Mihret Kebede

 Haunting Silences: Devising Poetry in the Case of Ethiopia’s Political Upheaval

Following the ‘’revolution’’ burst in the Oromia region of Ethiopia in 2016, which was mainly instigated by the newly designed master plan of the capital Addis Ababa in 2014, Ethiopia has faced multiple socio-political and historical upheavals throughout the years in the so-called ‘’state building’’ affair. In such a conflict, how history is written comes into play when one desires to mediate. As Baldwin states, History is not the past. It is the present. We carry our history with us. We are our history. If we pretend otherwise, we are literally criminals.”

In the current socio-political context, following the new administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali, the conception of history that mainly instigated the ongoing conflict is fetched from unresolved multiple political questions, territorial and ethnic-based tensions, and unexamined rhetoric from the past. As a result, if it is not resolved, it will continue to have an impact on our future. Thus, it is crucial to take notes of today’s incidents responsibly to bring about the desired “change” that can accommodate the basic concerns of the people on the ground. This study examines the chronological events using poetry as an alternative methodological input.

As part of my ongoing artistic research project on silence, I have been writing a series of poems that follow political and historical events and unprecedented phenomena throughout the years with the hashtag #evolutionarypoems. #Evolutonarypoems series documents such incidents and events as a registry of critical and creative views in the form of poetry. These poems aim to intervene by introducing poetry as an essential tool in historiography discourses and knowledge production processes; they serve as a methodology to rethink, revisit, examine, and analyze multi-layered levels of silenced voices in contrast to revolting voices and events right on the eve of a revolution or protest that has continued to unfold since 2015. 


Mihret is a PhD-in-practice program candidate at the academy of fine arts with a working title ‘Conversing with Silence’
Mihret kebede graduated from Addis Ababa university School of Fine Arts and Design in painting with distinction in 2007 and has earned her MA in arts from the same school in 2016. She has also received a certificate award of recognition as the best practicing artist in 2013 from Ministry of culture and tourism, Ethiopia.
The materials that she uses have a kind of special meaning for her and take her art works half way as she stated. Mihret also writes poetry as one way of expressing herself in the pursuit of something beyond consciousness. Mihret did several collaborative poetry and jazz projects and performances with Studio Olafur Eliasson followed by her show in the studio. In addition to her painting training she uses different materials and Mediums including fabrics, threads, shoelaces, collages, menstrual-blood, nets, photography, video art, performance with a wide range of experimentation. Mihret has participated in several local and international art exhibitions, workshops, residencies, exhibitions, poetry and Jazz recital programs and collaborative art projects. Beyond her artistic practices she is also known for organizing local and international artistic events and festivals.
As a continuity of her MA research art project, Silence has become her main topic that she works on and investigates as unwritten, non verbal communication, resistance, and survival and negotiation tool in different cultural, social and political happenings as well as knowledge production practices.
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