The birth of URBAMORPHOSIS

Two African photographers, one Ethiopian and the other Congolese, embarked on a project to document the immense changes taking place in the new flower, a birth city for one and a city that the other has come to love as his own – Addis.

For those of you who’ve been following this blog, you know I’m the Ethiopian. The one who was birthed in what is referred to as the capital of Africa. Addis Ababa is not only the city of my birth, it’s the city I grew up in, left and came back to 14 years later. It’s a city I’m relearning and getting acquainted with. It’s the city that has safeguarded the remains of my ancestors, but sometimes also thrown them up whole to make way for ‘development’. It’s a city that accommodates both old and new – although much of the old seems to be giving way to the new.

I’ve wanted to put on a photo exhibition for a long time – it’s been one of those items on my bucket list I wasn’t ever sure I would cross off. Then John comes along and pushes this idea of capturing the skeletons of Addis. Why not? If I had to start somewhere, it should be by paying tribute to the city that birthed and raised me. So there you have it – the birth of URBAMORPHOSIS!

As we took these images, we journeyed through Addis, conscious and witness to its past, its present and its looming future. The Addis we knew, or even know today is not the same Addis that will be tomorrow. The only constant being change.

This project forced me to see the city differently. Everywhere I looked, I could see the cityscape dominated by new high rises, even the most iconic of Addis’ treasures was framed by construction – and destruction.

This project aims to capture some of the rapid transformation taking place in this city. For both of us, it is a tribute to the people who are constantly negotiating their place in this new flower and to the city which is forever trying to outpace its name.

URBAMORPHOSIS kicks off a week from today on Thursday, May 11th, 2017 at Dinq Art Gallery in Addis Ababa. We hope you’ll come out and experience for yourself.

Flyer - URBAMORPHOSIS

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The State of Africa

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The State of Africa:
The Ghost of Sani Abacha
Bathing under half of a yellow sun
Watches
As things fall apart
In the secret lives of Baba Segi’s wives

Love letter to Nairobi

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Nairobi,
I’ll miss you

I’ll miss your ‘I’m fine’s’ to my hellos
Your ‘imagine!’s
Your Swa(g), sheng and silences
Your kenyanisms;
Last week but one’s
You really tried!

I’ll miss
Taking to the streets
Candle lit vigils
Solidarity with Busia, Palestine, Chibok, Garissa
Ranting on the airwaves
Inter-faith iftars

Paying for artists who never showed
Shows where artists never got paid

Your hustle
Your politiks and scheming politikers

Your mats screaming for pedestrians to get off sidewalks
Being duped explaining the dupe
Being held at (toy) gun point

Your social media suave
Your (tech)novations
Your witty hashtags and comebacks

Your sema’s and subsequent woiyee’s
Your kesho’s and majaliwaa’s
Your sawa sawa’s
To my ‘kidogo tu’s’

Your kuku’s and samaki’s
Nyama choma I never quite caught on to
Your Java’s and Ankara’s
Dawa and masala

Self made designers
Your local brass, wood and fabrics
Dressing my fingers, home and shoes

I’ll miss your boda bodas
And your matatu wisdom’s:
“Don’t lose your temper, nobody needs it!”

I’ll miss your bookstores and kahawa spots
Your cinemas and green spaces
Your KICC rooftops
Your Pawa’s and your hub’s

Your book clubs and writing collectives
Movie nights
Karaoke
Lost friendships over taboo

Your hollowed and patched streets
New as they be, making no room for walkers
Your low lit alleys
And moody askari’s

Your wordsmiths and music makers
Your tear drops and Mufasa’s
Your Sarabi’s, Fena’s, Suzanne Owiyo’s

Nairobi,
I miss you
Before I’ve even left…

Addis

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I’m nostalgic for a city
I know in my thoughts
As though my absence for over a decade
Has meant nothing
As though the characters that populate my memories
Are as I left them
Although many are long gone

The city of now is no longer as was
The present has left little to imagine of its past
Whole neighborhoods created and destroyed
Homes, his/her stories crumble with bulldozers
Giving rise to high rises

Our meetings, though frequent, are fleeting
I am yet to acquaint myself with what you’ve become
To relearn who you were
And who I was with you

I fear feeling unhome at home
Of feeling more comfort in places that are not

Is it possible to be outside one’s own world?
Or perhaps it was never mine to claim?
Perhaps notions of home and world wax and wane and take on meanings of their own?

New flower, I wonder if I will grow old with you…or if you will age with me

Weeping clouds

weeping clouds
By Amira Ali

On the hazy open road
Migrant’s journey under one sky
Clasping suitcases
Full of unspoken longings
Inner complexities
Memories and dreams

And in the orphaned life
Making the best of burdens
In spite of the dead
Whose absence trail the living
In spite of events that split open the sky
And crack the grounds
Resiliently spirited
Migrants survive
Under weeping clouds
Through tough terrains
Of xenophobic attacks
Ruffled skirts and names
With hopes of unfurling tongues
Unravelling fears
Holding onto faith that one day

They
We
All
Will chant, “We know you. We see you.
I am in you like you are in me.
I am you like you are me.”

