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  • Ruth Negga Opens Up About Her Heritage and Breakthrough Role in ‘Loving’

    With her mesmerizing performance in Jeff Nichols’s subtly groundbreaking film Loving, the Irish-Ethiopian actress Ruth Negga has been the talk of the town, but she prefers just to be her.

    As the January cover of Vogue, Negga spoke to the magazine about how she grew up. She was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to a white Irish nurse and a black Ethiopian doctor. She and her mother left the country when political unrest erupted, but her father had to stay behind. Three years later, her father died in a car accident. “We found out in a letter and a phone call,” she remembered. “This was 1988. There wasn’t any grief counseling for kids.”

    Her mother never remarried, but Negga grew up in a large extended family of “about 23 boys,” and never felt she was any different from her fair-haired cousins. Negga said, “I remember thinking, I’m just me. When you’re a kid, you’re just you, aren’t you? It was when I moved to England [at age 11] that I felt it, because I was Irish and black.”

    Negga has returned to Ethiopia many times, to visit her father’s grave and her family there. “I find it difficult because it was an abrupt sort of ending to a lot of my life,” she explained to Vogue.“I’m always very careful to say I’m Irish-Ethiopian because I feel Ethiopian and I look Ethiopian and I am Ethiopian. But there are 81 languages in Ethiopia, and I don’t know any of them.” Through therapy Negga realized her desire to be an actor “was no coincidence. I think it makes me able to access certain things that are quite near to the surface… an honesty or something about life that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

    Now she is being touted for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for her portrayal of Mildred Loving, who, in 1950s Virginia, married a white man, Richard Loving (Joel Edgerton), which was against the state’s law at the time. After being jailed and exiled, the Loving’s case was eventually brought to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled they had a legal right to be married, changing the U.S. Constitution.

    As Negga explained, “The film is reminding us that there’s a conversation that we need to be having still… It does annoy Joel and me when people say it’s a quiet film. Because it doesn’t feel very quiet to us. It feels really loud.” Read the whole interview here.

     

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  • The Weeknd is helping resurrect a lost Ethiopian language


    Along with Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, Ethiopia’s Ge’ez is considered one of the world’s oldest Semitic languages—but you’ve probably never heard of it.

    Michael Gervers, a professor in the department of historical and cultural studies at the University of Toronto, believes it’s important to resurrect it. “The entire history of Ethiopia is in this language,” he says. “Everything written up until 1850 was written in Ge’ez, so we have 2,000 years of textual material that people don’t have access to.” It was replaced by Amharic as Ethiopia’s official language.

    In 2015, Gervers started a fund to create an Ethiopian studies program at U of T, setting a goal of $200,000 and donating $50,000 of his own money. The dean’s office matched that donation; and this year, so did Abel Tesfaye—the Toronto-born, Grammy-winning R&B singer professionally known as The Weeknd, whose parents immigrated to Canada from Ethiopia in the 1980s.

    Tesfaye promoted the cause to his more than four million Twitter followers. “Sharing our brilliant and ancient history of Ethiopia. Proud to support the studies in our homie town through @UofT and @bikilaaward,” he wrote.

    U of T will offer a Ge’ez language course starting in January, making it the first post-secondary school in North America to do so. Eventually, the university hopes to offer undergrad and graduate programs that focus on Ge’ez and Ethiopia’s culture and history.

    Gervers believes Ethiopia has been ignored due to a European influence on academics. Since the country was never colonized (except for a brief occupation by Mussolini’s fascists) not many people know of its original language. “It was outside of the gambit of colonial Europe,” he says. “And, as a consequence, you can go to any African studies program—with the exception of the University of Toronto—and you won’t find Ethiopian studies.”

    Source: macleans.ca

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  • Interview with Ethiopian Fashion Designer Abai Schulze


    There’s an odd sense of vertigo when you see a face you recognize in a glossy magazine. Still, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see Abai Schulze confidently gazing at me from the magazine rack. In an economics class full of the standard George Washington University overachievers, she stood out. Even then she spoke about her twin passions of fashion and improving life in Ethiopia, the country of her birth.

    That struck me as an odd pairing at the time. But not long after graduation, Schulze founded ZAAF, a premium leather goods and accessories collection handcrafted by artisans in Ethiopia. She’s one of a rising tide of African designers, such as Maki Oh from Nigeria, aAks from Ghana, among others.

    Schultze recently turned 28 but started the business when she was 25. ZAAF brought in revenue of $160k last year and has 15 full-time employees and an additional 5-7 part-time employees depending on the season. They are based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However, I wanted to know more about Schulze’s company. How did the company work? What was it like for a young woman born in Ethiopia but raised in the U.S. to start a company that would help people in her home country as well as make a profit? And, was it all too good to be true? Here’s what she had to say:

    Leah Wald: What have you learned from building a company at the young age of 25?

