond Printers, 150 copies of Spider Webs Unite – My Volunteer Experience in Ethiopia were delivered three days before take off!

With my two bag allowance to Addis Ababa via London, I managed to squeeze in 17 copies of the 1.25 kg book. And despite a few typos that slipped through, I am delighted with the result. Most gratifying is the response of my Ethiopian friends and colleagues. “You did not forget us” they said as they pored over the 1710 colour photos in the 246 page book. Over the next 6 weeks I was able to enjoy many reunions and gift them their book. It made all the time, energy and cost worth while.IMG_1395

Here Henok receives the first copy of the book in Addis Ababa in the gardens of the Ghion Hotel on a lovely sunny Sunday afternoon in February.

IMG_1410Zerefa was thrilled to get her copy and also able to take 3 to Woldia – one for Asrebab our landlady and one each for the Teachers’ College where I had worked for the year and one to the new Woldia University where many of the instructors I had in my HDP class are now teaching.

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Yasabu from the Ministry of Education where I worked for two years accepted a copy and was pleased to see the photos of his family included.

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Ruth from VSO Ethiopia accepted a copy for the office

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Wendwossen from the new Cuso Ethiopia office flips through the book

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When I called my friend Hiwot to tell her I was back and had a surprise for her she said “Well I too have a surprise – I have a baby girl!”

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What a delight to meet the miracle baby and share coffee at her home!

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I met artist Abiy Eshete for juice and he spent an hour poring over every page, thrilled his two paintings are featured at the beginning and end of the book . He was impressed with the graphic design. Terry had suggested we put a colour screen behind the photos on each page based on the cherubs from the famous Debre Birhan Selassie Church in Gondor along with the Queen of Sheba design.

yellow background

For fun we chose to code the years from 2010-2013 with the colours of the Ethiopian flag – yellow, green, red and blue. Yes a lot of TLC went into this production.

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I couldn’t wait to visit my old compound to share the book with my Addis family – Kifle, Almaz and the kids growing up so fast – Sami about the complete grade 12 and younger siblings Meron and Eyob…

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Returning home to Vancouver my official Canadian book launch was April 10th, complete with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony thanks to my friends Alganesh and Akeberet. They used the fresh green coffee I brought back from Assosa to scent the air, enabling many friends to experience their first real Ethiopian coffee ceremony and to sample Ethiopian food.

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Akeberet performs the coffee ceremony.

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Alganesh was a great support, roasting coffee, assisting in the ceremony and  with the food.

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At the Book Launch with my sister Kat, the one who encouraged me to publish the book!IMG_5085

Friends got creative with Ethiopian finger food…

This May the book came along to England and Ireland when I visited family and reconnected with former VSO volunteer friends. Just this week I got a lovely message from someone who had read it in Ethiopia at Wini’s Gourmet Corner cafe near the Mulmul Bakery in Addis Abeba and earlier I had heard from fellow volunteers who had seen it at Susan’s Ben Abeba restaurant in Lalibela. Next week I’m giving a book talk at the Gibson’s library on the Sunshine Coast. I only have a few books left and most are spoken for but am looking into other options to make it available. Meanwhile if you are interested in what I had to say in the my Afterword read it on page 11 in the recently published  BCTF Social Justice Newsletter.

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A lot is changing in the political landscape of Ethiopia as I write this post. All I can do from afar is light a candle for peace and stability to all the good people I care about in that world so far away. I continue to feel blessed to have had the opportunity to spend 3 years of my life living and learning in Ethiopia and hope the intelligence, strength and resilience of the people I got to know will see them through their current challenges.

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The preparations began weeks ahead with the setting of the date (Saturday, June 15th) and invitations issued. This past week involved a flurry of provisioning and baking. Meron and Eyob offered to decorate and Sami appointed himself the music man. Peter kindly agreed to let us transform his larger salon into the indoor party place since the rainy season is early this year and the forecast was metfo (bad) with thunder and rain predicted.

meron and etob decoratingMeron and Eyob get into decorating mode

kifle eyob and almazCooking up chocolate cake, pumpkin pie and lentil curry in my kitchen! Even Ato Kifle came in to watch – he is the expert sheep selector!

decorations

The decorating started early and continued all afternoon, using up all the balloons, ribbons, candy wrappers and tape I had squirreled away for the occasion of my last hurrah!

eyob and meron at work on watermelonSaturday morning we get down to serious preparations. Here are Eyob and Meron – the watermelon team!

meron and I with our art!Meron and I show off our creations!

a touch of canada olives and cheddarCanadian content – olives and cheddar on flag toothpicks.

night sheepWhen I got home from having a pint at the Pride after my last (yipee!) Volunteer Committee meeting on Friday evening Sami immediately introduced me to our sheep!

