Ethiopia. Just a mention of the country conjures up images of drought and famine. Distended bellies and wide-eyed children. Images from the 1980s famine still loom large in the public consciousness. A quarter-century since two billion people watched Live Aid, I had the chance to see what, if anything, had changed. Part of me expected to shoot the ‘flies in eyes’ clichés so prevalent in charity marketing. Much of me hoped I would not.
The Ethiopia that greeted me was not begging or pleading. It was not holding its hand out. The 15-minute ride to my hotel was a riot of colour and commerce. There was an energy about the city that I had not expected. And it comes from its people. Within an a hour of arriving in Addis, I was taken to one of the poorest parts of the city. In a sprawling slum, thousands eek out a hand-to-mouth existence. I met a woman living on one meal a day, raising five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She offered me her seat. Then wiped clean her single spoon. She wanted to share her stew. This woman’s name is Wagay Tedesse.
For me, Wagay sums up the strength of her nation. She needs help to get up, but prefers to be on her feet. She walks slowly, but carries food to those who are less mobile. She has little, but shares it eagerly. I am not naïve. I know there is real hardship in Ethiopia. I heard from hungry mouths. Shook empty hands. But there is also a true dignity and spirit in its people. There is something about meeting people who have worked so desperately to get one foot up, that impels you to help them with the other.
Ethiopia is not a bottomless pit. Nor is it a begging bowl. It is a land of dignified and determined people. People I was privileged to photograph. People I would like you to meet. Above: Wagay Tadesse; left: Bekele Dechasa
Top left: Assegedech Assfaw; bottom right: Emire Bayileyegni.
A gentleman at the Assegedech farm.
Top left: Mr Kebede; bottom right: Michael Musfin.
Women at the Eneredada project.
A young girl at the Eneredada project.
The item was added to the cart
Share the site
Share the page