AtWork Addis Ababa Chapter 06


AtWork Addis Ababa Chapter 06

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
December 9–13th, 2016


DFA, Italian Cultural Institute


“What is Home?”


Simon Njami

On April 27 2016, at the invitation of Art Basel for Non-Profit Visual Arts Organizations, Moleskine Foundation launched its first crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to implement the sixth chapter of AtWork.
After seven months, thanks to the generosity and support of all donors AtWork Addis Ababa brought together a pool of young creative minds at the Italian Embassy and the Italian Cultural Institute of Addis Ababa. The experience was implemented in partnership with Aida Muluneh and her organization DFA (Desta for Africa). Focusing on the theme “What is home?,” the intensive 5-day workshop (December 9-13) was brought to life by 21 architecture, photography and visual arts students under the guidance of Moleskine Foundations advisor Simon Njami. The produced notebooks were exhibited at DinQ gallery from December 17-21, 2016 during the Addis Foto Fest.

“Every day we allowed the dialogue on home run through us, affecting each individual’s wish and purpose for their craft, and, for their home…  Then began a fluid metamorphosis into how the movement of people in and out of their loves mold our physical and emotional homes; how geopolitics, religion and socioeconomics are both real and surreal homes. How, frankly, that sense of comfort comes tightly packaged together with discomfort and rejection, the questioning and doubting of oneself, and the ugliness we seek to express but also keep hidden from others ”

Hanna Minaye, AtWork Addis participant, text for the exhibition

The workshop

“What is home?” seems like a very simple straightforward question at the beginning and the first answers we received from the participants were safely within their comfort zones (the place where I come to after work, the place where I feel comfortable, where my family is, etc).  But the discussion invited to dig deeper and tackle the question also from the social, political and yet deeply personal perspective of a complex Ethiopian identity: “..the occasion called for something more: a deeper look into the effect of where and how we see ourselves through the lens of where we are and where we can be…” (The group exhibition text).

The first three days of the workshop the participants were hosted in the beautiful gardens of the Italian Embassy, whereas the last 2 days took place at the Italian Cultural Institute, where the notebooks production began. Aida Muluneh, who was busy preparing the 4th edition of Addis Foto Fest, visited the group on the 3d day and challenged the participants to really push the boundaries of their thinking and creating, inviting for a more engaged artistic approach that would challenge the established conventions. The workshop was also visited by the South African photographer Andrew Tshabangu, who was holding the portfolio reviews for Addis Foto Fest. Raffaele Bellezza, Moleskine Foundation’s bricker (volunteer), also helped facilitate the workshop and discuss the creative ideas with the participants.
The different backgrounds of the participants really helped to create an intense and stimulating discussion



The Leader: Simon Njami

Photo by Aida Muluneh

Simon Njami is an independent curator, lecturer, art critic, and writer. He is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of “Revue Noire.” Previously, Njami was the artistic director of the Bamako Photography Biennial 2000-2010, and co-curator of the first African pavilion at the 52nd Venice Biennale in 2007. He has curated a number of contemporary art and photography exhibitions, including Africa Remix (2004-2007) and the first African art fair in Johannesburg in 2008. In 2014, The Divine Comedy exhibition, created and curated by him, started a world tour at the MMK (Museum für Moderne Kunst) in Frankfurt, moving on to the SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah and the Smithsonian Museum of African Art in Washington, DC. He is the director of the Pan African Master Classes in Photography, a project created in partnership with the Goethe Institute; artistic director of the Donwahi Foundation (Abidjan, Ivory Coast); adviser to the Sindika Dokolo Collection (Luanda, Angola); secretary of the special jury of the World Press Photography Awards; artistic director of the first edition of Off Biennale (Cairo, 2015) and the 2016 Dak’Art Biennale (Dakar, Senegal), the first and most important artistic event in Africa.

“If I think of a home, it is necessarily in a scattered geography. Places are mixed and interchangeable. I nevertheless associate home to an unavoidable notion of permanence. It is a space around which one builds his own personality.  A space that is both inside and outside of us. Contrary to the classic and secular home, unmovable, identified, that leads back to a belonging, hence to a series of constrains, my migrant home is intertwined with the notion of freedom.”

Simon Njami, AtWork Addis leader

The Experience

During the five days of discussing and sharing the idea of home has really evolved for the participants, a lot of them declared that it was an experience that completely changed the way they were thinking about themselves, their identity, their art.  It allowed them to look at their identity and their country in a bigger global international context and to reflect on the implications of those complexities.
To extend the workshop experience beyond just the participants a public lecture was held by Simon Njami and Elena Korzhenevich at the Italian cultural institute right after the workshop. The audiences, consisting of local school teachers, international artists and curators that came for the Addis Foto Fest, local cultural and political protagonists, had a chance to understand the vision behind AtWork format, post questions to Simon who conceived the format together with Moleskine Foundation and hear first hand testimonies of the AtWork Addis participants and on the impact the workshop had on them.

“To have the workshop like AtWork for our photographers is to get beyond the commercial and have them think beyond what they are doing for themselves, but how they can make an impact on the society and think much broader.”

Aida Muluneh, AtWork Addis partner

The exhibition

The exhibition that took place just 3 days after the workshop’s end was curated by the participants themselves.  They wrote the exhibition text, produced the exhibition catalogue, divided the works into thematic groups and curated the display.  The space of the DinQ gallery became a small home in itself, an intimate space that hosted various little installations around each notebook. Alongside the works from the workshop the participants also showed some of their personal artistic works ranging from paintings to photography. A section with 10 notebooks from the 5 previous AtWork chapters was also featured, as well as some phrases that came out from the previous workshops, to maintain the continuous dialogue of the AtWork international journey. One wall of the exhibition was left blank and invited the visitors to write what Home meant to them.  By the end of the inauguration the wall was completely filled with phrases and reflections on what home means.  Check out the Flickr album to see the results of the display and read the full exhibition text here.

Participants list

  • Abel Tamiru
    Abinet Teshome
    Alemu (Alex) Enginda
    Aron Simeneh
    Brook Zerai
    Emmanuel Tegene
    Eyoeal Kefyalew
    Hailu Kifle
    Maheder Haileselassie
    Mahlet Birhanu
    Michael Fassil
    Nardos Tamirat

  • Nati Grumneh
    Ruth Bekele
    Sumeya Mensur
    Tarik Tadese
    Tedos Teffera
    Vicky Kassahun
    Yohannes Balcha
    Yonas Tadesse
    Zenna Moges
    Naod Lemma
    Hanna Minyae


  • AtWork Chapter 06 Coordinator:
    Betelhem Hussien (DFA)

    Italian Cultural Institute in Addis:
    Francesca Amendola

    Italian Embassy in Addis:
    Giuliano Fragnito

    Special guests:
    Aida Muluneh, Andrew Tshabangu

  • Researcher:
    Allison Yasukawa

    Video and Photo Shooting:
    Noad Lemma, Raffaelle Bellezza

    Naod Lemma