Tagged: Ethiopia

Ethiopian Concrete

A Mixed-Use Building

One of the things I was most excited about for my visit to Ethiopia with Brian Ashby and Susannah Ribstein was the opportunity to see its modernist buildings. The thing was, I didn’t really know what we would see.

African modernist architecture is chronicled in books like African Modernism: The Architecture of Independence or celebrated in international designations like UNESCO “World Heritage” status for the Eritrean city of Asmara; however, those projects don’t represent Ethiopia. When Ethiopian architecture is referenced, it is typically about its spectacular monolithic churches or the most monumental buildings of the modernist period, like Arturo Mezzedimi’s Africa Hall and Addis Ababa City Hall.

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The late 12th or early 13th century monolithic church Bete Giyorgis in Lalibela

But modernist concrete is everywhere in Ethiopia. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, when many other African states were asserting independence from their colonists, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie was conceptualizing how to assert Ethiopian modernity through architecture and urban planning. With a vision shared by many other African elites, he worked with European, American, and African architects to augment the dominant International Style with local characteristics.

The marquee buildings are interesting, but I was more intrigued by the smaller buildings scattered throughout Addis Ababa. The following photographs are a sample of the modernist and brutalist buildings we saw strolling through the city during the rainy season. A note about and a few photos of contemporary architecture follow the set.

Mezzedimi's Zauditu Building
Mezzedimi’s Zauditu building

A Crown

A Mixed-Use Building

A Mixed-Use Building

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From the traffic circle

SHOA, Second View
A second view

John F. Kennedy Library at Addis Ababa University
John F. Kennedy Library at Addis Ababa University

Kobil Service Station and Apartments

Modern Building

With Central Stairwell

Bedilu Hintsa
Bedilu Hintsa

Today, Addis Ababa is a construction site. The Ethiopian government is displacing thousands of residents and clearing large portions of the city in order to “modernize” the “slums.” New buildings for new people and businesses are replacing those areas, and shoddy low-rise “condominiums” are being built on the edges of the city to house the displaced and others.

In the context of this calamity, the occasional building is rising to serve social functions with spectacular design, like Vilalta Arquitectura’s Lideta Market. I wish we’d had more time to see other examples and better understand the entire situation.


New construction
New construction in Geja Sefer

Under Construction
New construction along Airport Road

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New condominium construction

From the Light Rail
A modernist mixed-use building dwarfed by new construction

Vilalta Arquitectura's Lideta Market
A detail of the Lideta Market

Vilalta Arquitectura's Lideta Market
The Lideta Market

Special thanks to Zacharias Abubeker and Marjan Kloosterboer.

2016 in Review: Nearly As Much There As Here

2016 was another year of travel, but unlike previous years, my explorations were more international than domestic: for more than two months I made work in Belgium, Ethiopia, France, Ireland, Japan, Northern Ireland, and the United Arab Emirates.

One month of that period was for a residency in the North of France and Belgium. The residency, “Resilient Images,” is a joint program launched by the Hyde Park Art Center and the Centre régional de la photographie Nord—Pas-de-Calais and supported by the MacArthur Foundation, the French Embassy, and Institut Français. I will be writing more about my project in a few months, but if you’re interested in learning a little more about what I’m doing in the North, you can read a little more about it in this short interview. The rest of the summer, I continued my project about Eleventh Night and the Twelfth in Belfast, photographed in Tōhoku and showed photographs at Gallery Tanto Tempo in Japan, toured Ethiopia with friends, and visited with guest workers in Dubai.

But I also did some domestic travel, including for a show in Buffalo, New York at Dennis Maher’s incomparable Fargo House and a screening of scenes from The Area at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Mobile Design Box in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I also made brief visits to the area around Louisville, Kentucky and New Orleans, Louisiana. Of course, I spent plenty of time in Chicago, Illinois and Minneapolis, Minnesota, which finally feels like home.

The other big project news is that after nearly five years, The Area is swiftly moving towards completion with Scrappers Film Group after a party and fundraiser in December. “Thank you,” everyone who attended and contributed!

I can’t possibly do justice to the places I visited in this short post, but I’ve included links to locations for which I made blog posts, and posted a few photographs from each site. If I authored a blog post about a particular visit, the section title is a link to the post.

