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.





She asked me,
What is this thing called Pan-Africanism?
Who is Pan-Africanism?
Is he/she/it still alive?

I didn’t have the answers for her.
In fact, I had more questions.

Was it a he/she/it?
Was it a baby waiting to be nurtured?
An elder who’d passed on without passing anything on?
Had it left behind any heirs to take up what it had started?

I didn’t know because all the seats
Where such conversations took place seemed
(Pre)occupied by men of another generation
They told me what they thought I should know
The rest, apparently didn’t concern me

But I was having trouble digesting what I’d been fed
I wanted to live Pan-Africanism
Breathe it, grow it, build it, share it
So that I may know it as intimately as they seemed to

Is it the United States of Africa?
Seamless borders
One people?

Is it that pain in my right
That I feel as strongly in my left?
Is it her hunger that gnaws equally at me?
His thirst that I can’t seem to quench for myself?
Is it blood beyond kin?
Is it where I dry the tears you cry?

Is it decisions made that transcend time and space?

Is it evolution or revolution?
Freedom or regulation?
A struggle or a celebration?

Is it Lumumba, Selassie, Fanon or Sankara?
Or Cisse, Mongella, Neto, the female Mandela’s, Machel’s, Nkrumah’s?
Often forgotten, without whom the sky would’ve fallen

Is it anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, anti-establishment?
Authoritarian or totalitarian?
My way or no way?
Or there is no one way but let’s discover what is way?

Is it truth?

Is it a place where none is too good for the other?
Or a place where we’re too busy being better?

Where your fears become mine
As do your sorrows
So we fight them together

Where the tears cried or withheld
By the river in the South ail me in the North
Because our veins through which it runs are inseparable
And so are our dreams
Our aspirations
And our deepest hopes

Where the death and demise
Of one is that of all
As is victory

Where the sum of all is the sum of one

What are the qualifications?
Is there a cut off age/bracket?
Is it a reserve for the literati?

Must one speak African?
Converse in Afro-speak?
Be blessed with a particular accent?
Is it a matter of attire—
“Where are your African clothes!?”
A hairdo or a hairdid?
A birthrite or a birthplace?

Is it a theory, an ideal?
A panacea, a place to aspire to?

Is it a was, is, or will be?

Is it even an ism?

©copyright, Nebila Abdulmelik, May 2013

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