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Ethiopia seen outside the box



  10:28:53 pm, by admin, 252 words  
Categories: Ethiopia

Ethiopia seen outside the box

The mystical air of the 2007 Ankober series. Photograph: Michael Tsegaye

Ethiopia seen outside the box

Source: The Guardian

Michael Tsegaye turned to photography because of an allergy to oil paint. Caitlin Chandler talks to him about
'African art', Renoir and his upcoming exhibition in Oslo

It's hard to catch photographer Michael Tsegaye; photography jobs frequently take him to remote parts of Ethiopia, while his personal work graces urban art meccas such as Paris, New York and Bamako. He's soon Scandinavia-bound; Oslo will host his next exhibition later in September.

Luckily Tsegaye recently had time to meet for a macchiato at the Lime Tree café in the Bole neighborhood of Addis Ababa. He grew up in Bole, before the area became home to the never-ending construction of shiny new office buildings and restaurants. Originally a painter, Tsegaye turned out to be allergic to oil paint, and switched to photography in 2003. Photography brought him out of the studio and into constant negotiation with places and people; he says he's never looked back.

Tsegaye's photographic series range from tackling social issues such as climate change to pondering space and time across Ethiopia. He has worked in a variety of mediums and formats, and is increasingly in demand from commercial and non-profit clients. Despite exhibiting around the world, Tsegaye regularly debuts work in his hometown. We chatted over coffee about how the media portrays African artists, which subjects catch his attention, and what reaction to his photos has surprised him the most.

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Comment from: Ali Roble [Visitor]
Ali Roble

Seen outside the box? No chance. we are too busy to even think about it. We have seen and mesmerized by the inside of the box stuff such as poverty, rogue leaders, wars, religious and ethnic chauvinism and so on. As along as we have hate- mongering champions of the likes of godless Ass Goitu, who curse day and night day about imaginary enemies, we will never see outside the box or the sun.

09/10/13 @ 23:35
Comment from: MIMI [Visitor]
5 stars


09/11/13 @ 13:54
Comment from: Solomon Tebebu [Visitor]
Solomon Tebebu

@Ali Roble
The story is about an Ethiopian photographer called Mr. Michael Tsegaye. Whether you want to stay in your box or not, nobody really gives a hoot. Please stay in the box that is actually your natural habitat. How on earth did you manage to change the subject to name calling and throwing insults at Mr. Assta? Now, just sit back and wait he will hand you your rear in a plastic bag. As the old saying goes, “The mouse that wants to die, goes to the cat and sniffs at his nose.”

I read someone’s brilliant comment on the original article why the Guardian often focuses on anything Ethiopian that is bad. The article (Q& A) actually was not bad at all by the way. That comment has triggered a thread of interesting conversations whether it was really about Mr. Tsegaye’s work or the Guardian’s subtle attempt to taint Ethiopia once again with a dark hue.

I believe our conversation here should focus on the merits of the photographer’s work.

09/11/13 @ 14:24
Comment from: Tulu Proud ET [Visitor]
Tulu Proud ET

It is sad for you the lousy photographer , Michael Tsegaye to accept prostitution as a norm for young Ethiopian girls.

You don’t even attempt to question what is causing it except to slam it with the growing population excuse. Same as what TPLF/EPRDF has been saying all along.
You didn’t succeed going far before you expose yourself as a TPLF/EPRDF collaborator and mouthpiece.

You made Ankober is your stop for no other reason but for your old TPLF hate rhetoric on Amaras.

For me stay out of Ankober and out side the box (Ethiopia) and show as your pictures of Adwa or Mekelle.

Everywhere in the world population is growing whether one is in Ethiopia, Europe, US or any other place on earth. Yet we don’t find prostitution surging anywhere except in Ethiopia.

Unlike moron Tsegaye’s this is what we understand for the sad story of our young girls going into the oldest profession. The problem lies on TPLF/EPRDF lack of leadership and governing policy. the one sided economy and opportunity policy for minority, TPLF/EPRDF corrupts and traitors while making poor the majority, (Amharas and Oromos even Gambellas and many Omo valley people).