A Letter to my Unborn Child

There were many who came before you
Who decided that the world they were born into
Was not going to be the one they would die in
Ones who dared to dream of another future
And woke up every day to realize those dreams
They didn’t need to be told their dreams were valid
 
I pray that this is the world you will be born into
One in which you’re able to chart your own course
Without seeking the permission of others
 
I pray that you will not know of days when
Our bodies
Were fragmented
Compartmentalized along with our identities
When the dignity, integrity and autonomy
Of our bodies which house us
Was up for negotiation
 
I pray that you will not know of
Violence, abuse and discrimination
At the hands of
Those meant to protect you
Your parents/teachers/partner/police or employers
And perhaps worst of all, by the society at large
Condemning your very birth and gender
 
I pray that
FGM
Child and forced marriages
Rape, widow inheritance
Breast ironing
Honor killings,
Will be foreign words to you
A taboo to the entire community
That the only culture you know
Puts your safety and well-being
Above all else
 
I pray that you will not know of a time
When bullets were more readily available than bread
When profits came before people
When industries were mined on our backs
When our own drowned in foreign shores
Searching for a life worth living
 
I pray that
Your realities will only be peppered
By the understanding that those before you
Overcame the most horrendous of sufferings
 
I pray, my unborn child, that you will only know days
Where those who used to be at the margins of our societies
Are now at its centre
 
Where gender parity and equality are not principles
In an idealist conversation
But rather your daily reality
 
Where you have an equal say, share and control
Of the resources this continent has to offer
Where your voice and your choice
May be questioned, but never threatened
 
Where we care for the earth
And the sustenance it births
 
Where your chances of becoming the next
President
CEO
Pilot
Scientist
Engineer
Media Owner
Is equal to that of your brother
 
Where the guns will be silenced
Where justice & peace are simply
The constant and consistent state of affairs
 
Where all people, everywhere
Are treated with
The Dignity & Respect
They deserve and were born entitled to
 
And I pray, my little sweet one,
That as I end this letter
And read it to others,
 
That they won’t dismiss it as the rantings
Of a mad idealist who dreams of an impossible utopia
I pray that they will wake up from their stupor
Wake into a state of consciousness that makes them realize
We can and we must refuse to accept things as they are
We must be mad and ‘dare to invent the future’
Another reality is not only possible—
It is necessary

After all, we are reminded:
‘Africa is still waiting for its makers to re-make it’
‘We shall be the ones we’ve been waiting for’
 
Together, we’ll create that world for you
And for those who come after you
 
And when that day comes,
My unborn child,
I can’t wait to welcome you into it

©Nebila Abdulmelik, November 2014

My Take: Africa & the ICC

The African Union had a special session this weekend to discuss Africa’s stance on the ICC, with a possible withdrawal on the table. Although the withdrawal wasn’t agreed upon by all parties, the resolution that emerged stated that 1) Uhuru should not honor his appointment at the ICC and that 2) Sitting heads of state and those in acting capacities should be immune from any indictment amongst other points. Although this resolution is not legally binding, it does have political implications.

The argument for the second point is that Europe has provisions for immunity of its sitting heads of state – so why not the same in Africa? When are we going to stop comparing ourselves to others? If others have backward policies, must we adopt the same? Why do we continue to set the bar low for ourselves? Do we not, as Africans deserve better? Do we not deserve the highest standards possible? Do African citizens not deserve not just rulers but leaders who not only preach but practice integrity? Leaders who truly lead and are transparent and accountable to their people? Not simply because it is a donor requirement, or isn’t but just because that’s the least we deserve?

I hear the complaints that most of the cases being investigated by the ICC are from Africa. Yes, I understand that the US and others should also be held accountable for their crimes and pressured to sign on to the treaty. However, I am very disappointed with the African Union. First of all, why waste money convening a special session to discuss this? Second, while the African Union protects and pushes for the interests of the heads of state – who may or may not deserve to occupy their seats, who stands for the interests of the African citizenry??

We must also remember that at least 20 African signed on to the Rome Statute which brought the ICC into existence. Additionally, we have Africans at the highest level of judges and the Chief Prosecutor is an African woman.

If Uhuru and co are innocent, then why are they worried? Why not prove their innocence in court? Second, the argument that is being shared by the Uhuru government, that there is no other country who’s sitting president is being tried is nonsense. The ICC indictment happened before Uhuru was elected to presidency. As a leader of integrity, he should’ve sat this election out (whether or not he was innocent), cleared his name (if he is) and then come back to run at the next opportunity. Kenyans should not have voted in someone who is wanted on the international scale. Although he claimed ‘it was a personal challenge’ it is no longer personal when public funds are used to fund trips for him and his entourage to the Hague.

