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Handmade Gift from the Heart: Artist Yadesa Bojia

I talked to SBS Australia’s radio Amharic broadcasting journalist Kasshaun Negewo about my painting and meeting the PM and the current situation in Ethiopia. I have a great time as always. Try to listen and share.

“ስዕሉን የሰራሁት እናንተ ባመጣችሁት ለውጥ ዕንባቸው የቆመ እናቶችን፣ ከእስር ቤት የተፈቱ ወንድሞችን፣ ከመሬታቸው በግድ የተገፉ ገበሬዎችን ለማስታወስና ለማክበር ስል ነው።”

– አርቲስት ያደሳ ቦጂያ

 

https://www.sbs.com.au/yourlanguage/amharic/en/audiotrack/handmade-gift-heart-artist-yadesa-bo

Painting the Prime Minster

I am not a worshipper of leaders or a person. I think a good leader will lead the way but without constructive dialogue and group work no amount of charm or knowledge moves a needle. One of the reason why blanket support to anyone person or leader is wrong, is simply because it lacks a room for criticism and it send a wrong message to leaders to enable them to lose focus while sitting in a driver seat. That said, my support to the new Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Dr. Abiy Ahmed, is not a support based on who he is, where he is coming from or what party or ideology he follow. It is simply because his unflinching stand to open the door for democracy in Ethiopia garners my respect. I simply want to say that his leadership in this short time showed there is a new type of leadership in Ethiopia. A leadership that did not exist for more than a century. He asked as to be added to the new vision and I added myself too. May God lead the way and righteousness overtake the darkest path we traveled.

Truth Be Told at A/NT gallery

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Truth Be Told at A/NT gallery opened Dec 2 and ended Dec 28th 2017 and was very successful. It was attended with hundreds of gallery visitors from different walks of life and Students from Team Oromia Seattle desecended to the gallery and made their own video and translation of the work. I have to give big thanks to 4Culture for funding the show and A/NT gallery and Seattle center for giving me the south gallery free of charge in the most busy time of the year at Winterfest in Seattle Center. My appreciation for the staff of the gallery and Jay Taylor, Seattle Arts, the stranger magazine and the wonderful models that gave me a chance to paint them.

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Dalí / Duchamp at the Royal Academy of Arts

As I wrote about it before, Duchamp is one my favorite artist. his work inspired me to write a blog about it before, you can read that here. Now I found out the Royal Academy of Arts will display his work.
The Royal Academy of Arts is scheduled to exhibit Dalí / Duchamp, which features Marcel Duchamp. The exhibition opens on October 7. Associated with the Dada, Surrealist, Cubist, and Futurist movements, Marcel Duchamp radically subverted conventional practices of artmaking and display, challenging such weighty notions as the hand of the artist and the sanctity of the art object. Duchamp’s depiction of dynamic Cubist forms in Nude Descending a Staircase No. 2 (1912) established him as a leading member of the international avant-garde. In 1913 Duchamp created Bicycle Wheel, which is considered the first of his famous readymades—minimally altered objects that are elevated to the status of art simply through the designation of the artist. Particularly in his readymades, Duchamp placed unprecedented emphasis on the artistic concept as paramount over craftsmanship or aesthetics, a guiding principle that has proved hugely influential to 20th-century artistic practice.
Stop by and check this once in a lifetime kind of show if you can. I will.
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My German radio DW interview

I had an amazing time talking to German radio Amharic DWAmharic’s Shewaye Legesse about my art and music and the role of artists in the current situation in the world and our country. I am amazed by her professionalism and well researched question and enjoyed talking to her! Thanks to Merga Yonas!

http://www.dw.com/embed/320/av-37421845

Diary of an Immigrant

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August 1995, I immigrated to the United States from my country Ethiopia. Honestly, I love my birth country and always pride myself to be an Ethiopian. Yet, even though my country was blessed by kind, gentle and lovely souls , it was cursed by mean, arrogant and brutal governments. A place where a young man like me considered a threat and pushed out of the country sometimes forcefully, and sometimes exhausted by the situation. My point here is, I didn’t wake up one day and decided to come to USA, I was attracted by the those things I lacked at home. Freedom of speech, Freedom of Assembly, freedom to worship without persecution. I read books about America. Watched movies and heard news clips. I was not naive about the lack of rights in US and the struggle to secure them. I knew about the civil rights movement and racism, yet America, is the only country that still progresses toward a more perfect union and who among us didn’t want t be a part of that? I was. America, the land of immigrants and those who are persecuted in their country. Like Jesus’s sermon on the mount, America for immigrants and refugees is like the shiny city upon the hill.