very attractive sheepNext morning I thanked the sheep and assured it that it would be memorialized on the internet  for its contribution to the party

dogs wait from a distanceMeanwhile these three waited from a safe distance in hungry anticipation! I am happy to say that they behaved very well at the party, no one was nipped or even threatened – I think they were too full! Rocky the pup seems to have had a positive effect on his parents!

sheep and butcherThe butcher arrived late morning

slaughtered sheep hangingBloody business…but close to the bone;after all, if you eat meat, this is as close to the source as it gets

cutting up sheepAlem, who is staying with us now and has been working in the middle east off and on for the past 8 years, assisted with the meat cutting. She is an awesome cook and helped out a lot this week! I think she should open her own cafe..

amazon and alem with lots of meat!Amazon and Alem have plenty of chopping and cutting on their hands!

adding more meatAlmaz, Amazon and Etenu ( and Alem) all got involved in the tibs preparation

goodbye signPeter’s walls made a good backdrop for goodbye messages in both official languages

table and decorations in  peters place with me and eyobSami decided it was time for a photo when we began setting out food

sami the music manMusic by Sami. Peter decided he has a future s a DJ!

sami's pumpkin pieSami proudly shows off pumpkin pies squares he has decorated with Canadian maple syrup cream and walnuts and then says to me “I think it is time for you to change”…

me in woldia dressSo I put on my Woldia party dress!

sizzling tibsMeantime the tibs continued to simmer and scent the air wonderfully

cooking the tibsI recently found out that Almaz had a cafe before Sami was born – no wonder she is such a great chef!

sandwiched between 2 peters!Peter K was first to arrive so we decided it was time for a glass of wine with me sandwiched between the “two Peters” in Peter’s salon (he is on the left). Peter K told Sami that all British men named Peter come with beards and glasses!

peter and endashaw - my neighboursThis past year Peter Cheer and Endashaw have been my friendly compound neighbours

anjeli mike and endashawCanadian doctors Anjeli and Mike along with Endashaw, also Canadian, are all heading home soon

suzie and judySuzie and Judy share a moment!

tucking in to appetizers and conversationThe crowd grows and the skies threaten but hold off so we can enjoy the open space

food is served by almazTibs, gomen and lentil curry are served with injera!

howie abiy and samiHowie, Abiy Eshete (artist) and Sami share ideas

henok and meronHenok and his sister Meron arrive!

lovely smiles - merson and edanWonderful support staff from VSO Meron and Eden enjoy the scene. Missing Selamwit in this picture – she is a true gem and was off elsewhere enjoying the party – so glad they all could come!

Selamawit receptionHere’s a picture of Selamawit!

These three young bright talented women deserve gold stars for all the hard work they do for volunteers!

liz and biruk reunion!More arrive and greet old friends – lots of out-of-towners came too!

kate barbara helen and danKate, Barbara, Helen and “Big Dan” enjoy the  buffet

eating tibs!

howie and shvetaFriend Shveta who works at MoE as a consultant arrives to join the fun!

me and difo dabbo!I must pose with the special Difo Dabbo Almaz made for the occasion

judy with lit cakeSurprise – a birthday cake because on Sunday I turn silsa arat. Thanks to Judy!

trick candles again!Oh no  – its those same candles from last year that keep re-igniting no matter how hard you blow them!

sami and sun light fireworksYes Sami, it is finally time for the fireworks! Sun from China (where fireworks were invented)  helps him get them started

difo dabo on fire!Good show! There were small sparklers too handed around by Eyob, just for fun

dr brian meets henokCanadian Dr Brian finally gets to meet Henok who is a student at Black Lion Hospital medical school where Brian is working to set up a family medicine specialization program

edith and danielEdith and Daniel, Kenyan volunteers sharing a laugh!

eyob me kifle shveta and almazTime to pose with Eyob, Kifle, Shveta and Almaz

mary may move into my houseMary is from the Philippines and also works at MoE; she hopes to end up with my tiny cozy house when I go in a month!

meeting the artistThe rain held off till quite late and then we were indoors. Abiy had brought some of his small paintings to show people and they were much admired and some were sold!

crowd sceneThe rains ended quickly and we were again able to enjoy the compound atmosphere. Many others leave Ethiopia very soon; about 30% of all the current volunteers are finishing up so this moment was a time of farewells for many of us

eyob's tributeEyob decided to do a tribute to me -so sweet!

I feel blessed – thanks to all who came and others far away who sent good wishes.  Good memories of my time in Addis center on the sense of shared community; the VSO/Cuso volunteer community and the amazing support in our compound community of Kifle, Almaz, Sami, Meron, Eyob, Amazon, Etenu, Alem and Peter to pull this off! Not many 64 year old Canadians can say they’ve celebrated their birthday two years in a row with a sheep feast in Ethiopia but, thanks to Cuso International and VSO, I am one who can!

