Our super short unexpected visit to Addis Abeba (simply Addis for its residents) deserves an extra newsletter of its own. So here is an extra addition of the adventures of MakeFactory on tour!
We had to spend a whole extra month in Dar es Salaam to get the truck on the boat to Dubai. It was a Kafkaesque bureaucratic adventure including completely absurd situations that would actually also deserve its own story. Imagine it is 40° C and the humidity is 80%. After a 100 meters walk you are completely soaked in your own sweat. Crowded offices with people waiting hours and hours. The digital age has not yet started in the administration of Tanzania. We need many papers and we need to show up everywhere in person.
Pity we read this message only after I came to the office.
One minute people wait in lines and pay money and do anything to get a small pile of really important papers together, and the next minute the same papers are released files…:
We found this pile in the ports customs office.
But eventually we were able to get the truck on board of a Safmarine/Maersk ship.
Not just that, but we have to genuinely thank Safmarine, since they decided to sponsor our truck shipping to Jebel Ali, the port of Dubai.
We are truly truly grateful for that, because it was going to bankrupt us nearly.
Thank you Safmarine for your braveness to receive us and listen to our story, and to contribute to our projects!!
The shipping to Jebel Ali takes 4 weeks. So in the meantime we decided to visit Addis and we were welcomed in the home of Geke and Tamrat. Geke works for an NGO that takes care of refugees and her husband Tamrat is a visual artist.
While walking in Addis and absorbing its very rich culture a new project was quickly born. Three weeks seems a long time to just visit and not make anything… Plus an inviting and inspiring environment like Tamrat’s studio, Guramayne Art Center, where the studio is located, and Geke’s stories about her work with displaced people gave lots of food for thought.
Also we noticed while we were visiting Merkato, a busy market place in Addis, that we had received yet another name here in Ethiopia: here we are ferengi’s.
Visiting Africa, we were given many names: Toubab (in Senegal), Mzungu (in Zambia and Tanzania), Ferengi (in Ethiopia), etc.
Although we are new in this continent and we have never been here before, we have already many names.
I guess when people call us these names they are referring to something that could be defined as ‘my people’. I am not sure who these people are or where they come from and I do not feel a certain connection to ‘my people’, but still I seem to be categorized amongst them.
People know and recognize each other’s patterns. In your hometown you can warn the police if you see something suspicious. If you do not recognize someone’s movements and it is new to you, you will try to find something that you recognize. Something to hang on to. This is where I am a ferengi, a mzungu, a toubab and I will be fitted in the mold of the ferengi that people have made for the ferengi’s.
What do they do, how do they move?
But what if I walk the streets and no one can place me? What if people cannot see any context for me? And no one recognizes any patterns in which I move or behave?
I decided to make a suit, that will make me unrecognizable, and to combine it with learning some traditional skills, like braiding with bamboo and banana leaf and palm tree leaf.
If I am a walking gobble ball, a fluffy tree, how will they call me? What if there is no context for me yet…?
Here you see the work in progress: Genet teaching us braiding with grass.
Genet’s neighbor braids with bamboo:
So within a week we finished the suit, and we planned to make a street performance with it, to find out what would happen.
On the Monday before the performance MakeFactory was invited to do a presentation at Guramayne Art Center followed by a discussion. We talked about the suit and there was one man very interested who asked us how we would bring the suit home? We told him we couldn’t take it home and that it would have to stay in Ethiopia.
When asking him if he wanted to have it, he eagerly nodded ‘yes’. So we told him: ‘then it’s yours’.
This man turned out to be the director of the National Theatre! So our performance route was now decided. Destination: National Theatre.
Walking in the suit was an interesting experience. At a certain moment I started to feel lonely. People where making a lot of contact with me, but it was not really me, because I could not see them. They where just talking to my outside. In the same time I also felt a sort of safe, because they could not see me. I didn’t have to smile or reply to anyone.
Still after some time I noticed that I wanted to reveal myself and make real contact and answer to people who talked to me.
As I walked longer and longer I also understood that it was not me who was showing anything. By all the remarks people made I started to see how they revealed themselves to me. They where the ones showing themselves, they where the ones doing the performance, I was not showing anything.
Some people said it was beautiful, others quickly made a cross on their chest, and some laughed and liked it, and some people said it could make a lot of banana leaf bread.
Practicality, beauty, joy, fear, misunderstanding was all that the suit showed in people.
I guess even if people do not recognize anything, they create their own individual context immediately.
As we arrived at the theatre we surprised the director, cause we did not tell him we were coming. He was very happily surprised and put on the suit directly, and he disappeared into the theatre with it. The suit couldn’t have a better destination! We are currently making a video of the performance that will appear online shortly.
Lots of thanks to all the great people who helped us with this project!
Geke, Tamrat, Teji, Genet, Yero, Manyazewal, Dymph and many others!!