At the end it is TPLF/EPRDF policy that is turning out girls into prostitution instead of sending them to schools and jobs. The regime is taking away their share of the economy and giving it to TPLF/EPRDF looter corrupted regime worshipers.

09/11/13 @ 17:55
Comment from: forward with comradde tamagne [Visitor]
5 stars
forward with comradde tamagne

solomon tibebe good respnse

you are the best . tell that moron the way it is. your response goes to that idiot tulu too

09/12/13 @ 09:11
Comment from: ArtistBlogger [Visitor]
5 stars

Nice interview.

Check out his photo blog:

It is obvious that Michael Tsegaye has many projects that show different aspects of life in Ethiopia, not just prostitution.

Its also good that more Ethiopian photographers and artists are gaining prominence on the world stage! We should support the stories Ethiopians have to share. Better that an Ethiopian express what it means to be in Ethiopia than a foreigner who knows nothing at all.

09/12/13 @ 14:56
Comment from: Ali Roble [Visitor]
Ali Roble


I completely agree with you. The name Tsegay sounds to me typical tigrain name but I know little about his background or his political affiliation. You seem to be familiar about the issue and the guy`s activities. One thing that bothers me is these young girls pictures in the street. Did he contributed some fund to their rehab activities and awareness of their blight etc? if so, I would say he is real ethical artist. But if he just making money by shaming and picturing them, I would say he has no better morals than their customers.

BTW, bono anno e bona vita per tutto! Ein gutes neues jahr und ein gesudes nuess jahr. መልካም አዲስ አመት እና መልካም እዲል ለሁሎ ክአለታ ጌቱ በተቀረ loool! Dont`t worry my Ass Gettu and don`t commit suicide if I left you behind for a moment. For sure, I will mention you next year with some conditions attached. Also don;t cry foul about the amharic geez script things cuz it is my least favorite fourth language.

09/12/13 @ 15:26
Comment from: afropolitan [Visitor]

Exquisite artistry,amazing photos,mystical world of Ethiopia in time and place. As the saying gose;art or beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Solomon Tebebu
as usual, sharp and appropriate comments.

09/13/13 @ 05:20
Comment from: Assta B. Gettu [Visitor]
5 stars
Assta B. Gettu

Artistry, not photography, self-identity, not university, Christianity, not Islamic spirituality, Amharic poetry, not Arabic creativity, Eshetu Tiruneh, the unknown artist, not Afewerk Teklie, the famous oil-colorist, inspired, motivated, and created the Ethiopian Michael Tsegaye to be an artist by choice, and later a photographer out of main concern for his health.

This home-grown Ethiopian artist, Mr. Michael Tsegaye, doesn’t want his artwork to remain hidden and locked up inside a box – inside Ankober, inside Sidist Kilo, inside Addis Ababa, inside Shewa, inside Ethiopia, inside Africa – but to be seen outside the box, all over the world: Paris, London, Washington, Tokyo, Moscow, Brasilia, and in many other large and beautiful cities.

In a sense, it is fair to say Mr. Michael Tsegaye is a Universalist or a globalist as he himself attests:

“I can work anywhere, and my work should first reflect me as an artist – not as an African or Ethiopian.”

He is not telling us that he hates to be an Ethiopian or an African; he is simply telling us he wants to explore the outside world through his art work or photography, which means he wants Ethiopia to be known throughout the world in the names of her famous artists, athletes, poets, authors, war heroes, and many other Ethiopian originals.

As a very concerned Ethiopian, an Ethiopian who does not want to expose the bad image of his country to the outside world but who wants to show the good things inside his country, he writes:

“Ethiopia is viewed in many mediums as a poor country, with hungry people. I don’t want to show that. It’s not only that we have poverty; there is life, there is everything here like any other country.”

Who denies that there is life, prosperity, growth, potentiality, vivacity, and spirituality in our Christian land of Ethiopia except our enemies who always expose our beloved country as a racist, intolerant, ignorant, and only as a home of poverty, disease, and endless religious disputes and political rivalries?

