A Children’s Theatre performance in Addis

Because the summer program has ended and the school year is not set to begin until the12th of September, I have been exploring the city.

The other day I discovered that there is a Children and Youth Theatre Company in Addis, which is located in its own building near Arat Kilo. Hooray!

So, I went! With my friend Biruk and his niece Meraf, my favorite 5 year old. Going to the children’s theatre performance was one of my most memorable experiences in Addis.

As we entered the packed theatre, there was an American movie playing, something that was familiar, but nothing I could easily name. It was a kids’ movie, in English, with no Amharic subtitles. I thought that was odd, particularly because the children in the audience were mostly under the age of seven, and hadn’t been studying English for a long period of time.

Biruk inquired about the performance worked, and we learned that the movie was only part of the experience….

After the movie, a young woman came on stage and invited kids in the audience to come onstage to share what they hope for the new year (Ethiopians celebrate the new year on September 11). And then, we were treated to a music performance. A live band of local musicians performed several songs as groups of teenagers danced with them. During the band’s last song, children in the audience were invited to come on stage and dance. Meraf ran to the stage and was gleefully dancing along with the rest of the kids. It was awesome.

After the music performance, the play began…

I did not understand a word of the play, but the kids were mesmerized. They used a lot of audience participation in the piece, which kept them engaged. The staging was simple and the acting appeared to be the kind of children’s theatre performance style that I call the “jumpsuits and jazzhands” variety; overly exaggerated movements and speaking styles. Overall, the costumes and performance didn’t strike me in any particular way… until Biruk translated the story of the play for me.

Biruk’s translation of the script went something like this: A group of animals decided to raise money to buy plants for an area that had been deforested. They decided to sell tickets to a circus which they performed for an audience of animals. The Rabbit was in charge of the money. Not long after the circus, the animals realized that the money was gone. Because they thought the Rabbit had taken it, two of the animals killed the rabbit (this happened off stage).

Whoa.

And then the play ended.

This is a remarkable story and says a lot about corruption and greed. If the story had not been translated for me, I would have never known the subject matter.

I am impressed.

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Horses on Lebu Road

One of the most heart-wrenching things I witness on a daily basis are horses in the middle of the road. Animals in the road are not an uncommon thing in Ethiopia; on a daily basis as you walk down the road, herds of goats, oxen, and (my favorite) donkeys pass you by. But there’s something about the horses…

I live in Lebu, a new development in the southeastern part of Addis. In the past 5 or 6 years, the area has gone from teff fields to government condominimums and large private villas. It is a strange half-built area of town that is both rural and urban.

The tradition in this part of town has been for local farmers to bring their ailing horses to the area and to leave them. Yes, you read that right. They bring dying, infected horses into the outskirts of Addis and abandon them in the road. On any given day you can see 5 – 10 horses standing in the median, looking lost, confused, and sick. It will forever break my heart.

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About Axum

This weekend I went to Axum, a town in the northern part of Ethiopia – Tigray. Probably the most famous things Axum are known for are allegedly housing the Ark of the Covenant in a local church, and its stelae, large funereal columns that dot several fields in the center of town.

Historically, Axum was an elite city during the early centuries of the Common Era, serving as a gateway from the Red Sea to the rest of Africa. It was on a major trade route, and, as such, it capitalized on its location by amassing riches. The city, which was reachable by a seven day journey from the Red Sea at that point in history, was filled with palaces and fortresses, and served an important part in history.

Traveling to Axum now, little of the city’s ancient and important history is discernable to a layperson’s eye. Gone are the ruins of palaces one might think to see, gone are the vestiges of Axumite wealth and elitism. Instead, as you walk down the cobblestone streets, you are besotted by beggar children, followed around (and licked – yes, it happened to me) by curious townspeople, as you dodge potholes,
camels, and donkeys loaded with goods.

Fortunately, I had the amazing opportunity to get a tour of the city from an archaeologist who works at Axum University. We walked the city for hours, as he showed us grave sites, newly discovered palace ruins, and signs of life thousands of years old.

As the day continued, I was more and more awestruck and fascinated by discovering the lives of people who had lived in that same space thousands of years ago. Near the end of our tour we stopped at a field to have a picnic dinner and enjoy some local music and dance. As we walked around the field, we found hundreds of pieces of ancient pottery, tools that dated from the 3rd century, and other remnants of people who had lived long ago. I love these experiences; they connect us to our past and our present, and remind us of the millions of people who have come before us who have contributed to the knowledge of the world we know today.

The trip was amazing. As soon as I can sort out my camera cord problem, I will upload some photos. It was a really special treat to be there,

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