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  • Britain ends millions in funding for Ethiopia girl band


    ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Britain says it has ended millions of dollars in funding for an Ethiopian girl band, amid growing criticism at home of overseas aid. Yegna, sometimes called "Ethiopia's Spice Girls," addresses women's issues in the East African country.

    A statement Friday from the Department for International Development says empowering women and girls remains a priority for Britain, "but we judge there are more effective ways to invest UK aid."

    The move comes after reports of the band receiving another $6.3 million. The five-member band uses a radio show and music and drama productions to create awareness about forced marriage, violence, teen pregnancy and dropping out of school.

    The Girl Effect project that launched Yegna confirms the British decision. Chief executive Farah Ramzan Golant says, "New ideas are often resisted and sometimes willfully misrepresented."

    Source: AP

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  • The Weeknd: "I Represent Ethiopia"

    The 26-year-old better known as The Weeknd (Abel Tesfaye), who on this Sunday in November is ­preparing to release Starboy, the follow-up to his 2015 pop breakthrough Beauty Behind the Madness -- opens up In rare Interview with Billboard about paparazzi, overcoming stage fright and his roots.

    Excerpt from Abel Tesfaye's interview with Billboard

    You’re representing for different ­places — Toronto, Ethiopia. How do you approach that?
    I made it known that I’m Ethiopian. I put it in my music, and my style of singing is very Ethiopian-inspired. I’ve never even been there. I’d love to go home and see my roots.

    Where would you direct a Weeknd fan in terms of Ethiopian music?
    Aster Aweke, for sure. You can hear her voice at the end of “False Alarm” on the new album. Her voice is the greatest thing you’ll ever hear. There’s a great composer named Mulatu Astatke, he’s probably the most famous Ethiopian musician right now. Jim Jarmusch used his music. I’d love to meet him and work with him somehow. Mahmoud Ahmed is a great singer, and so is Tilahun Gessesse. Teddy Afro is more of a pop singer, great voice. This is what I grew up on. I’d wake up in the morning, and my mom would be listening to all this stuff while she was making coffee. I’m working on University of Toronto getting its own class [on Ethiopian language studies].

    Related: The Weeknd helping resurrect a lost Ethiopian language

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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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