Interview with our own local TV station, Ethio Youth Media(MMRTI) by artist Sultan Mohamed. The interview is in Amharic and we have a surprise guest around 6:02 mark. Special thanks to Sultan and Assaye Abunie for their kind word and hospitality as well as their contribution to the community. This valuable media outlet served our community for the last ten years.
Question Bridge: Black Male and SEEN is a video installation traveling show and a group photography show. According to the PCNW (Photographic Center NorthWest) website: “The photographs within this exhibition were selected from images submitted by men of African diaspora descent in the Northwest. The call was announced through word of mouth; social media; promotional support through CD Forum, Northwest African American Museum, Seattle Art Museum; and hand distribution of 1,000 postcards over a five-week period.
Seen photographs submitted by: Aaron Dixon, Al Doggett, Ari G., Brian Keith Pitts, Brian K. Wells, Darrell L. Goodwin, Dave Kennedy, David Mayden, Isaiah Bojia, Jacky Gotin, James Morton, Jay Taylor, Kiflom Bahta, Keith Livers, Larry Gossett, Preston Wadley, Ray Tucker, Robert Wade, Scnex Scnex, Tougo Koh-Wells, Toryan Dixon, Yadesa Bojia, Yegizaw Michael, Yonnas T. Getahun, Zorn B. Taylor
Seen Curators: Alley-Barnes, a maker and facilitator known for curatorial explorations through Punctuation Gallery in Seattle from 2009-2011 and for his long involvement in the visual representation of Shabazz Palaces, was one of the nine muses in Mark Mitchell’s Burial, which was on view at the Frye Art Museum fall 2013; his own work was on display at the Frye in 2012 as part of The Black Constellation, featured in Moment Magnitude. Dunn Marsh is executive director of PCNW; Pallesen has been gallery director at PCNW for 18 years and is responsible for dozens of exhibitions bringing new or otherwise unseen work to Seattle.
http://seeamericaproject.com/products/martin-luther-king-jr-memorial-by-yadesa-bojiaMartin Luther King, Jr. Memorial by Yadesa Bojia | See America.
According to WordPress.com. the top five posts for 2013 are:
As explained by historians Santa Clause (A name originated from Saint Nicholas of Myra was a 4th-century Greek Christian bishop of Myra (now Demre) in Lycia, a province of the Byzantine Anatolia, now in Turkey) was a transformational figure until the first Santa Claus painting made by Haddon Sundblom for the Coca-Cola Company, as it appeared in the December 26, 1931 issue of Collier’s Magazine. Sundblom painted a new Santa illustration for Coca-Cola almost every year until 1964. Besides making Coca Cola a house hold name, the depiction gave a jolly, loving, grandfatherly icon and marketing figure for businesses around the world. The rest was history.
Weeks after Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly declared “For all you kids watching at home, Santa just is white. and Jesus too” I watched a flashmob organized by Coca Cola dancing in tune of jingle bells in Addis Ababa mall. You might wonder what is the story here so allow me to explain.
Ethiopian Orthodox, Pentecostal and Catholic Christians annually celebrate Christmas Day on or near January 7 to remember Jesus Christ’s birth, described in the Christian Bible. This date works to the Julian calendar that pre-dates the Gregorian calendar, which is commonly observed. The Ethiopian name given to Christmas is Ledet or Genna which, according to elders, comes from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent” to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin. Genna is also the name given to a hockey-like ball game. Legend has it that when shepherds heard of the birth of Christ they rejoiced and started playing the game with their sticks. Men and boys in villages now play the traditional Genna game with great enthusiasm in the late afternoon of Christmas day, a spectacle much enjoyed by village communities and the elders who referee the game.
Genna is a well established holiday with its own multiple jingles, menus and traditional dresses and one of my favorite. I remember getting a Santa card when I used to live in Ethiopia and understanding it as a loving character of a foreign culture. It’s like St. Patrick, I am not quite sure the story behind it but I celebrate it with my Irish friends because I love them and let be honest St.Patricks have been very good to me as far as good times. I also remember Christmas trees, usually in the houses of people with western relations or connections. The reason I am pointing out this is simply to say in this information age cultural exchanges happen much faster than the generation before and it has its own advantage and disadvantages.
