By: Ayo Akinwande
A wise woman once advised me, if a photograph tells a thousand stories, you must now begin to start asking yourself a thousand questions before making that photograph. Now imagine being in the company of such wisdom for 35 days, that’s what ASIKO was all about.
I am writing this piece 5 weeks after the conclusion of a programme that lasted for 5 weeks. I needed to pause, rewind and replay the memories back into my mental faculty. The road to ASIKO wasn’t an easy one, I remember the last minute hiatus with the Visa process, sourcing for funding, then having to fly to Abuja 3 days to my flight to the embassy and the greatest shock of them all, when I had thought the money I needed for my stay was secured, the exchange rate of the dollar against the naira jumped from 199naira to 1 dollar to 350naira to 1 dollar in less than 48hours, what a transformation! But I persevered.
So my journey started by departing one China and then arriving at another China. Now this is what I mean. The new terminal at the Muritala Mohammed International Airport in Lagos is currently being constructed by China and upon arriving at the Bole International Airport in Addis-Ababa, I also found out that the new terminal there is also being done by China. And moreover, moving across the city of Addis, you would see the CCECC (china Construction Company) signage everywhere just as it is in Lagos, so with this I felt at home, another China town.
Arriving at our new home for the next 35days, the Yeka Guest House, I was warmly received by our project co-coordinators, Erin and Fitsum, two of the coolest people on earth. That night was the coldest of my time in addis as I completely underestimated the cold, thinking it would be close to that of Lagos. A simple Google search could have helped me prepare better and I surely paid for my laziness. However, I got myself back the next morning and decided to start shooting (sometimes a photographer’s curse) and it was then I realized my camera was damaged. An eureka moment!
It all began with the honeymoon period, starting with a welcome dinner and subsequent trips to Lalibela and Axum. We were cruising and enjoying to the fullest. Amongst other things, I personally got to watch football at a viewing centre outside of our hotel in lalibela and even went to a night club where I started honing my Ethiopian shoulder dance style. Did I mention the frustration in flight delays and even having our flight postponed on one occasion, well it even made for a more interesting adventure. And when we thought the fun would continue back in Addis, we then realized Asiko was a serious business and it was time to start
The weekly time-table which gets to us on Saturdays and/or sometimes Sundays was my most anticipated email. Asiko hits you like boom! It was ballistic. We had an immense period of constant unlearning and learning. It was filled with loads of presentations, critique sessions, readings, workshops, interactions, and with a set of amazing faculty who guided us on this intellectual journey, Asiko was a road worth travelling.
The images I am sharing with you here are selected from my “Post card from Addis” series which were mostly taken from the usual route we navigated from the Yeka Guest house to the Meles Zenawi Foundation, which was our classroom for the entire Asiko stay in Addis Ababa. The central focus in this series is the visual elements I encountered on this 40minutes daily walk. From the grace and elegance in the movement of the elderly folks, to the dogs who act as watchmen for the city, to the well-arranged Shops on the street corners and of course the beautiful women of Ethiopia I met on the way. I hope you would enjoy viewing them.
Thanks to the #AsikoExperience I am fully armed with the ammunition needed to ensure clarity and singularity of purpose amidst the plurality of ideas. And the best way for me to slow down is by fast forwarding because as the sage says, “time waits for no one” and neither does ASIKO!
And I say a big thank you to CCALagos, the incredible faculty, our impeccable project co-ordinators and my colleagues who have now become my sisters and brothers. Long live the Asiko family!