Synaesthesia Magazine Cities - Page 105

Addis Ababa is the political capital of Africa and is home to a unique culture and populace unlike any other in Africa. Its language, Amharic, is the only national phonetic language in sub-Saharan Africa using not Latin characters but its own ancient symbols analogous to Egyptian hieroglyphics only reinforcing the traditional national culture that the Ethiopians are the “warriors of Africa”. Addis Ababa is a city of Government censorship, a ‘throwback’ from the previous communist regime that can be visibly seen across the city only if you are aware of this “new flower’s” red past. Sadly this city and nation’s wealth resides in the hands of a few whilst the majority are under or have fallen victim to capitalist ideologies and western monopolies leaving many to strive and graft for an income but often result in unemployment.

However, this 125 year old city has a wealth of culture, customs and beliefs that juxtapose and go against the grain of this surface culture that the concrete explorer initially forges a relationship with. After moments of reflection amidst the city’s vibes of chaos, it soon becomes apparent that the Ethiopians’

love of their city and country, flying their red, gold and green flags in the streets and from their vehicles as small expressions of patriotism accumulate, having an overwhelming influence on the feel of the city. Most of the city’s populace has relatively very little monetary wealth or material possession that they long for, however, this city provides them with an unparalleled wealth of city based community and unity that I have not encountered in any other city to this scale. This city community is supplemented and supported by community events, sport and religion and very little else.

As we settled down into a fine cup of Ethiopian coffee on a rooftop cafe in the centre of the bustling Addis Ababa, this scene of chaos unveiled itself before our eyes. The crossroads had become a gridlock of steel, rubber and people, all because of the lack of a signalling policeman during the hectic lunchtime scramble for some Dorowatt. Unlike in the UK where irate, impatient motorists would be shouting explicit insults at each other in this moment of motoring chaos, the easygoing, laid back Ethiopian motorists slowly move further into this steel and petroleum fuelled quagmire without a worry in the world. They sit and slowly wait for the issue to resolve itself, even

if they will be late for work. So what!? Let’s take it easy!

I enjoyed this sight for a few seconds before grabbing my Nikon FM2 film slr to capture this relaxed moment of mayhem. It was very strange; there was no sense of aggression, just relaxed Ethiopians making their way around town as if nothing mattered. It was this that made me capture this scene in a photograph, a reminder not to always fall victim to our western mindset of work, time and material wealth instilled by a city such as London.