Now look at the video attached of the flash mob. It starts with jingle bell tune and a young men and two girls entering the mall. A little kid with coke earphone dancing happily and the video zooms into a young men with a t-shirt that says “U B 6, I B 9″(an explicit turn of sexual position, which probably gives your grandma a heart attack, if explained) all around them coke banners. Then the whole mall starts dancing in choreography and Santa appears in a middle holding coke in his hand as if he is saying “Diabetics Abeshas”. Then the music turns into the Ethiopian Genna tune ( an escape clause for marketing execs) and it ends with that same famous Santa rendering of Haddon Sundblom with a word “Where will be the next dance with the father of Christmas?” preparing us for more commercials.
Almost all of the Ethiopian video and social networks appreciated the quality of the dance and video not knowing what is hitting them. For ages and ages to come, cultures borrow from one another. Adopting the culture of Christmas is not what bothers me, what bothers me is the commercialization of culture. Lately we are witnessing the eradication of what makes us unique and a token of African culture. little by little we are losing our culture and not knowing it. I am sure a lot of people consider my opinion as discouraging progress. If you consider stripping your culture naked is a progress, what do you call having no identity? As a great James Baldwin once said, “if you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you going”. I encourage you to explore more cultures and be open to learn them but replacing what is your with a new will leave you without foundation. If you don’t trust me, in about twenty years the question will be “what Genna?” The commercialization of Genna have to noticed.
I sat down with MMRTI’s Mr Assaye Abune to discuss the life and legacy of Nelson Mandela! My interview runs from the beginning to 26min mark. Enjoy!
The third annual OPEN HEARTS BIG DREAMS fundraising took place Saturday, Dec 14th 2013 at Seattle’s kings hall. The fundraising had bold goals of hosting 300 guests and raising $90,000 to allow Ethiopia Reads to do even more for more than 125,000 children it serves in Ethiopia. The night was very lively and fun. The guests enjoyed different Ethiopia cultural music and live dance, delicious Ethiopian cuisines, cultural Ethiopian coffee ceremony and silent and live auction. I was also one of the scheduled speakers and one of my donated piece went to a supporter after an intense auction. The auction started $500 in $100 dollar increment and it went for $3050.00.
Besides all the fun things that happened Saturday night, I was very glad and inspired to see the overwhelming support of our guests to educate and help kids in Ethiopia. I shook hands and talked to different peoples from all walk of life all under the same roof for the greater cause of educating children across the ocean. Friday night, when we set up the hall, I worked and chatted with an Amazon.com employee, a lady that traveled from Iowa just to attend the fundraising, an Ethiopian mother and an Ethiopian man who had a concert scheduled the next day (but he stop by anyways) Seattle mother with three kids (the younger one one year old) among the twenty plus volunteers. The next day, the volunteers showed up in droves, most high school students (very professional and mature I have to add) and local Ethiopian community members. These volunteers played a crucial role for the past three years. They are the musicians, the dancers, the ushers, the bidders, the receptionist and greeters and so on. The success of Open Hearts and Big Dreams got to do with every one of these volunteers, donors and supporters.
Just like the volunteers the attendees were also very diverse and amazingly generous. They showed immense love to Ethiopian kids. By their presence and contribution they told Ethiopian kids they are with them. I emphasized the same message and thank the attendees for their support on behalf of Ethiopia.
In 2011, Ellenore and Michael Angelidis first hosted Open Hearts Big Dreams as a way to connect their love of reading with their love of their daughter, Leyla, and their commitment to her country of birth, Ethiopia. I can say a lot about Ellenore and Micheal and their dedication to change life in Ethiopia, The love they have to their daughter and sons and how that love manifest itself in a less fortunate in a form of providing education. This is a story that needs its own post. Besides all of that, I am always amazed how they manage to have to time to organize, arrange and plan on top of their other responsibilities. The incredible focus and dedication they have, I never see before. The great outpouring of volunteers and donors is simply the testament to their dedication and care and how contagious there message is and will be for a long time.
Besides speaking and donating art, I also involved this year as a creative director of the event. I have to say one can see the ambiance of the hall and see the improvements we did this year. Event coordinator Holy Kate and her team did a great job of executing the final look.
In short, the event was very successful, I know the final numbers are not tallied yet but it feels like we accomplished what we set out to accomplish. Think about joining us next year. Happy Holiday!
Thanks to awesome supporters, friends, co-workers, family and outstanding staffs at M.Rosetta Henry Gallery, my art show “Art:Giving Back” was successful beyond my expectation. My fond memory of this art show was the diverse audience the show able to attract. Special thanks to 4culture and Heather Dwyer, M. Rosetta Hunter Art Gallery and curator Ken Matsudaira, Ethiopia Reads, Open Hearts Big Dreams, Ellenore Angelidis and family, Supporters of my art, my friends and family. Thanks to Queen Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant and Abiy Assefa. To my wife Hewan Gebremichael, our kids Becca Bojia and Isaiah Bojia. My heartfelt thanks goes to each and everyone of you. Please download your photos as a thank you from me.