To 2017! It’s going to be a busy one, isn’t it?

Resilient Images Residency in Hauts-de-France, France

Watching, Power Plant
Residents calling for their dog from their street.

Gathering to Depart
ATV riders gather to move from one part of a slag heap to another.


Coal cars displayed in former mining towns.

Belgium

Playing Soccer in Molenbeek
Young immigrants play soccer in Brussels’ Molenbeek neighborhood.

Belfast, Northern Ireland

Igniting the Children's Bonfire
Shankill neighborhood residents ignite their children’s bonfire.

Tōhoku, Japan

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Post-tsunami and radiation contamination remediation in downtown Tomioka.

The “Jungle,” Calais, France

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The formal and informal Calais “Jungle” camps before demolition.

Ethiopia

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Two boys look down to their village in rural Tigray.

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A minibus stop and an outdoor pool hall in Addis Ababa.

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The Church of St. George in Lalibela.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates

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Scrappers remove kitchen counters from a partially demolished house.

Trucks
A small sample of the variety of modified truck designs in sand parking lots.

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Two Pakistani guest workers and the largest Tim Horton’s advertisement I’ve ever seen.

Buffalo, New York

Buffalo Telescope Houses
Six new telescope house photographs I made while visiting for my exhibition.

Chicago, Illinois

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The beginning of the Scrappers Film Group party and fundraiser for The Area at Lost Arts.

Leaning
A leaning, isolated building near the former United States Steel South Works site.

Louisville, Kentucky

Overlooking the Ohio River
Overlooking the Ohio River and Louisville, Kentucky from Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

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A major clean-up effort in a North Side neighborhood.

Minneapolis, Minnesota

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The Minnehaha Free Space before it was displaced by a new landlord.

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A former entry area of the Minneapolis Scottish Rite Temple.

New Orleans, Louisiana

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Four teenagers posing outside a corner store in the Lower Ninth Ward.

Rural Minnesota

National Farmer's Bank of Owatonna
Louis Sullivan’s National Farmer's Bank of Owatonna.

Rural Wisconsin

Woodside Place
A former church in St. Croix.

The Battle Between Ethiopian Boys and Monkeys


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The cliffs and plateaus of the Agame massif.

One of the unexpected experiences of my trip to Ethiopia’s Tigray region was witnessing the daily conflict between local boys and gelada monkeys.

Endemic to Ethiopia, gelada monkeys are especially plentiful in the country’s central northern mountains. While some of these areas are protected “natural” lands, a significant portion of the habitat is primarily agricultural. I visited one such area with Brian Ashby and Susannah Ribstein: the Erar community of Tigray’s Agame mountains. In the massif, plateaus are cultivated for barley, chickpeas, lentils, linseed, wheat, and other crops. Because geladas are scavengers, the monkeys often take advantage of these fields and their easy nutrition.

As one might expect, the farmers aren’t thrilled by the monkeys eating their crops. The solution is hiring local boys to protect the fields. From dawn to dusk, the boys scan the plateau for gelada harems who might raid the crops and then scare the monkeys away. In exchange, the boys will be paid 5kg of the crops raised by each farmer in their territory. For example, one of the three boys with a domain on the small plateau we visited took home 5kgs of linseed, lentils, barley, and wheat last year.

The following photographs are a glimpse of the back and forth between the monkeys and boys.

Special thanks to Kiros Zeray for the background and translation.


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Geladas climb the cliff to access one of the fields on the plateau.

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Once up top, the geladas eat the crops — in this case, small sprouts and seeds.

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One boy surveys his territory from a self-built stone pedestal.

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The boys also patrol with slingshots and scan the cliff edges.

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When the boys see the geladas, they yell and hurl rocks at the monkeys, chasing them to the cliff edges.

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The monkeys retreat below the plateau.

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Some of the monkeys continue to taunt the boys from the ledge. The valley floor may be as much as 500 meters below.

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Because the geladas don’t venture into the fields in the dark, the boys relax once the monkeys settle into their cliffside caves for the evening.

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Two of the boys look down to their village before returning for the night. They and the monkeys will return in the morning.