Three days of freedom
Women’s Ashenda celebration in Mekelle Tigray, North-Ethiopia
Originally celebrated in highland Ethiopia and Eritrea in August every year, Ashenda is an age-old women’s culture that was in the process of disappearing. This documentary tells the story about one particular attempt to revive this culture in the regional capital of Tigray, Mekelle. Here groups of girls and young women come from all parts of the region to celebrate their freedom for three days. Presented from both a cultural and religious perspective in light of recent research, participants also tell about the value Ashenda has for them. The documentary gives voice to different stakeholders like the Women’s Association of Tigray who revived this dying culture in order to forward women’s issues, Tigray Culture and Tourism Bureau who utilises it as a tourist attraction in the pursuit of economic growth and wants to register it in UNESCO, and a music expert who envisions it being developed into an opera.
This documentary is a collaboration between the Mekelle-based filmmaker Tewodros Hailemikael and the Norwegian visual anthropologist Thera Mjaaland. It was shot during the Ashenda celebration in Mekelle, August 2017 [2009 E.C.]. Available on YouTube.
Fighting for fitness
This short documentary about the British Military Fitness instructor Aaron Downes and one of the participants on his fitness trainings, Zoe Crick, was made together with Anna Webster as a student work on a 2-weeks course in ethnographic documentary at Grenada Centre for Visual Anthropology, Manchester University, in June 2017.
Available here from my YouTube channel.
Choices & Consequences
An edutainment drama about youth sexual and reproductive health: Part 2
This edutainment drama, produced in north-western Tigray, North-Ethiopia, aims to initiate discussion on youth sexual and reproductive health in the case of contraceptive use and abortion. The drama addresses gender norms that influence youth sexuality in a context where reproductive options, in the case of different contraceptive methods and safe abortion services, are in fact legally available for them. It also asks if other options for being a responsible man are thinkable.
See the Tigrinya or English versions on Youtube.
Choices & Consequences
An edutainment drama about youth sexual and reproductive health: Part 1
Produced in north-western Tigray, North-Ethiopia, this edutainment drama aims to initiate discussion among youth, parents, teachers, and other community members on youth sexual and reproductive health in the case of contraceptive use and abortion. The drama addresses gender norms that influence youth sexuality in a context where reproductive options are in fact legally available for them. Knowledge about these options is low, however, and the silence around youth sexual and reproductive health issues prevails.
See the Tigrinya or English versions on YouTube.
At the frontiers of change
A documentary film on girls' education in north-western Tigray, Ethiopia
Girls have started to outnumber boys both in primary and secondary education, not only in the small market town of Endabaguna, but in Tigray region in North-Ethiopia in general. But despite the legal marriage age for both boys and girls now being 18, rural Tigrayan girls who want to continue to secondary school in urban areas are still faced with the challenge of underage marriage. This documentary film communicates some of the main findings from my doctoral research to a broader public than the academic. A Tigrigna version was made for screening in the research participants’ communities.
A presentation of the film can be found on the University of Bergen website (in Norwegian). See the Tigrinya or English versions on YouTube.
Photographs from Ethiopia in Western mass media have a tendency to represent famine and war only. When I was about to leave for my first trip to the region in 1993, my cousin asked me: – Are you going to Ethiopia to photograph starving children? His question has stayed with me since, and have urged me to tell other stories about a people I admire for their strength and resilience. These particular photographs are from Asgede Tsimbla Wereda in north-western Tigray, North-Ethiopia, a region which no doubt has been hit hard by precisely recurring famines and wars. However, as much as I had imagined this project in advance, the people I met had their own ideas about how to be represented that eventually shaped these images. The Tigrayan landscape at hand served as a convenient "studio" backdrop for their self-(re)presentations. More...
Wanting to investigate the link between a particular state of mind and appearance in a photograph, the camera is held at an arm-length and the photographer-subject is relating to the camera through eye-contact. In these moments of solitude a state of presence was sought for, likewise emotional equilibrium. However, what these images show are rather intriguing and often non-flattering expressions. With these self-portraits I seek to challenge the common understanding of the portrait genre based on the hard-lived belief that a "self" can surface in the photograph, by showing images that are more ambiguous, and which explores the subtle tipping-point for when a photographic portrait fares being rejected as a "good" or sufficient representation of a particular person. More...
First presented at the international seminar SELF | IMAGE | PUBLIC. Fritt Ord Oslo/Preus Museum Horten, 1-2 October, 2016. Download presentation here.
The house of my childhood was built in 1690. It was spooky at night with its creaking body and three hundred years of history. During daytime freedom was outdoors: in the woods, by the little pond, by the lake or in the woodshed. We played mother, father and children, and made homes from whatever was available: a tarpaulin, a length of rope and some branches. Perhaps we played as we wanted life to be, or to become? I do not remember. Memories are as selective as photographs; they are products of choice, dependent on a specific occurrence in a given moment. More...
My father's house
I know that you want to forget.
I want you to remember that weakness also can have a value.
Maybe it is then that we can truly meet –
when our eyes rest in what is
enduring its own pain.
Mothers and daughters
The aim of this project is to describe some of the unspoken tensions that might exist between a mother and her daughter. Asking actual mothers and daughters to pose side-by-side, further instructions as to how was not provided. This photographic situation creates an atmosphere of uncertainty where tensions surface. Their facial expressions and body-language tell about likenesses and differences, intimicy and opposition as aspects of this complex family relation. I do not however claim to reveal some sort of truth about a particular mother-daughter relation. First of all I want to challenge an ideal image of the mother and daughter as it is produced and reaffirmed in photographs, by enhancing rather than glossing over potential conflicts. More...