Art: Giving Back is an art show/artist talk with the idea of sharing with the public how to use art to shade light to pressing social issues. The past four years, I involved and volunteered in different fund-raisings to secure funds for children education in Ethiopia. In these fund-raising, I joined forces with amazing people and we all bring our skills and ideas to the table. Mine was in a form of art through painting and design. This show will give you a glimpse of what really is possible when we join forces for the same goal.
Yadesa Bojia | M. Rosetta Hunter Gallery | 1701 Broadway Seattle, WA 98122 December 12, 2013 5-9pm
Shop for posters I designed for the Creative Action Network. Click on the link to visit the pages.
The third annual OPEN HEARTS BIG DREAMS Seattle 2013 has bold goals of hosting 300 guests and raising $90,000 to allow Ethiopia Reads to do even more for more than 125,000 children it serves in Ethiopia. This beautiful evening will be a lively celebration of the cuisine, music, art, and poetry of Ethiopia, featuring Silent and Live auctions and an opportunity to learn more about Ethiopia Reads and support the organization. Here is an announcement aired last night to promote the event. Click the link below to watch the video.
There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.
It not everyday, you find four things you love all in the same place. A photo I found on Yahoo.com by a reuters photographer, Jason Reed, did just that for me. He captured four things I love in one shot. The photo shows President Barack Obama and African Union Commission Chairwomen Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma shaking hands in the backdrop of the flag of United States and African Union. So let me explain the four things I love.
United States: I always loved the United States. Even when I was an Ethiopian citizen, I was impressed by the democratic templet and the wise minds of the founding fathers. The idea of shining city on the hill was very attractive for the young African who was denied his democratic rights by the military government. After I moved here and become the citizen of this great country, America lived up to its promises and more. America is not perfect by any means but it doesn’t have to be. The fact that this great country give a place to an immigrant like me and millions others and still be a beacon of hope for millions is not something I take for granted. I am aware of the struggle and the work done by millions before me. America’s strength is not its military might or its wealth. It is simply the idea of democratic process that keeps on improving itself. this ever changing struggle between its citizens with respect to human right and do process is what makes America great. The fact that we dealt with the overturning of voters right act and DOMA both in the same weeks is simply a best example.
African Union: As an African native, I always like and supported the African Union even when it was Organization of African Unity (OAU). For Africa to develop and realize its potential, Africans need to play an important role. For years and years, Africa’s fate was decided by non Africans and the result is as clear as a day light. Today, African Union plays an important role in the world. There is a lot that needs to be done by African Union to impact the continent but the job is already started. One of the progress that we see in the past ten years include the election of African Union Commission Chairwomen Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. The first female Chairwomen of the Union. A perfect segway to my third love.
Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma (born 27 January 1949) is a South African politician and former anti-apartheid activist. She was South Africa’s Minister of Health from 1994 to 1999, under President Nelson Mandela, then Minister of Foreign Affairs from 17 June 1999 to 10 May 2009, under Presidents Thabo Mbeki and Kgalema Molanthe. She was moved to the position of Minister of Home Affairs in the Cabinet of President Jacob Zuma, her ex-husband, on 10 May 2009 a capacity in which she served until her resignation on 2 October 2012.
On 15 July 2012, Dlamini-Zuma was elected by the African Union Commission as its chairperson, making her the first woman to lead the organisation (including its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity). She took office on 15 October 2012. Her election was such a powerful message to African women. I once heard a wise women commenting, “when you change one women’s life, You change a community” I am sure her election changed more than a community. It changed a continent.
Barack Obama: I can say without any hesitation there is no one that inspired me more than Barack Obama. I remember watching a usual Democratic convention when John Kerry was running for president of the United States, I was with friend watching while playing pool and here comes a skinny guy with a funny name. His speech send a shock through me. There is something inside of me that told me he is going to be a President of United States. I shared it with friends and family. Most gave me that look “yeah right” but I honestly knew and believed in America, that if a person do is part, the support will follow. Just like that I stood in the lawn of Washington to hear his first inauguration speech.
by Marty Perlman
This story has three sections—a flag part, a song part and a painting part. Yaddi Bojia, graphic designer, HFS Communication and Marketing, was watching CNN in September 2009 when he saw one of his art projects on the screen. It was his design for a new African Union flag that he had submitted two years earlier in a competition, but he’d never heard back from the judging committee. It turns out his design had been selected from 127 entries. After being officially contacted, he and his family were invited to be guests at the flag’s inauguration ceremony, held January 31, 2010, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Yaddi’s place of birth. During the visit he met with a number of heads of state of African nations and was treated like a celebrity when he walked around Addis Ababa.
