When nations with strong ties to their cultural heritage are offered modernisation, there is a balance between conserving values and inheriting new ones. With Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, huge investments have gone in to build the infrastructure and update this historical city. In the world there can be a divide between the old colonisers and the old colonies. Although no longer part of the imperial structure, when a nation has ties to being colonised, what can be seen as honest help can be interpreted as imperial meddling. When we ask a culture to modernise, we need to remember that it doesn't mean to let go of the past. Certain elements of society and culture need to be allowed to remain in order to prevent international standardisation of peoples. It's important for identity as well as for attracting visitors, people want their own story and others want to learn about it. Art and design are ways of preserving culture and tradition when lifestyles and expectations on society change with each generation. By maintaining strong connections to traditional art and design, a culture can progress without losing touch with its past.
The population of Addis Ababa is set to double over the next decade, with over 4 million residents at this time. Much work has been done to upgrade the city, especially with Chinese investment, and this has brought living standards and city living to new twenty-first century standards. Because the technology involved in progressing the city has all come from abroad, it felt like the city was losing part of its soul. Important for visitors and residents alike, keeping the historical and cultural sense of the city alive meant telling a new chapter in the story. A chapter that follows on naturally from the last. Where herders and farmers mingle with business people and academics, what can we provide to meet both sets of needs?
The Zoma Contemporary Art Centre has been involved in the modernisation of Addis Ababa. This time though, it's been given a dose of cultural and artistic magic. This iconic building is built with daub and wattle, much like the buildings of antiquity, and its walls are designed with traditional symbols and line patterns. Artist Elias Sime was given free run over the project to bring out a clear and defined Ethiopian feel. It's taken twenty years of hard work to get to this point, with minimal resources and often only passion to keep things going, the Zoma Museum is beginning to get the attention it deserves. By using sustainable plumbing that makes use of natural rainwater and with walls built from traditional materials, the modern art found inside will have the perfect African setting. The Zoma Museum is due to open its doors to visitors in March this year.
Want to see Ethiopian art now? There's loads on eBay. Have a browse. (Support link)
Via Metropolis Magazine
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