The artist Michael Tsegaye, turned a photographer, is also aware of what is going on inside the box – inside Ethiopia – and takes the pictures of those Ethiopian girls who work in the bars or on the street as prostitutes, and what kind of life they are living in by changing places from Addis Ababa to Awasa and from Awasa to, perhaps, another town or village and the problems these girls facing with some irresponsible Ethiopian boys who threaten the girls to have sex with them without using condoms. This is not an easy job to record and make it part of a painful and shameful history of our generation and pass it to the next generation as a reminder never to follow it and do as our generation is doing it and suffered from its consequences such as the HIV epidemics that have been destroying thousands of young Ethiopian boys and girls.

I hope the artist Michael Tsegaye will also take not only the pictures of those who seem happy about their jobs as prostitutes but also the pictures of those who are in the hospital suffering and dying because of AIDs they have contracted during their sex life on the streets, in the bars, and present those horrible pictures to the responsible officials to try to find some solutions to the problems.

Finally, we should not ignore the indispensable contribution of Christianity to the world, especially to our Christian country, Ethiopia. Artist Michael Tsegaye, like the famous artist Afewerk Teklie, is the product of Christian schools in the Christian land of Ethiopia. He testifies:

“I went to a Catholic school and my family is Orthodox Christian.”

He also testifies that his spirituality in art or photography comes not only from his religious background but also from just being born in Ethiopia and from his emotional feelings as a true Ethiopian:

“The sense of spirituality in my work comes not only from religion, but from my sense of Ethiopia and how I perceive it.”

This is a true Ethiopian artist who has never betrayed his country, Ethiopia, in his art work even though he liked the paintings of such foreign artists, such as “Vermeer, Rembrandt, Egon Schiele, and some Russian painters.” After all, he doesn’t want to stay inside a box – inside the art of his relative Eshetu Tiruneh, inside the art of Afewerk Teklie – He wants to expand his artwork by imitating other famous foreign artists and compete with, maybe, other great artists.

He has made it clear to us that he likes painting more than photographing; he likes painters rather than photographers:

“I don’t hang out with photographers; I hang out with artists, painters. I come from an art background, and my friends are artists….I don’t follow photographers; I tend to see painting more than photography.”

In the two fields – photography and painting – Mr. Michael Tsegaye is an outstanding artist and a good photographer, and I wish him great success in both domains!

Ali Roble (visitor),

Knowing your total ignorance about the topic of this article, the great commentator, Mr. Solomon Tebebu, reminded you the topic is not about Assta B. Gettu, the main issue here is about the artist Michael Tsegaye. You are so deeply frightened, troubled, and have become sleepless that you cannot comment without mentioning my name. My name is not the name of a deity that you carry with you or murmur your Quranic verses about my name. My name is not a remedy that will take away your stupidity, inferiority, bestiality, and ignominy in writing proper English and in identifying main ideas or main topics and commenting on those given issues without wavering right or left.

To learn the art of writing in the English language, I have previously advised you to study Solomon Tebebu’s excellent comment. You can copy his comment and study it for your benefit. Do you know how Michael Tsegaye learned his art? He learned it by copying some other person’s art work:

“We used to have in our house books of Lenin and Marx, and on the covers they had portraits, and I would copy them.” He also learned from his relative Eshetu Tiruneh “how light and shadow work.” You can learn from Solomon Tebebu how syllogism, with its major premise, minor premise, and conclusion, works beautifully. You must learn the art of deductive and inductive. Otherwise, you will have a tough time to convince your readers if you do not know identifying main ideas from the wide variety of issues provided to the readers.

Don’t be ashamed of copying someone’s great work in order to improve your knowledge and avoid your ignorance in the English language. Of course, you should not plagiarize it, but you can use it as a model. You are trying to tell us you are a linguist, but you are not. Far from it! You are not a linguist but an idiot, a confused Jihadist!

I thank you, Mr. Solomon T., for your great contribution to the readers of website.

09/13/13 @ 17:36


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