A Most Unusual Ethiopian Art Gallery

I admire how art survives – thrives, even – almost anywhere.

And just as art can be a means of escape from the harsh realities of life, the ASNI Art Village in the heart of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia …

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… felt like a refuge.

Desperately missing nature after only three days in Addis Ababa, I walked through ASNI’s lush gardens and woods (a rarity in this city) taking dozens of photographs. I wanted to breathe and breathe and breathe; to gather up a small reservoir of healthy air against my re-entry into the noise, car exhaust, dirt and grind that surround this oasis in a nearly suffocating toxic embrace.

I also wanted a glimpse of what Addis Ababa might have looked like once upon a time –

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lush and vibrant, full of exotic flora and trees that hadn’t yet been decimated in people’s desperate struggle to survive.

Hidden in the Entoto Hills of Addis Ababa, somewhere in the vicinity of the French Embassy, the Total Garage, and Arat Kilo,

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the main building of the ASNI Gallery is also one of the few surviving (but just barely) examples of the city’s early 20th century architecture.

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The building looks exhausted.

You get the feeling you should make your photographs immediately, before its structural knees buckle and the whole thing collapses into a weary heap of dry kindling and dust.

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Inside, the house has been stripped bare of all signs of what must have been a comfortable life for those who lived there 100 years ago. There are gaping holes in the roof, the ceilings, and the floors.

The only thing actually holding it together seems to be the art.

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That, and the energy of the artists who gather here to create …

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… and tell their stories.

Those lucky enough to be artists-in-residence at the ASNI Art Village make and keep their work outside on the verandas of the old house …

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… and in the gardens.

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Art is everywhere … even on the volleyball court.

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A somewhat newer building houses the actual gallery –

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one of the best collections of contemporary Ethiopian art in Addis Ababa.

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More tales of Ethiopia @ The Red Moon Letters 

© Kristin Fellows 2011

[Note: The ASNI Gallery has since moved to a different location in Addis Ababa]

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