The flag’s design depicts a green Africa to portray the hopes and aspirations of the continent, resting on rays of a white sun that symbolizes the people’s desire for friendship and co-existence with all the world’s countries. The map is circled by a ring of golden stars each representing member states, wealth and a bright future.
Fast forward to May 2013 and the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the African Union, which was held in Addis Ababa and attended by 15,000 guests, including 84 heads of state, with the U.S. represented by Secretary of State John Kerry. In honor of the occasion Yaddi teamed up with Raggae star. Iré Taylor (Reginald Taylor) formerly of Culture Band (1994-2001) and currently with Boogie Brown Band. Iré wrote the music and Yaddi added the lyrics. The result was “African Union,” produced by Mankind Music Production and internationally distributed by iTunes, spotify, Amazon, Zune and another 15 companies.
The video clip was shot in two locations—Seattle and Shoreline. Yaddi co-directed the shoot with Bemnet MM. Yaddi’s wife, Hewan, also worked on the video as Interior Designer.
During the week of celebration, the largest English Newspaper in Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Herald, featured Yaddi and the story of his flag design.
“I wanted to commemorate the Golden Jubilee by remembering those who worked hard to establish the OAU, leaders like Haile Selassie, and applaud the Union’s historic and unwavering stand against apartheid in South Africa, as well as the present economic promise of African Nations and the selection of the first woman chair,” Yaddi said in the interview.
Spoiler alert: The video ends with the camera pulling back from a painting Yaddi, who is also a painter, has been working on. Up till now only parts of the canvas have been seen. Finally, the viewer can take in the entire painting, which is a huge vivid portrait Nelson Mandela.
Three years ago, My wife, my sister and I was invited to meet with the president of Ethiopia, The honorable Girma Wolde-Giorgis. After our meeting, the president kindly allowed us to visit the living chamber of Emperor Haile Selassie and Queen Menen. The living chamber of the palace is located on the second floor of the palace. This was a very unique opportunity because The palace’s living chambers was out of commission since 1974 and they are out of public reach. When we headed to the upstairs of the palace, the people that work there was pretty amazed due to the uniquness of our visit. Once we get there, we were greeted with a very nice and sweet lady that was around before the passing of the king.
Let me say a little bit about this lady, I am not going to mention her name for personal reasons. Say what you want about King Haile Selassie, but for her, there was no confusion about the love and devotion she had for him. Throughout the tour she was addressing him in present tense as if he is still around. She uses terms that are from the time of the monarchy. I asked her why she is doing that and she said because she believes and proudly call him her king and remembers her service for him. She said she cleans and keeps everything the same way, I mean the same way, for the past 30 plus years. She showed me a book he was reading right where he left it. The things he left in his night stand are exactly where he left them. This confused me a lot because the military junta that killed the king and over thrown his dynasty was very hostile to people that are associated to the monarchy and what I am witnessing didn’t match up. So she explained it to me. She said, “The military leaders instructed some of the staff to keep caring for the palace even if the official palace is out of commission” she also said ” they chose me to do it and here I am as ” she said wiping her tears and smiling as the same time. All I can do was hug her.
Another thing that interested us was how the emperor lived. All his cloth and shoes was made locally. The military garment you are seeing in his photos are all Ethiopian made. His shoes are local made and still being shinned. Our tour guide told us it was one of his rules to show his countries product especially when he travels. The bedroom have a bath with black tile on it. Inside that bedroom, I felt a dying king who was lonely and dedicated the rest of his life for prayer and meditation (Bible on the night stand and a one chair by the window he frequent)
The lady also took us to Empress Menen’s room. Empress Menen Asfaw was the wife and consort of Emperor Haile Selassie I. She died February 15, 1962, five years ahead of the Emperor. He ordered to keep her room be taken care of as if she was still around. Finally he also got the same wish. Thanks for the lady no one else know about, until now at least.
I am sure there are a lot of supporters and opponents of the king and his monarchy. I think that is ok depending on who you ask but it is very important the we keep history intact so the next generation judge it. It is because of the work of all the people involved that I come to learn what I am sharing with you.
Here is the photo of our tour in the Emperor Haile Selassie’s palace bedroom with the lovely caregiver.
Check out the video of Ethio Youth Media Interview. I believe this is the second time they interviewed me and my interview starts around 46:00 minute mark.
