A Pearl in a Phantom 

I decided early on I’d never leave my country, Ethiopia to live somewhere else. I dreamed and believed in it and its future, not suspecting that living here meant my life’s journey would be intertwined between the dilemma of a deep love for my country and an equally deep ambivalence for what’s going on in it. 

These images made between 2017 — 2022 on a phone camera became a reflection on utopian dreams, false promises and unattained goals that we struggle to live with everyday. I travelled to better understand the Ethiopia I had in my imagination. Bright, vivid colours are a projection of our dreams; green, yellow, red, the colour of our flag and fake plastics, a cover for the reality that lies beneath our mask.

Contradictions are everywhere while terms such as peace, prosperity, glory and unity have become common. A billboard of the prime minister who won a Nobel peace prize titled, ‘A leader that elevated Ethiopia’ is seen in the capital city. Nearly a year later, a war that took the lives of hundreds of thousands of people would break out in the Northern region.

The work slowly moves between the boundaries of reality & fantasy, genuine & artificial, perfection & imperfection and burden or division.Throughout the years, I realised that I was not just photographing people or spaces ; I was actually photographing myself and many others, and the hopes and dreams we believed our country could offer. 

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