Who is she? 28 Comments

When we were designing the concepts for the Bernos shirts, we had about twelve layouts to choosing from. After marketing research, meaning showing the concept designs to several people, we used the feedback to choose and print three. While I did the designs many people helped with ideas and critique.

The collaboration effort brought about the three current shirts which are now on sale. And I'm gratified with the results but disappointed with one feedback concerning a single concept.

At the time I was reading about the recent history of the Anuak and the Anuak Justice Council's efforts to be heard. After reading the 2005 Human Rights Watch report about the current situation, I was inspired to help bring awareness. I always loved reading vis-à-vis the most obscure places in Ethiopia. The intricacies of how tribal cultures relate to one another. Why the Mursi are nomadic cattle herders while the Surma are settled pastoralists albeit being similar in many other ways? These things fascinate me. I am especially intrigued by the Lower Omo Valley and its occupants. It is now on the must visit list after Azmari Bet on my ensuing to trip to the homeland; which is scheduled for the millennium.


At the end we decided to hold of printing the shirt, as we made a consensus not to bring sociopolitical ideology to Bernos. Not to exclude the fact that people alleged that they wouldn't buy a shirt that said Gambela.  Sales being one of important motives when choosing concepts, we vacillating on bringing it to market.

However the question "life being political" arisen in my mind.  At the beginning of our venture we received a couple of alluding email saluting the fact we kept it politically free.

OK then great you like! But but but… now that I’m a couple more months smarter, I realize that life is politics! Heck even sex is bolitka!

Last week I stumbled upon the above photo! And it moved me to the point that subsequented contemplating using my veto power to print the previously (the gambela with the map) disregarded concept.  On the contrary I’m wondering if you guys get it!

28 Responses to “Who is she?”

  1. 1 Nolawi

    Speaking of Mursi I did find this interesting article regarding traveling in the lower omo valley

  2. 2 yonas

    Nol, bit of advice on travelling to the Omo Valleys. Going there during the rainy season is not a good idea, as the roads get washed away and you’re not likely to find anyone willing to take you there at that time.

    Travel is very expensive. We were paying around $100 a day for an old Toyota Landcruiser with driver/guide. You’ll definitely need a professional driver who knows the area very well, an uncle/cousin who’s driven to Arba Minch before simply won’t do. Alternatively, if you want to dramatically cut costs, have lots of time and an adventurous spirit, I’d highly recommend taking a bus to Jinka and hitching rides around the area on Isuzu trucks (known locally as Al-Qaedas*). If we had the time, we would definitely have done the latter – immense fun and a lot more interaction with the colourful locals that are crammed in the truck with you.

    Don’t let the above discourage you, you might need to reschedule but you must still go. It’s an awesome experience; I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    * http://www.meskelsquare.com/archives/2005/02/drivers_with_a.html

  3. 3 Meklit

    I’m wondering why Isuzu trucks are known as Al-Qaedas? betam yegermal?

  4. 4 yonas

    Meklit, two reasons:

    1. Isuzu trucks are allegedly responsible for a vast number of deaths (read the meskelsquare.com article I linked above)
    2. The back of the truck features their brand name (ISUZU) written in both English and Arabic

    Ethiopian humour… you gotta love it.

  5. 5 samrawit

    Say, I am planning to travel to Ethiopia as well next year. Take the historic tour (Lalibela, Gondar, Axum, etc). Contemplating if Sept is a good time to do that kind of trip (with flood and all).

    Also, I was searching for sites that have information on the events planned for 2000. Or places that can rent cars. Any ideas?

  6. 6 Nolawi

    Al-Qeada is the funniest thing I heard in a long time, yonas you the weirdest things eko… wow gud.. al qeadas for Isuzu truck…

    anyways Samrawit,,,

    here is link I don’t know when they will start updating with events

  7. 7 yonas

    Samrawit, the historic route is gorgeous in September. Don’t forget, September/Meskerem marks the start of spring and the countryside is most green, lush and stunning at this time. Ethiopian Airlines have discounts for the historic route, so flying is best time-wise and very affordable. Cheaper than renting wheels.