Over the weekend, I was thinking a lot about Ethiopian mothers. Raised by one, an amazingly strong women I have to add, I know the struggle and the pain they go through. Dealing with the day-to-day struggle of life while staying sane to make sure we all get to the place they only wish about. For most of them, at least when I was growing up, there is no advocate that pleads their case. So they face what ever life throws at them. If the economy gets bad, which always do, they work extra hard to put food on the table. If the government ask for the hand of their child to go fight, they hide their kids and risk being imprisoned. (that actually happened when I was in my teens, luckily I didn’t get snatched from home and sent to war, but i know a lot of others). If a deadly disease destroyed their neighborhood, like HIV, they care for the sick. If one of them lost the battle they comfort each other. They do all of these while keeping their cool and march quietly
That is why I always look at their face and see pain, struggle, strength, sorrow, and all the other adjectives you can associate with it. Sometimes my words do not explain what is in my mind, so I try to capture it with my brush.
I showed the painting to my daughter (four years old) and she called it “Emama”….truthfully that is what I call my mom and my daughter have no idea about it because her grandma died 15 years ago.
In 2006, I was featured in ColorsNW magazine because of my solo show at the Seattle Artist Gallery. At the time, I was not sure what will be the reaction to my work. We have a decent opening and sold some. I invited my friends and family and accompanied by my wife to the opening. At the end of the opening day, I was very pleased by the response I got and left the gallery hoping to do more. But what motivated me even more is what happen the day after the opening. I got a call from a complete stranger that said his name is “Charles”. Charles, sounded like an older man and interested with my work. I thank Charles for his support and asked him how I can help. He didn’t say much and he asked me if I can stop by his place to discuss possible collaboration for the Minority Justice commission he is was co-chairing.
I agreed and drove to his home in central Seattle. I knocked on the door and he opened. An older man in his late 70’s with such a powerful smile welcomed me. I know writing about this can be a bit challenging because words can not explain what I felt at the time. He seemed to me a person I knew for years. A close family if you will. He led me to the living room and introduce me to his wife. They both are very warm people and one can easily see how they can be admirers of art by looking at their wall.
Then I started learning about Charles, He is Justice Charles Z. Smith, the first African-American to serve on the Washington Supreme Court. He was appointed to the court by Washington’s then Governor Booth Gardner and was subsequently elected to his position on the court for a two-year term in 1988. Justice Smith was elected thereafter to full six-year terms in 1990 and 1996. Justice Smith was never opposed in any of his elections. He retired from the court on December 31, 2002. Justice Smith’s career includes service as a judge of the Seattle Municipal Court (1965-66) and as a judge of the King County Superior Court (1966-73). He was the first African-American to serve as a judge of either of those courts. Following his service on the superior court, he became associate dean and professor of law at the University of Washington. He retired in 1983 as professor emeritus. Justice Smith was a news commentator for KOMO Radio and Television (1973-79) and retired from the United States Marine Corps Reserve with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel (1986). He had prior service in the United States Army (1945-46).
Justice Smith then proceeds to describe how he was reading a magazine in the barbershop and looked at my painting entitled “the Messengers” and wanted to meet me. He described his feeling as “the painting spoke to me” and he said he wanted to meet me and ask me if I can let him use the image as the cover of Minority Justice Commissions Annual report. He was very emotional while describing his feeling.
As anyone can imagine, I was trying to process what was happening and left speechless. I said “yes” may be more than I need to say it. He assured me about my rights and he said I will have my duplication right. At the end, my painting featured in the annual report a duplicate is now hung in the Supreme Court’s Temple of Justice and the original is owned by Justice Charles Smith. A rightful place for that painting.
Later, Justice Charles invited me to join him to be a member of the James & Janie Washington’s Foundation Scholarship committee and I served with him one term. In the process we reviewed multiple applications and we gave a scholarship to two amazing students. He and his family also opened their heart and door to me and my family and they kept in contact ever since.
Lately, I came across an oral story of Justice Charles entitled Charles Z. Smith: Trailblazer An Oral History. As a fan of him, it was a simple choice to read this oral story, which is wonderfully written by John Hughes. This oral story gave me an amazing access to a person that influenced me positively ever since I met him.
Justice Charles went through a lot of obstacles and always found himself on top. He kept his amazing smile when the world gave him something to cry about. He managed to change the world and make it better for me and my children’s by walking through fire. There was one story that stuck on me, Justice Charles was once refused to purchased a house in Shoreline WA because he was black. The city I am happily living at and own property today. I then understood why he was emotional when he met me. After I read the story my mind went crazy. I knew I am only enjoying life in Shoreline because of those who sacrified and struggled for my right. He is the reason why I can choose to live wherever and be with whoever choose to be with. He is the reason.
