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Embracing Progress – The Changing World of Ethiopia as Photographed by Michael Tsegaye

By Hanssie on May 21st 2014

michael-tsegaye-Ethiopia-7Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia. A city of contrasts within a country of contrasts. While driving down the paved, yet very bumpy roads, outside one window of the van, brand new buildings are being constructed, scaffolding and plastic adorn  buildings in progress. Outside the other window, sharing the uneven road with you is a man herding donkeys and a little boy chasing chickens.

When I arrived in Ethiopia, I expected to see what many media fed, middle class, average, suburbian housewife would imagine to see – starving people, war, drought, and poverty. I was quickly taken by surprise the juxtaposition of the modern interspersed with the traditional. The primitive on one side meshed with a sense of progress. I saw the poverty, yet next to it, I also saw the development.


This is exactly what photographer Michael Tsegaye set out to do in his photo series, “Future Memories.” For the past 16 years, Tsegaye has been photographing his homeland and the constant changes as the communities disappear, being replaced by modern high rises. About 8 years ago, some friends told Tsegaye about some towns being demolished to make way for new buildings. In an effort to keep alive the memories of the country of his childhood, Tsegaye began exploring his country using his art to document it.

With the new replacing the old, dynamics are changing and neighborhoods are evolving. “Everybody now has their own kitchen, bathroom and living room,” he said. “But in the old neighborhood they shared everything. This creates another dynamic between people. The new buildings are for people who can afford them in the downtown area. The people who cannot, go to the new areas. And all these details will be lost when they go to the outskirts of the city.”

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Tsegaye hopes that his work will change some of the stereotypes about Africa. He wants people to see the Ethiopia that he experiences and has grown up experiencing, a country rich with history and culture, now shifting to a contemporary urban metropolis.


“So many photographers come here taking different pictures,” he said. “Mostly, it’s the bad side: war, famine, drought. When outsiders talk about Ethiopia, they only refer to those bad things. For me, that is not the reality I was living. That’s why I’m focused on what I know and see every day.”

You can see more of Michael’s work on his website.

CREDITS: Photographs by Michael Tsegaye are copyrighted and have been used with permission for SLR Lounge. Do not copy, modify or re-post this article or images without express permission from SLR Lounge and the artist.

[Via New York Times]

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Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Greg Faulkner

    You should take a look at some of the Afghanistan work by Simon Norfolk its beautiful

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  2. Ironymous

    This is an important work and I hope he will continue it.

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  3. Kishore Sawh

    I adore those first three photos. Ethiopia is country I’ve long wanted to spend some time in. I think it started when my mother sort of forced me to eat Ethiopian food and it’s become a sort of love affair. not to mention the ‘birthplace’ of coffee. This article has rekindled my want.

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