    Note, Omo Valleys is also most beautiful at this time but tends to remain inaccessible until dry season really kicks in.

  8. 8 toian

    hmm. i like the gambella print with the map, and not so much the photo of the girl. the photo in itself is not .. wrong, but such photos have historically been overused to show the ‘dark mystique/savage/exotic’ – take your pick – africa by too many European travellers.

    in addition, there’s the question you asked, ‘who is she?’. Well, who is she? I wouldn’t want my picture to be printed on some t-shirt (granted i’m far from photogenic, but lets not rub that in) or National Geographic. In fact, in the west if a random person’s picture was used for profit, the case would surely end in a lawsuit. But pictures of africans are used and abused. Any image of Africans with deferring states of ‘undress’ is OK on TV, but an image of a nudist westerner, even if non-sexual in manner, is considered ‘improper’ for general viewing, etc.

    Nah. The photo’s cool, just not on a t-shirt.

    The gambella print, especially if you put a message on it on the back or something can be really cool, i think. And the message need not be political, it can be something about the people like the Anuaka, Gumuz, or lela gamebla nek neger.

  9. 9 Nolawi

    Hey hey hey, I never said i wanted to print a picture of the girl.. I meant the gambela with the map….

    the photo was just inspiriation… not for a tshirt… how tacky do u think i am tobian!

  10. 10 toian

    inae ingidih who knows what happens to people when they’ve lived kebahir mado for too long ;)

    well then, me likes the map!

  11. 11 zegabi

    I wonder if all of you would then agree with an Oromia t-shirt as well? Or is Gambella not threatening enough?

    I think it is a cool idea…if everyone wore an Oromia or Gambella tshirt, it would dispell the narrow nationalistic fervor – Make it everybody elses. Infact, I would write Gambella on the front and Ethiopia on the back.

    If you were a cynic, you can also write “come see the next oil rush”

    take care!

  12. 12 Nolawi

    Zagabi good point, that is the discussion I wanted to bring up, you seeit wouldnt work with oromia, it would have to be about the most obscure and unrecognized places in ethiopia…

    I once was wearing the abebe bikila shirt in the club and this guy came up to me, and told me he had seen the website he likes the shirt.. he said its about time we recognize oromias hero,… abebe bikila… I’m like to me he is ethiopian hero fool…

    but i think you got the point zegabi.. a little bit everything is erverybody elses.. i do feel and like the idea of being inclusive…but lets not forget being inclusive is nationalistic… and that is not narrow….

  13. 13 TAnbessa

    I guess you should add “Ethiopia” to it… like “gambela” – Ethiopia… or Oromia – Ethiopia (on the same side or on the back)… but know this! if you do that you automatically accept the TPLF’s ethnic politics and killilization.
    I also do not see any way that this could be seen as “solidarity with the anyuak people”. Gambela is an ethnic based killil and the message you want to make by wearing that shirt could be mistaken for something else.

    I’d never buy an “Amhara” or “Oromia” shirt… its political implications are too strong for me!
    If you want to show your solidarity with the anyuak people with a T-shirt, then I’d recommend you to design a different one. Go and do some research on the Anyuak people and you might come up with a better and far less misunderstandable T-shirt.

    I wrote this because I assume that you don’t want to support any separatist notions…

  14. 14 Nolawi

    TA; thank you for your input,

    but I think you misunderstood the point I was trying to make… The shirt would not be about Anuak or would it be trying to raise awareness for the plight of the Anuak…

    it would just be inclusive… the concept would not work with any major part of ethiopia…ie amhara oromia…..

    gambella is really not an ethnic based kilil… as it includes different ethnicties… anyways your input is always appreciated… but lets not take this too literally… It was not my intention to say we need to acknowlegde a certain tribe….

    In actuality its much more ambigous…

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