I wanted to keep his history for the generation to come, but how? I decided to call him and ask him if I can do his portrait. The day I called him, he was celebrating his 85th birthday. I wished him Happy birthday and asked him if he give me a permission to do his portrait. He said “yes” not even a hesitation, which freaked me out a little bit. He also provided me with multiple images. I chose the one his son took of him.
The day I deliver his portrait he asked me if I can bring my children’s with me and I told him they can’t make it due to cold. He then recorded a message to them. The next day he send me a message and said. “You are indeed a talented portraitist. You captured the essence of the person I would like to believe that I am.”
I am glad he picked the right magazine the day he went to the barbershop.
More success and happy life to you! Your Honor!
Recently I heard a story of Treyvon Martin. Martin, 17, an African American teen, was walking back to his father’s house in a gated community in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, Fla. He had bought a package of Skittles and an iced tea from a convenience store in the city of about 53,000 residents. A majority of the city’s residents are white; just under a third are black.
Zimmerman, 28, was patrolling the neighborhood when he saw Martin. He called police to report his suspicions and then followed the teenager, though police recordings quote the dispatcher as saying he should stay away.
Moments later, Zimmerman — identified as a Latino white — was in a confrontation with Martin, ultimately shooting the unarmed teenager once, killing him. Then the police showed up, and let Zimmerman go, Self Defense they said. They failed to run a background check and appropriately interview witnesses.
So here is where the story is at right now. Treyvon Martin–Dead! Zimmerman–Free!
When I first heard this story, I was so shocked and angered, I can’t stop thinking about it. My mind started to think “what if this is my son?” Regardless of how hard I try to shake it off, it keeps on bothering me.
Really, what if this is my son? What if?
As I think about this, I wanted to do something, anything, to speak up. To show my disappointment to a system that failed to protect innocent child, and let a vigilante free.
I turn into what I turn into when I am cornered and feel helpless, ART. I designed a “Justice for Treyvon Martin” graphic and posted it in my facebook page. I wanted to show my solidarity to the parents of Treyvon and wanted to “say something” to show my disappointment of Sandford Police department and State of Florida. A state that passed a “stand your Ground” law. A law that allows a person to “stand his or her ground and meet force with force,” “including deadly force” if there’s a reasonable belief it’s needed to “prevent death or great bodily harm,” even if there’s a chance to escape.
Then, minute by minute I start getting messages from my FB friends. They too are bothered by the story and they wanted to do what they can to address the injustice in Sandford FL. My friends are black, white, Asian, African, Mexican……male, female, married, single, parents and non parents and what have you. Some encouraged me by “liking” the graphic, some changed their profiles with Treyvon’s graphic and shared it. Suddenly the graphic went through out the web and my non friends started having them in their profile. I start seeing them spreading throughout.
I do not know for sure if what me and my FB friends did will help in anyway. But, I know we didn’t kept silent as well. Social Media gave us a chance to say what we felt. For that, I am grateful.
“History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.”
Martin Luther King, Jr
This past Saturday I was too busy dealing with my two kids, both of them were fighting a serious stomach flu and throwing up all over the house. If that is not enough, my younger son, Isaiah fell and bumped his head and I have to take both of them to Children’s hospital for check up. I was afraid of concussions and wanted to be sure. It turns out children’s are tougher than I thought.
Across the ocean in Africa, this past Saturday was a special saturday. Especially if you are a fan of African Union. Saturday marked the inauguration of the new African Union building. The 100 meter tall, 20 story African Union Conference Center (AUCC) incorporating a 2,500 capacity plenary hall, built by the Chinese government as a gift to Africa. The AUCC was built at a cost of USD200 million and it is the tallest building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The city that hosts the African Union. The modern and fully equipped facility sitting on over 100,000 m2 of land donated by the Ethiopian government represents a historical milestone for the AUC and Africa as it marks the fulfilment of decades old aspirations of African leaders and member states of the African Union. The land was donated by Ethiopian Government. It was a former hight security prison complex right in the heart of Addis Ababa. Ethiopian Government also played a crucial role in letting all the materials needed to build the building tax free and hosting the 350 Chinese workers. With the shiny new building, African leaders also unveiled the statue of Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first President at the forecourt of the new African Union (AU) building. Dr Nkrumah was also founding member of the Organisation of African Unity, now the AU, as well as the Pan Africanist Movement. Cast in bronze, the 3.5 metre statue of Dr Nkrumah who was overthrown in a coup in 1966 depicts the late leader wearing a short sleeve shirt in an African design with a pair of trousers and shoes to match.The first president of Ghana had raised his right hand with a short walking stick in the left hand, with the head raised and looking into the heavens. Underneath the statue is the inscription: “Ethiopia shall stretch forth her hands unto God, Africa must unite,” a statement on the founding of the predecessor of the AU, the Organisation of African Unity in May 1963.
