Art promoter Debritu Mogesse Lusteau from Ethiopia has united Ethiopian and Dutch photographers in an exhibition compiled in cooperation with the National University of Ethnology in Leiden: Ethiopia on the Move. The exhibition marks the commencement of the new Ethiopian millennium. The Julian calendar used by Ethiopia runs a little more than seven years and eight months behind our calendar.
"Photography is old in Ethiopia. Pictures exist of the foundation of capital Addis Ababa shortly after 1887. Ethiopians like to look at them," according to Debritu. "But styles are now starting to change. In the past, photographers wanted to make people and things look as advantageous as possible. They did not show weaknesses. That has changed now." She points to a series of pictures of road workers made by Michael Tsegaye (1975). They almost look like black-and-white pictures: the only colour can be seen in the fire under the asphalt oven. "Michael is a chronicler: he views life in all of its roughness with tenderness. These people are visibly working for a better life."
The photos by Rosa Verhoeve (1959) show Ethiopian circus children. She won a Silver Camera for these photos in 2005. "Rosa makes artistic photos. They not only portray the beautiful movements, but keep Ethiopia visible." The same artistic adjective applies to a mysterious photo of two women made by Aida Mulaneh (1974). She was born in Ethiopia and found a second homeland in the United States. "Nearly all of her work deals with migration: her Ethiopian background is never cloaked."
According to Debritu, a few attractive photos by Petterik Wiggers show "how small man is in the immense Ethiopian landscape". George Tergerg and Arjan van Dijk created a beautiful compilation of images. "Their photos, made during multiple journeys, show the power of the country and especially that of the people."
Ethiopia on the Move, on display until the end of October 2007, is one of Europe's first modern photo exhibitions on Ethiopia. Early in November the exposition will travel through Paris to Addis Ababa.