Plus, I don’t know if anyone can explain to me why we excuse our sitting presidents? Why is that if a ‘leader’ has abused his or her power that we don’t have the power to hold them accountable – while they’re in power and not wait until they no longer sit on their thrones?! Why do we want immunity for individuals who commit grave and war crimes?? Why would we still want those kind of individuals ‘leading’ our people? I ask again –  do we not deserve better?

If we are to move forward, we must think paradigm shift. We must think revolutionary. We must think transformative. Isn’t that what Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance and Agenda 2063 are meant to be about? Are all of these delusions? Can the next generation not expect anything different? Will we continue on the trajectory that we have been on for the past 50 years?

I feel this is a ploy by our ‘leaders’ to once again not be held accountable for their actions. Yes, I do agree – ICC should be a last resort. That doesn’t excuse us from pulling out. We must strengthen our indigenous, internal, national, sub-regional and regional courts – such as the African Court – which has only been ratified by less than 10 of our nations, limiting its effectiveness. So the message that we’re getting is that our heads of state don’t want to be held accountable – at any level – either at the international, the regional or national levels.

Well, true leadership is about scrutinizing yourself – making sure that you adhere to and listen to the calls of your people, you don’t flaunt your power and you don’t break your commitments, that you respect and uphold the rights of others. If this is not the case, then you shouldn’t be leading.

Gado’s cartoons on the ICC say much more than I can. In any case,  either step up or step down.

DEMOCRAZY – Spine Poetry I

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DEMOCRAZY
The State of Africa –
The End of An Error, and the Beginning of a New One

July 31st

July 31st marks the day of my birth. It also marks African Women’s Day. This is the perfect opportunity for me to pay tribute to an amazing African woman. After all, birthdays shouldn’t be a celebration of ourselves (for what did we do aside from being born), but rather a celebration of the phenomenal women who carry us around for nine whole months, endure countless hours of hard labour, bring us into this world, pamper, nurture, and shower us with unconditional love, deal with our nonsenses and make immeasurable sacrifices. Today and always, dearest momma, I salute you. You are truly a phenomenal woman. I am where I am because of you, I am nothing without you. I pray that the ALMIGHTY showers you with long life, good health, countless blessings and infinite happiness. I wish you all your heart desires and much more, because you deserve nothing less.

Dearest momma, I love you more than you know, and I love you with a love I will never outgrow.

Today, and always, I salute you momma.
You are a phenomenal African woman.

Bucket List

And in no particular order, here are some of the things I would like to have done before my time on this earth is up…plan is to cross off at least one thing a year…

  1. Skydive (Proof)
  2. Bungee Jump (Proof)
  3. Climb to peak of Mt. Kilimanjaro
  4. White water rafting – preferably in the Omo River
  5. Para glide-preferably over Rio
  6. Jet ski
  7. Ride on a Hot Air Balloon
  8. Helicopter Ride
  9. Snow board
  10. Scuba Dive
  11. Surf
  12. Snorkel
  13. Ice skate
  14. Travel to 7 continents – Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, South America, Australia, Antartica
  15. Travel to at least 50 countries (25 down, 25 to go)
  16. Travel to 7 World Wonders- Pyramids of Giza, Victoria Falls, Taj Mahal, Great Wall of China
  17. Travel to Ancient Sites of the World- Petra (Jordan), Machu Pichu (Peru), Timbuktu (Mali) …
  18. Travel all over Africa – at least 25 countries (15 down, 10 to go)
  19. Travel all over Ethiopia – Axum, Benishangul, Denakil Depression, Ras Dashen, Lalibela, Gonder, Harar, Dire Dawa, Bahir Dar…..
  20. Pilgrimage to Mecca
  21. Read entire  Quran (both English/Arabic versions)
  22. Speak French fluently
  23. Be Conversant in Arabic/Swahili
  24. Operate a parachute solo
  25. Operate a plane solo
  26. Learn Reflexology/Be Certified Masseuse
  27. Learn how to ride a motorcycle
  28. Learn how to roller blade/skateboard/Ice skate (proper)
  29. Learn how to drive stick shift
  30. Get a Masters
  31. Publish Poetry Anthology
  32. Record Accompanying Audio CD
  33. Produce a documentary
  34. Build a six pack
  35. Build a successful business
  36. Build a family
  37. Build a home-preferably by the water or on a mountain

This list is not exhaustive, and is bound to keep growing….in all things though, I aspire to cultivate happiness, spread passion, and all in all leave this earth without regrets knowing that I have lived!

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