Post by: Mifta Zeleke
Tradition has it that the longest and endless story of the world comes from Ethiopia. A curious stranger asked what the story is. One of the sagacious hermits was called and began narrating it. The story is about ants which their presence in a habitat is traditionally believed to be a foreshadow for the coming of a much respected guest. The name “The Black Stranger” is also anonymously given to the ants and the expected guest. The word black in this context is equivalent to ‘graceful’.
The hermit began telling the story of the ants that were undertaking a mission of hunting for food. How they put forces together, how they plan to carry the food back to their home, how they communicate among themselves, how their strategy of making roads to deliver the food helps the fertility of the soil, how individual ants do bravely undertake their duties to the accomplishment of the entire mission…, etc were some of the essences of the story. Night fall and the curious stranger fall asleep in the meantime. Next morning, he woke up and demanded for the rest of the story. The hermit continued how the ants sleep being one on top of the other-as one a comfortable bed for the other on the top, how they eat together, how they listen to the stories their elders tell while enjoying their food, how the stories they hear inspire the ants’ next and ceaseless missions and expeditions of life… etc were the extensions of the endless story the hermit was magnificently narrating. The demand of the stranger and the detailed, never-ending unfolding of the hermit continued till their meet ups resulted in a daily routine. Eventually, the stranger set out for a voyage aimed at expounding the notions and fascinations of the longest and endless story. The stranger was determined to enlighten whomever he will meet by telling the story and of course emphasizing on the colossal lesson of the story that dictates the fact that the means or the process entails the essence of an existence than the end: if there is as such a thing called ‘the end’.
I’ve found ‘The Endless Story’ which is typically from southern Ethiopia to be an equivalent of the Àsìkò 2016 Addis Ababa: 6th International Art Programme, 27th June to 30th July, 2016. Though the program has just completed its first week in getting started, it conforms to our saying “የሚያጠግብ እንጀራ ከምጣዱ ያስታውቃል“ that foresees the verity that ‘a satisfying ENJERA (a staple food in Ethiopia) is recognizable by just observing the nature of the plate it’s cooked’.
Just in the dense first week, I’ve seen the enormous potential of Àsìkò. It’s not only focused to produce; but rather to enable a hub for the formation of a new generation of African THINKERS and CREATORS. Àsìkò is indeed “The Black Stranger” itself that foretells the comings of multitudes of “Black Strangers” or the strangers’ elegantly polished thoughts arising from Africans, by Africans, and for Africans. Some of our African and African origin hermits of our time like Moyo Okediji, Eddie Chambers, Raimi Gbadamosi…… and of course Bisi Silva has promptly and unconditionally instigated the program that implied the altitudes of the program. Their own presentations and their critical reflections on the presentations of the participants did also entail ways on how one can touch grounds and also how to go forward in shaping the future.
The curiosity that one needs to render to the peculiarity of the experiences of the individual participants is also the package that Àsìkò underlines. How one can get back the grips of the program to the specifics of the context one is situated in, how the communication among the participants and their cross-roads yield to establish a fertile ground for the formation and positioning of broader lines of reasoning; how individual accounts can be used to attain wider frameworks are among some of the ‘The Endless Stories’ that Àsìkò narrates.
The need to convene in such set ups like Àsìkò, I presume, are by far the ultimate and definitive means to explore, to re-think, to push boundaries, and to get the toughs going about the Art in Africa, African Art or Art from Africa. Àsìkò is the best of opportunities to construct the RITUAL. All the eminent faculty speakers and presenters of Àsìkò are our hermits coming openhanded. One should insist to acquire from their never-ending unfolding which does also constitute making use of the provided materials available and also extending discussions and researches.
It’s my utmost belief that we can all sensibly set out and continue our journey by making a PRESENCE of our existence in our spheres of interest. Let’s engage ourselves in the endless story of Art, African Art and Humanity and beyond… in the endless; if there is as such a thing called ‘the end’
Well, this looks to be an ambitious post: and yes, it should be since the sky is the limit: if there is any sky at all!
Oh, glad to have everyone in the freezing Addis Ababa! Immense gratitude for the organizers in making Àsìkò happen here in the capital of Africa!