So you might ask why this is special?
Reading most of the press coverages (which is mostly foreign, US media did not even bother to report it) about this new building and the influence of China in Africa. I am aware of the suspicion and dismissal of the new headquarter as just another sign of African leaders falling under the feet of outside influences like China. One can argue and rightfully so, African’s have to be suspicious of the influence of China. But what makes Saturday special is how far the idea born between a handful of African leaders ( Emperor Haile Selassie, Kwami Nkruma, Jomo Kenyatta…) come to be a 54 country power house that can not be ignored by the powers to be of the world.
We Africans lived most of our lives being told that our leaders and political structures are not well developed and that is why we tend to clinch to guns and civil wars rather than round table. But now when Africa decided to come together to sit in a round table, 54 country strong, the response is, as expected, hesitation and questioning the resource rather than focusing in what this mean to the continent. What is interesting about this is, the first business of the assembly was electing the chairman of African Union Commission. A high-profile and bitterly fought race for the top post in the African Union ended inconclusively on Monday, with neither the incumbent, Jean Ping of Gabon, nor his main challenger, South Africa’s home minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, securing enough votes to win. The vote has now been deferred until the next AU summit in Malawi in July. A BBC correspondent says Mr Ping will now remain in office until then. But he will not be allowed to stand for vote at the time. I believe this is a fitting exercise of democracy in the new head quarter of African Union.
Finally, It was interesting how the architects used the African Union flag (I designed) in the building. I know Saturday was very hectic and tiring for me but I will remember it for the special time I spent with my two kids In Children’s Hospital ER and for my little contribution to African Union.
Africa Must Unite!
Next month, I will be speaking in a fundraising entitled “Open Hearts, Big Dreams” to help build a school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The fundraising will help build a school in my neighborhood “Mercato” for needy children. For a person who visited Ethiopia or raised in Ethiopia, Mercato is very familiar place. It is one of the biggest open markets in Africa and anything under God’s sun is for sale. This might seem an exaggeration but it is true. In Mercato. food of any kind , jewelery, liquor, coffee, cloth, building material, auto parts, spices, and so on are for sale. In night-time, Mercato is also a place of drinking, party, prostitution and crime. Think of a mixture of Ghetto, French corner, and China town all in one place. Mercato is also a hope for a lot of families in Addis. If you are hard-working and honest mercato will give you something to take home to your children. It is a place of hustle. With its unforgettable aroma and loud noise Mercato leave a lasting memory in everyone that visited. As the same time kids in Mercato have such a tough life. Lack of school, library, parents, safe playing area and safe environment, made life unbearable for most. without a proper school and school materials, children in Mercato will be exposed to child labor, prostitution, and begging. If there is a place in the world that needs immediate help for its children, Mercato will without doubt be in top 10.
That is why I am excited and happy to participate in the fundraising for the upcoming event. It is right, personal and appropriate.
It is appropriate because eduction is the light. It is not a fundraising that helps to buy pencil or temporary help, it focuses on education, the only light out of the darkness of Mercato. This is about teaching kids so that they can go back to their neighborhood and help educate their fellow brothers and sisters. It is about shining the light of hope and it is about exposing the beautiful faces in the bottomless pit of Mercato.
Here is the painting I finished that will be auctioned in the fundraising. Half of the proceed will go the cause. This painting is called “Berhan” and it means light. Hope you join us and help children in Mercato.
Happy Thanksgiving to all!
Five month ago, I received an interesting request from Ellenore Angelidis ( a friend I came to know for her love and dedication to Ethiopian related causes and her blog http://ethiopianties.blogspot.com/. ) to write a letter for children in Marcato area of Addis Ababa to encourage them to study hard. I was very much surprised by her request because I never considered anything I do as an inspiration to others rather as a self expression. Ellenore was in her way to visit the school with her entire family to deliver books and visit a library she help fund from her fund-raising efforts. I was very proud of her accomplishment and felt a person they need to emulate is her not me.