For me, America was and is everything I wanted and expected. A place where I prove myself. A place where I plan my destiny and work for it. A place where I am one of the threads in a tapestry of America. In America, I cooked chicken, delivered pizza and drove a cab. I did it all. I met people from all walks of life and I enjoyed the kindness of American’s. Dealt with some knuckleheads too, but what can we do without knuckleheads? Studied in the fine colleges and Universities and learned and befriended amazing professors and fellow students. Today, I am gainfully employed paving a way for the next generation to contribute their best to the perfect union.

America is great and America is beautiful not just because of the military might or wealth but because of its ideals. America is the hope for billions, the shinny city upon the hill. Let’s not turn that light off, without it, the world will be one sad place. And while you at it, remember your ancestors gazing at that light way back then and imagine yourself and where you will be if they are turned around.

Yadesa Bojia

Siyaanne state of mind

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I met Soreti Kedir at the Oromo Studies Association (OSA) annual conference at Howard University in Washington DC. We were both there to speak at the conference. She flew from Australia to attend the meeting. Soreti is a kind of person you remember meeting twice. First when you actually meet her and second when you meet her after you hear her spoken word. That is truly what happened to me. I was very much moved and touched by her poems. She is simply a word flowing in beautiful order. Her simple yet bone piercing words force one to look deep inside.

After the conference we kept in touch and one day she asked me if I am interested to design the cover of her book. I was very happy to work on it and then she send me the poems. Honestly, this small short book have an impact on me right away. It was beautifully written and it’s title was “Siyaanne” the name her late grandmother gave her meaning “we miss You” in her native language of Affan Oromo.

I mean who writes like this:

The politics of my poetry

The politics of my poetry are complicated,
rooted in the roots of a ground that I know little of,
birthed by a womb that cried for far too long,
standing on mountains that I am yet to climb.

The politics of my poetry are tired,
weary from always waging war with my words,
I began writing with swords long before I picked up a pen,
I was taught to begin fighting the storm long before it would rain.

The politics of my poetry are invisible,
blurred by lines drawn to hide me from the world

Excerpts from the book

I received my copy yesterday and I am in a Siyanne state of mind! Galatoomii

 

 

 

Global Diaspora Week Launch at State Department

It was great to attend the Global Diaspora Week launch at the State Department on behalf of ‪#‎ethiopiareads‬ and ‪#‎openheartsbigdreams‬ . Among the lineup of speakers were Sec. Of State John Kerry, Thomas Debass, Managing Director of Global Partnership of the Secretary and of course the two times Grammy winner Anjelique Kidjo. It was a pleasure of mine to shine light to the amazing works of Ethiopia Reads and Open Hearts Big Dreams and exchange ideas and learn way to expand some if the projects by partnering with US Government!

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21719417744_81bc1c13b0_o22155271019_f5cb606dba_o22329114272_641bb183c8_ohttp://www.diasporaalliance.org/celebrating-the-global-diaspora-with-over-90-events-worldwide/

Photos are courtesy of the Global Partnership office of the Secretary.

Charles Mudede’s Stranger article!

 

“In Western architecture, modernism was about breaking with the past. Rich Roman moldings, dramatic Greek columns, and ornate Renaissance ceilings were replaced by hard lines, exposed structural elements, unadorned windows, and so on. This was not the modernism of Habesha’s owner and designer. For them, a change in location (an American city instead of an African one) and technologies or materials did not mean a change in the themes or motifs of old. The past entered the new by way of menus designed with computers. Bojia’s work is on this tip. For example, the Queen Sheba sign he worked on with other artists is original (there is no rusted iron tradition in Ethiopia), but it represents something traditional (a wedding-size cooking pot).

Finally, this branch of modernism is cosmopolitan in the sense that it’s tasteful and professional. There is no half-stepping with the new school of restaurateurs.”

