A wise woman once advised me, if a photograph tells a thousand stories, you must begin to ask yourself a thousand questions before making that photograph. Now, imagine being in the company of such wisdom for 35 days at the ASIKO art school.
Five weeks after the programme ended, I had to pause, rewind and replay the memories back into my head. The journey to ASIKO wasn’t an easy one, I remember the last minute hiatus with the visa processing, sourcing for funds, and then having to fly to Abuja 3 days before my flight for the visa. The biggest shock of all was when I thought I had enough money for my stay in Addis Ababa but the exchange rate, US dollar against Nigerian naira officially went from N199 to N350 for $1 in less than 48hours.
It was an unexpected transformation, but I persevered.
So my journey started by departing from one ‘China’ and arriving at another. Now, this is what I mean. The new terminal at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos is currently underconstruction by a Chinese company and upon arriving at the Bole International Airport in Addis-Ababa, I found out that the new terminal there is also being contsructed by the same Chinese company. More so, moving across the city of Addis, you would see the China Civil Engineering Construction Company (CCECC) signage everywhere just as it is in Lagos. So, I felt at home, it is another China town.
Arriving at our new home for the next 5 weeks, the Yeka Guest House, I was warmly received by our project co-coordinators, Erin and Fitsum, two of the coolest people I have met on earth. That night was the coldest of my entire stay in Addis as I had completely underestimated the cold, thinking it would be just like Lagos. A simple Google search could have helped me prepare better and I surely paid for being lazy. However, I got myself back up the next morning and decided to start shooting, it was then I realized that my camera was damaged.
The program itself began like a honeymoon, starting with a welcome dinner and subsequent trips to Lalibela and Axum outside of Adis. We cruised and enjoyed to the fullest. Amongst other fun things, I got to watch football matches at a viewing centre outside of our hotel at Lalibela and even went to a night club where I started learning the Ethiopian shoulder dance. We thought the fun would continue back in Addis, but quickly realized ASIKO was serious business.
Before moving to the nitty gritty of the ASIKO program, did I mention my frustration during flight delays and news of flight postponed on one occasion? Well, it made for a more interesting adventure before the program started proper.
The weekly time-table gets to us between Saturday and Sunday, and it was my most anticipated email during this time. ASIKO hits you like boom! It was ballistic. We had an intense period of constant unlearning and learning. It was filled with loads of presentations, critique sessions, readings, workshops, interactions, and with a set of amazing faculty who guided us on that intellectual journey. It was a journey worth travelling despite all the nightmare before it.
The images that I share with you here are selected from my series “Post card from Addis”, which were mostly taken from the route we passed from the Yeka Guest house to the Meles Zenawi Foundation, which was our classroom for the entire program in Addis Ababa. The focus of the series are visual elements that I encountered on the 40minutes daily walk. From the gracefulness and elegance in the movement of the elderly, to the dogs who act as watchmen for the city, to the well-arranged shops on the street corners and of course the beautiful women of Ethiopia that I met on the way.
With lots of lessons from different art professionals, I feel fully armed, clear headed and purposeful amidst the plurality of ideas that envelops me. I have now realized that the best way to slow down is by fast forwarding, “time waits for no one”.