    Abai Schulze [Founder and Creative Director at ZAAF]:It’s been an amazing rough and tumble adventure full of challenges. I’m lucky enough to have made mistakes that will serve me well for the future (where the stake will be greater) but in a context where missteps are not fatal for the endeavor. It’s also made it very clear that each and every entrepreneurial project I take on is very binary – I either go 120% or not at all. You shouldn’t be half-hearted about blazing a personal trail or endeavor.

    Wald: Economically, how do people view Ethiopia? What do find people typically associate with the country?

    Schulze: Unfortunately, the “Ethiopia” brand is stuck in the stereotypes of hunger and instability reaching back to events of the past. This brand needs to be updated to reflect the reality of the nation’s remarkable growth and its human and cultural capital. Ethiopia is now one of the strongest economic movers on the continent, applauded for significant development advances — particularly in its rural areas — and a very aggressive industrial policy around textiles and light manufacturing. A country of nearly 100 million with near consistent double-digit GDP growth can only reasonably perceived as a bold global contender.

    Read the full interview here

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  • Soap actor Znah-Bzu Tsegaye Seeks Asylum in the US - BBC


    Prominent Ethiopian actor Znah-Bzu Tsegaye has sought asylum in the US after leaving the country about two months ago, he told Voice of America.

    The actor was in a weekly soap opera Sew Le Sew on state television.

    He left because of "repeated harassment and for being Amhara" he told Voice of America.

    In an interview with Voice of America's Amharic service, the actor said the Ethiopian security forces had carried out "atrocious actions" and he had decided not to return home until the "regime is changed".

    He said he wanted to seek asylum after the high-profile anti-government protest, and he is now in the US.

    Source: BBC

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  • Bullied, Cowed: the Nation’s Singers Shun New Year Festivities


    It started as a social media campaign, with a number of posts said to emerge mainly on Facebook, calling for a boycott on a number of concerts to be held by singers for Ethiopian New Year. The campaign rationalised its boycott to the current unrest in some parts of the Amhara and Oromia states, where “many” civilians are said to have been killed and arrested by security forces.

    So, the Facebook boycott campaigners argue that it is immoral to have a music festival in such a situation. Some of the singers, who spoke with Fortune on the basis on anonymity, say the campaign has affected them.

    This campaign has in fact forced many performers in and outside the country to cancel their concerts. It has cost promoters, music bands and the individual singers millions. Close to seven concerts in and outside the capital were cancelled – not to mention those in Europe, the US and the Middle East.

    “It is not like everyone who is cancelling their concert believes in the above argument,” said an industry source also affected because of the cancellation of their concert.

    He, whose name is withheld upon request, said that his band, which was to host a major concert in the capital, has lost close to 100,000Br.

    “It doesn’t make any difference whatever rationale they put out,” said the same source. “This is our job.”

    Some of the artists have also decided to cancel their concert so as not to collide with the Diaspora community, as they believe that the push is coming from them.

    Another big concert that is said to have been cancelled is the one at Ghion Hotel. The concert, organised by Eyoha Promotion, was planned to host Beruktawit Getahun aka Betty G, and Abdu Kiar. The promotion company behind the concert has been promoting the concert through a number of outlets, including billboards.

    Abdu Kiar, as a performer, has also suffered from another cancellation of a concert that was planned to be held in Israel, on September 15, 2016.

    Sources close to the organising of the concert told Fortune that the two singers were to be paid between 150,000 to 200,000Br.

    Another singer, who wants to remain anonymous, estimated that the bigger concerts, like the one organised by Eyoha, would briny at least 300,000 Br lose.

    He shared an experience where he himself was forced to cancel a small music show along with other performers.

    “Ours was not that big,” he said. “We lost around 70,000Br due to the cancellation.”

    This loss does not include advance payments for the performers.

    “It all started from threats, insults and bullying made as comments on Facebook,” he explains. “So, we fear that this might erode our reputation as a performer.”

    Eyoha Promotion is also know for its involvement in organising a number of entertainment activities, including exhibitions.

    Another concert that was targeted by the bullying mob on social media was the one organised by Aurora Productions. The concert was supposed to host four internationally acclaimed singers, as well as Lej Michael, a raising Ethiopian musician. Later, Lej Michael withdrew himself from the concert because of the same reason as many of the artists.

    “Most of them fear being singled out from the crowd and fear for their reputation,” Shewit Betew, CEO of Aurora, told Fortune.

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