Read the whole story here:

http://www.thestranger.com/food-and-drink/feature/2015/08/19/22718127/the-man-behind-the-menus

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Oromo Art: The Next Frontier

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I successfully spoke at Oromo Studies Association Annual Conference at Howard University in Washington DC. I was there in an invitation from the OSA to speak about Oromo art. My presentation was entitled Oromo Art: The Next Frontier. “For centuries, Oromo’s created art that lasted generations. Their work is a trace of proud people with rich identity and history that goes deep down for ages. Whether it is a cultural sword that passed down from one generation to another or a beautiful jewelery Oromo womens wear as a symbol of their ancestors, it contained a DNA of long and wide history of Oromo life and existence. The rich tapestry of this art, was neglected or overlooked for centuries until now. My presentation will try to show the past and analyze the present in hopes to open door for the next frontier.”

I am very grateful for the OSA board members to invite me to this historic meeting, especially President Jawar Mohammed, Ayantu Ayana and Demitu Argo. I also like to thank my family and friends for their hospitality and care.

In addition to presenting, I got a chance to meet a human rights activist Mr Bekele Gerba, who was a prisoner of conscious in Ethiopia for four years and just released from prison in his first US visit. I got the honor of painting him in a spot and presenting it to him. I think his smile says he liked it. My hope is to highlight the lack of human rights and respect to voice in Ethiopia through this amazing leader. A true foundation of a democratic country can not be realized with out the rule of law and respect to human rights. That is true regardless of any hollow praise from a foreign leader or powerful global financial organizations. It is time for us to face the music and acknowledge without a proper shot and respect to human rights, we are building the wall of babylon, which crumbles in time and leave our poor people carrying the burden. We went through this a lot, we don’t need to look at a crystal ball to forecast what ahead. Let’s stop the blame game, too many people are suffering from our inaction.

Look for an exclusive interview for OMN Amharic program with the amazing Abdi Fite!

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Let’s all work to promote Peace, Love and Equality! Geletooma! God Bless!

Madaraka Festival 2015

A year ago a friend of mine asked me if I am willing to donate art for Madaraka 2014 festival. I was not aware of the festival that much but I knew the people behind it was good folks and I wanted to look into it. What I found was a gold mine. An idea of a gold mine, that gives back to the people of Kisumu, Kenya, through art to empowerment of  youth. One Vibe Africa, as its mission states, is a registered Kenyan NGO. It’s mission is  “Through programs in music and art, we inspire Kenyan youth toward a deeper appreciation of culture and tradition, empowering them to develop their own creative potential.” I found the organization to be a link between Africans and African Americans  and the Nation of Kenya and Africa itself. I donated two paintings and promised the founder and CEO Simon Javen Okelo, that I will like to involve the next year.

A year later, Simon called and asked me if I can curate Madaraka Festivals art show. I gladly accepted. I also promised to paint a larger painting of Omena band. As I try to create an art that says a  lot about what One Vibe Africa does, I came across an interesting video of Omena Band, consists of a group of men and women in their 70s and 80s from a community in Kenya, and they have been teaching at One Vibe’s Music & Art program. I automatically glued to the video which moved me. I wanted to capture them the way they play their music. Here is the painting.

Omena

Please stop by to Madaraka Festival at EMP to enjoy world class music and a rich art from the nation of Kenya.

Who We Truly Are!

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Here are the three paintings I showed at The Black Lives Matter: Humanity Not Negotiable.  I came up with this idea while I was driving to work one morning. On the radio, Constance Rice, a civil rights attorney, she worked with the Los Angeles Police Department to build trust with minority communities. This amazing lady said she interviewed hundreds of police officers and they all have one answer in common. “Ms. Rice I’m scared of black men. Black men terrify me. I’m really scared of them. Ms. Rice, you know black men who come out of prison, they’ve got great hulk strength and I’m afraid they’re going to kill me. Ms. Rice, can you teach me how not to be afraid of black men.” I am sure what is happening right now is not all that simplistic for example, Tamir Rice was not big or old but he got shot anyways but it is for sure some of the problem we have. Listen to the program here.

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Then I started thinking about the black men I know. Who they are and how the society perceived them, including me. At this point, I started to think about Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Mike Brown and all of them. I wondered if they will be here today if the police officers knew who they truly are. I wondered if it made a difference if the police officers knew the mothers, the loved ones who cared for them. I also wondered If it made a difference if the police officers knew their contribution to their community. I wondered. I am not sure if it made a difference but it for sure will help the police to see the human side of us.

Here are my two friends and me telling the world who we truly are.