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I remember when I first saw his work in a gallery on Bole Road in Addis about 2 years ago. His unique montage technique using photographs and acrylic paints on canvas intrigued me and I took his card. Later  I saw his work at the Artisan’s Bazaar and it stuck in my memory. Preparing to go home to Vancouver I decided to buy one of his paintings with me as a reminder of my time in Addis.

Abiy Eshete Gizaw artistAbiy Eshete – Artist

Then I got another idea – why not ask him to use my photos to create two paintings for me, one for my year in the northeastern highlands in Woldia and another showing Addis Ababa where I have spent the last two years?

Happily artist Abiy Eshete agreed to this collaboration and we agreed to meet the next week. I chose several hundred photos from my collection for him to consider. After my initial selection, I said the rest was up to him – I trusted him as the artist to decide which to use. A month later, when he brought me the finished products, I was ecstatic!

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The son of a dentist, Abiy Eshete was born in 1985 in Ziway in the Oromia Region of Ethiopia.  He attended primary and secondary school in Ziway and then joined  Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design in the Department of Industrial Design, earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in August 2007. He has worked as a full time studio artist since 2008 and has exhibited his work in both group and solo exhibitions in various Ethiopian art galleries. Today at 27 years of age, Abiy supports his widowed mother and 3 younger sisters, who still live is Ziway, with his art.

Program notes for a recent group show “Perception” March 23-April6, 2013 at Mama’s Kitchen in Addis state:“Abiy Eshete is an Ethiopian painter, based in Addis Ababa. His unique artwork portrays cityscapes through a creative montage of photographic cutouts merged with acrylic paint on canvas. Each of his “paintings” is a juxtaposition of assorted snapshot elements from diverse parts of the city, presented as a meaningful recreation of unified neighbourhoods, events and activities.”

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Last Saturday I returned to Abiy’s studio, a small space atop a condominium building near the Gurje area of Addis, to ask him a few questions.

two women paintingAbiy also works in acrylics and had several large paintings on display

abiy and paintings

What influenced you to become and artist?

At age 7 I was selected to take part in a Ministry of Culture special art class 2 days a week and given art supplies and tutoring along with about 15-20 other children.

Abiys viewView out his studio window

Which artists have inspired you?

Julie Mereto, Afewerk Tekle. I also like African masks and the work of Picasso and Monet

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A large work about one square metre, recently completed

How did you develop your technique?

A few years ago I took a course in photography and became interested in the old buildings in the urban landscape of Addis. I had learned collage technique using magazines, etc. and then my own idea was to use photos. Through my experience I have used different media and content such as a creative montage of photographic cut outs merged with acrylic paint on canvas.

 market “I am fascinated by the city unity in diversity, surrounding daily lives of people. the loves and sorrows, challenges and celebrations, dreariness and vibrancy”

Why do you want to make this art?

It is my vision, documenting day-to-day life and old houses. I want to contribute to documenting Addis urban life as it changes. I am fascinated by the city’s unity in diversity; and draw inspiration from the surroundings and daily lives of ordinary people. The loves and sorrows, challenges and celebrations. dreariness and vibrancy, etc. I believe I am documenting the urban transformation as I see it happening around me every day.

abiy with fresh canvas

How do you do it?

I start with my vision, think about the front, back and side views from many angles and perspectives. Photos are glued on the canvas and then acrylic paint is used around and on the photos.

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What are your hopes and dreams for the future?

To study and learn, develop my art. In the future I want to be a famous painter.

Abiy delivers painitngsThese two paintings created by Abiy using some of my photographs will hang on my wall back home in Vancouver, becoming my “Visual Tizetas”, evoking memories of my three years in Ethiopia. They will just fit into my suitcase!

Ethiopian Tizeta music is said to evoke memory, nostalgia or longing and has been compared to the blues in the western tradition. Listen to some “Ethiopian nostalgia music” to get the feel…

woldiaMy Woldia painting: Gonderbar Road, Adago, Merchare Hotel, giant Poinsettia tree, donkeys, women with injera baskets, jerry cans of water, St George sign, tin roofs, crops after harvest, sun breaking through cloud over mountains after torrential rainstorm…

detail from Wolida paintingDetail from the Woldia painting

addisMy Addis painting: crowding onto line taxis, anbessa bus, shoe shine guys, Arat Kilo, sheep, scaffolding and construction, shops, shanties and skyscrapers, Ministry of Education building, old piazza house, people everywhere…

what he sees when he goes out his doorAddis transforming – this is what Abiy sees as he leaves his studio

 Abiy currently sells his work through the Makush Gallery at the Hilton Hotel and can also be reached at eshete02@yahoo.com

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