So some how, she eccouraged me to agree to her proposition and I wrote the following letter in Amharic (Ethiopian National Language) to them. I also send them a signed African Union flag that I designed.
Today, I received a photo from the school I attached here. It was very moving to see the pictures of young boys and girl in their classroom listening to their teacher reading my letter to them. I am very honored and moved for being able to be in their life in such a small way.
Ellenore returned back to Seattle with renewed sense of urgency to do more for her friends across the ocean. In collaboration with Ethiopia Reads, she is planing a fund-raising titled Open Hearts, Big Dreams. A theme inspired by the letter I wrote to the students and her and Jane Kurtz’s Open Heart idea. I will be a speaker in the fund-raising with the renowned children book author and Ethiopia raised Jane Kurtz. I hope you will join us and help this great cause. May be this is will be one of your holiday charitable activity!
The great African leader Nelson Mandela once said “Education is a powerful weapon to change the world.”
In today’s world, where science and technology is at its highest peak, I know you feel the lack of school materials and all the basic necessities around you might keep you from playing a vital role in your country as well as community. But just like Mandela said, education will help you to win the battle.
Dear students, with education there is no mountain you can’t climb and there is no dream you can’t achieve. You are defined not by the poverty and struggle around you but by the effort you put to better yourself.
When I was a little kid, I used to worry about my future until I understood education is my ticket out of poverty. The poverty around me pushed me to be dedicated to my goals. Instead of discouraging me, hinder me from dreaming, it pushed me to go after my dream.
So I beg you and urge you to seek education to change your future and your country’s future. You are tomorrow’s leaders and your dedication will better it for generations to come. Dream big! Dream peace! And work hard to achieve it!!
This past month, I was given an opportunity to paint a portrait of a baby that has been adopted from Ethiopia a couple of years ago. Her parents, a lovely couple I met a year ago while attending my coworkers art show, knew my back ground and art. When I was first given the chance to paint their daughter, They assured me they will be patient and supportive until I finish the task (let alone they agreed to pay what asked and encouraged me to ask more if need be). I was honored to be asked to take up the task but a bit reluctant because I am not a realistic painter rather an impressionist.
The day we met to discuss the project and chose a photo. They brought their lovely baby with them and we started to discuss the plan. They both seem very understanding of my art style and they said “just take stub at it, we will be happy to have your work whether it looked like her or not.” I have to say their confidence in my work inspired me and freaked me at the same time. But once I started conversing with their daughter and saw how great a family they are my hesitation started to fade and a drive to capture her in my canvas grew promptly.
Our next step was chosing a photo I am going to paint and they came prepared with a lot of her recent photos, all as cute and lovely as it gets. We were looking at them one by one until we get to one photo and there was unintentional pause. It was a photo of her scanned from her Ethiopian passport. Very small, low resolution photo with passport watermarks all over it. Besides all that, the photo have such a powerful force in it. Her clear stare into the camera and the monumental time the photo was taken (right before she left her native country to meet her new family) says a lot. I would guess she may be just a year or less when the photo was taken. Her parents then said, “this one” and I agreed.
I set up my canvas in my studio and get to work right away. The more I stared at the photo the more it spoke to me. My daughter, who is three years old, asked me who she is and I told her about it. From that point on she end up being the client. “Daddy her dress needs to be green” she says. As a father of two, I came to learn a lot from childrens facial expressions how they felt at certain times. I sometimes look at my kids face when there is a stranger among us and they will have this hard to discribe look in their eyes. Well the look in the eyes of baby I am painting was different. She seemed confident, calm and sure of her self yet you can see she was not as happy a kid as I met the day I met her. Now the question for me is can I capture it? did she know it is a painting of her when she see it?
My daughter kept on asking question. “Daddy, why is this yellow?”
A week into it, I fed my kids and let they out in my back yard, turn on my reggae music and get to work. Yellow Ochre, flesh tone, Dark Cienna, and so on and on….
Finally I get to the point where I can say “I am done” and I emailed her parents and we set up a meeting so I can show them the painting. We met in the upstairs sitting area of Cafe Allegro. Before I unwrap the painting to show them, I told them some of the questions in my mind and asked them if they answer them for me once they see the painting. “did she know it is a painting of her when she see it?”
When her parents saw the painting, They started crying, They said “oh baby” and they hugged and wept quietly.
Some one once asked me “You seems not to market yourself and sell your art as you should, why are you painter?” I didn’t answered that question back then but the answer was moments like this. The next day I get email from her parents and they said first time she see it, she smiled and said that is me calling her name.
Proud to be included to 150 years history timeline of the University of Washington.