Natty

Thanks for Naomi Ishisaka for taking the photos. Here is her portfolio website

Meeting a civil rights icon: Rev. Jesse Jackson

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It was such a pleasure to meet and hear the Rev. Jesse Jackson, an American civil rights activist and Baptist minister and a former Presidential candidate for the Democratic ticket, He is also a Founder of Rainbow Push Coalition. He stood besides MLK in struggle to secure civil rights in US, he literally stood beside him Memphis Tennessee in Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968. He still stands for the right of minorities to this day. Cases like Eric Garner, Mike Brown or Trayvon Martin only make us wish for more Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharpton’s.

Civil rights Icon and former presidential candidate Reverend Jesse Jackson’s talk at the University of Washington’s Kane Hall about women and minorities in technology, as well as civil rights and student participation in the public policy process.

In his speech, he said. “Racism is a disease, We should be treated to cure our disease, not justify our disease”. Thank you for Keep on fighting, keep on talking, keep on inspiring. Thanks to Tirhase Esahrit and for Mary Levin of UW for her photography!

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US State Department’s Diaspora Forum

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In recognition of the tremendous contributions that America’s diaspora communities make toward the development of their countries of heritage, The State Department’s Special Representative for Global Partnerships, Andrew O’Brien, led a Diaspora Tour that takes Washington on the road. One of his stop was Seattle Colleges. This tour builds on the International diaspora Engagement Alliance (IdEA) partnership, launched in 2011, by the Secretary’s Office of Global Partnerships (S/GP) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Seattle event was hosted by Jill Wakefield Chancellor, Seattle Colleges and Moderated by Andrew O’Brien, Representative For Global Partnerships, U.S. Department of State. I was one of the panelist representing Africa along with Roberto Carcelén Roberto Carcelén Foundation and Former Olympian, Rob Smith Owner, EarthWise Ventures, Alex-Hung H. Tran President, Western United Fish and Rita Zawaideh Founder, Salaam Cultural Museum.
I appreciated the State Department’s effort to highlight Diaspora’s contribution throughout the world. The panel was outstanding and the Q&A and the discussion took almost two hours. I was specially satisfied by the attendance of students and the whole event was so moving for me since it gave me a chance to return back to my Alma mater Seattle Central Community College.
I participated to talk about an annual fundraising to help raise money  to help train teachers, build libraries, schools and learning centers at my birth country of Ethiopia. The fundraising is called Open Hearts Big Dreams and we join forces with another well established organization called Ethiopian Reads to distribute the funds. The first event in 2011 raised $45,000 and supported several programs in Ethiopia, including a kindergarten  in the Merkato area of Addis Ababa. In 2012, $78,000 helped put a school library in every region of Ethiopia and build learning centers in Kembata Tembaro, a rural area where many children have no access to school. Last year $98,000 was raised, opening two more learning centers in the same region, initiating a new horse-powered mobile library project to reach rural children and helping teen girl athletes become tutors. The next Open Hearts Big Dreams is on December 13. Proceeds will help Ethiopian teachers gain new skills, double the reach of the mobile library and help young women athletes become part of literacy teams and build their own futures. Open Hearts Big Dreams have many donors from the diaspora communities as well as local communities with big hearts.
Special thanks goes to Lisa Knoop & Jason, to Maria Lamarca Anderson for putting together the event, Adam Sotomayor, Chief of Staff to the Special Representative and Bob Hereford for his amazing photography.
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Thank You!!

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This past three months were such an amazing time for me and Ire. Ever since we released our new CD entitled, Yaddi Bojia Feat. Iré. We are in constant awe of the support and love we received from all  of you. To be honest, words can not express how grateful we are to be surrounded by the best of mankind. You supported our work, you bought a CD, downloaded online, encouraged us, encouraged others to check on us, you posted your photo with our CD, you posted video of you and loved ones, you commented on online stores and even set up an interview for us. Every day you showed us how much you cared for us. We just want to say THANK YOU!! We are  working hard to set up a live show soon. Look for your invitation.  The graphic above do not include all of you but enjoy it as a token of our appreciation. Tag yourself and tag people you know. Share it and let the world know how awesome you are.

 

With Love!

Yaddi and Ire

“New and Noteworthy” iTunes

Today, the first day it featured, Itunes added my new CD to “New and Noteworthy” page. This is a coveted space for big label releases and it is such a fulfilling feeling to find my CD between giants like Ziggy Marley, Sean Paul and Sizzla. It was such a honor and a testament to Ire Taylors and other musicians who worked hard in the project and others, like you, that supported this CD to be where it is today. Thank you!!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/yaddi-bojia-feat.-ire/id877778202

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