Tag Archives: Ethiopia Reads

An Ethiopian Diary: The Final Days (Seeing Artists’ Souls Through Their Work)

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The Ethiopian Odyssey II team at Nahosenay’s studio.

Visiting our friends’ studios is a final highlight in an extremely full trip.

First, our team arrives at the studio of Nahosenay Negussie. Gasps could be heard as we entered. His art so alive and vibrantly beautiful. It is one thing to be painting alongside of someone on the road; it’s quite another to enter his studio, filled with finished pieces. It is here in the studio that the full spectrum of an artist is felt, and Nahosenay does not disappoint.

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Nahosenay’s work

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On the road, when you’re working, conditions are rough, time is limited and your brain is already stretched to capacity with the sights and sounds swirling around you. But for most artists, the magic happens in the studio. You have time to process all the ideas and have all of your supplies at hand. Seeing inside the studio is a special experience.

Our next stop is Yacob Bizuneh’s studio. Here, our minds were stretched and expanded. Yacob is a very modern, contemporary artist. His paintings are supported with video and are exhibited as installations.

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Yacob’s work

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His current works on our addiction to technology and the oil barrel workers of the Merkato of Addis Ababa make you think about the price we pay for “advancement” and our dependency on oil. Who pays that price? You can’t leave his studio without introspective thought and a nod of respect to the artist.

An Ethiopian Odyssey II: The Exhibition is going to be as magical as the trip itself and the beauty we beheld — just you wait and see. Troy Zaushny and myself have a high bar to reach for, but I think we are up for it!

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Ethiopia, Day 11: What Separates Me from You?

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Do our children in the West matter more than the sweet ones I work with here in Ethiopia?

It’s a question that plagues me as I see children who cannot go to school here. Or my sweeties I teach who would not be in school if not for generous people donating anything from $5-$20 and more.

day11-7Those donations don’t just show up. People who give a voice to these precious ones have to pound the pavement asking. I don’t consider this aid; I consider it equality. To me, it is saying my child in America does not matter more than one born in a place where education is not for all. It’s saying you — these dear, sweet children in Africa — DO matter.

What makes you alive? What separates me from you? These questions are forefront in my mind when I work with kids so poor you truly can’t imagine. I know many parents in my home country, and I have a wonderful set myself. There is little they would not do for their child; the bond is inseparable and remarkable. I think of what it must feel like for a parent to not be able to send a child to school or provide for their beloved one for a variety of reasons, from death to where and to whom they were born.

It is not my intention to be dark about the situations I see — there is so much we could learn from these precious little ones and their community — but I’m simply sharing my thoughts. You cannot come here to Ethiopia and not be changed and moved by the duality of the beauty, joy and loveliness and the extreme poverty and injustice.

No matter how much time I spend here — and this is my eighth trip — every time is new. I am never used to it or unaffected. I am as moved by how lovely, kind, open and generous in spirit the people are as how it makes me feel to see a parent want basic human rights for their child.

day11-6These are my experiences as I work with the children, my thoughts. But I cannot sign off without telling you the incredible joy of sharing, exchanging and creating with them. It’s done with an innocence, a lack of entitlement and a desire to learn that I cannot stress enough is a contrast to what I have seen in my own country. That makes me sad for us, sad for America, and I wish Ethiopia could offer us aid in these ways.

The children were brilliant, and I felt joy about my partnership with Ethiopia Reads. They are really doing amazing work here in Ethiopia. Education is hope. May you all be grateful today, not for what you have but for the opportunity to author your own life, an opportunity that is not a foregone conclusion. It’s one your education played a large part in, and may we all pause to consider that things do not bring happiness — only attitude can do that!

With gratitude,
Stephanie

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