ETHIOPIA FROM WITHIN
A series of personal encounters will take you
on a journey into the lives, traditions and customs
of the Ethiopian people
This is an introduction to a book-project about the people of Ethiopia - a joint venture between VenturePress and the people of Ethiopia. It is portrait of the people, given by the people.
The aim is to portray the Ethiopians. Focus will be on ways of life, traditions and local customs. And it will be on what the Ethiopians take pride in.
Through personal encounters with people from around country, we collect a series of talks and stories. The people we meet will be given the opportunity to present themselves. And this they can do in whatever way they choose, accentuating what they find important.
With this book we seek to step out of the conventional ways of country books. We avoid the arrogance of coming from abroad, choosing for the people how to present them. And we choose to focus on the positive, the constructive, the solutions, rather than on the problems.
Presenting an updated view that is often different from the one that still lingers in the minds of many Westerners, the resolve is to contribute to filling those gabs of knowledge and understanding that are still much attached to this people. And we will do it in text and photographs, that hopefully will inspire the reader to visit the people of this grand country.
Why this book matters
The one purpose with Ethiopia From Within is to contribute to update the image of Ethiopia abroad.
Possibly among Westerners in particular, a distorted image of Ethiopia is prevalent. Especially reminiscences from the famine in 1983-85 linger and
many still associate Ethiopia with “humanitarian disaster”.
And as news from Africa only rarely make headlines in the Western sensation driven media, no genuine contribution to the correction of this image is reaching the minds of Western people.
Yes, Ethiopia is, according to the OECD, among the least developed countries and among the very top beneficiaries of development aid. But there is another side; Ethiopia is indeed a country with great potential and like many other African countries, it is undergoing rapid change these years.
And it is a country with a kind and hospitable people, of rare complexity and beauty, and of striking ethnic and cultural diversity - a country that, spans over centuries, from modern downtown districts to remote tribal communities.
And it is exactly this remarkable diversity that Ethiopia From Within will seek to show - as it is presented by the Ethiopians themselves.
We seek to portray the Ethiopian people in all their diversity. But including all the more than 80 ethnic groups of this vast country in one book is not possible. This, however, opens up for a part two later on, should there be opportunity.
The inclusion of some ethnic groups and the exclusion of others should be viewed only as the limitations characterizing the making of such a book. Consequently the aim is to portray a selection of people, that can justly serve as a representative cross section of the entire population.
There are nine regions in the country, representing nine nations. All are distinct as to ethnicity and culture and they vary according to demographic and geographic distinctions. The number of talks will be distributed evenly between the nine regions.
The author of the book - or rather photographer and collector of conversations - Joakim Larsen, is a world citizen, writer and photographer from Copenhagen, Denmark. He is the owner of VenturePress.dk and KARO.international and has a background in business economics, venture creation and tourism. He travels slowly and with respect, and he always makes an effort to blend with and understand the people he visits.
And he has a mission: to help update the image of Ethiopia abroad and present people outside the country with a better understanding of the Ethiopians and their country.
Joakim knows Ethiopia well; he speaks the language and has developed a deep affection for the country and its people. And he has a good network of competent people who can be hired in during the project.
The project was initiated in October 2014. Originally we anticipated that the book would be ready in October 2015 - but this soon turned out to be mot realistic. At all... Things take time in Ethiopia and certain things cannot be rushed.
The material for the book will be made during travels to different areas during the Winters of 2014-15, 2015-16 and continue during the Winter of 2016-17.
A pre-set schedule will be the source of nothing but disappointment and frustration. New opportunities always present themselves. And bad weather, illness, and high water in rivers, will inevitably be among the reasons why a pre-set schedule is pointless; much better to be spontaneous, to go with the flow, to embrace the opportunities as they appear.
Every personal encounter resulting in a meeting and a conversation, will be recorded. The translation of non-english conversations will be made by local interpreters. Later on these will be transcribed into book form. The transcriptions will be done with great care, so the conversations stay true to the people interviewed.
Making conversation in Ethiopia is wonderfully easy. But finding the people who have something interesting to share, and who have the inclination and the time to do so, is a central challenge. This is why a project like this cannot be rushed - it will inevitably take time.
Let it be said: traveling in Ethiopia is something quite out of the ordinary. And it is not always easy. You will be delighted and surprised. And you will be challenged. Traveling by three principles may be helpful:
1. Impatience is a direct source of insanity.
2. Whatever happens is part of the experience.
3. There is always a solution. It may not be what you expect. But there is always a solution.
Ethiopia From Within is a project that you can enjoy supporting. Historically most articles about Ethiopia portray its citizens as being hapless victims of poverty. Nothing could be further from the truth and Joakim who has spent the last 5 years meeting and listening to them talking about their lives, dreams, culture and history is the person to bring their voices to the wider world.
Through pictures and their words they will show a country of fabulous ethnic diversity, sheer beauty and the history of the development of a nation and its communities from ancient times to the modern day. A place that is as rich and successful as any nation in the world. Reading it will be a truly uplifting experience.
- Stephen Whaley, Enterprising Ethiopia (www.enterprisingethiopia.com)
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In his own pace, Joakim Larsen, author and photographer, succeeds to create the ultimate connection through the conversation with the individual Ethiopian men and women. The beautiful rousing photos, each of which accompanies the conversation and advocating vitality despite often difficult circumstances, insist on a willpower we Westerners often deselect through ways of abundant donations.
Joakim Larsen captures the love of this beautiful country and its people by passing the naked skin in the meeting with another person to be portrayed. He is as such not only an excellent photographer, but also a pioneer who adds his pictures a life-spark through the portrayal of their lives for the good and, unfortunately, also much bad. As he aptly expects this meeting will 'Whatever happens' be a 'part of the experience' (Joakim Larsen).
I highly recommend Joakim Larsen is supported in this project's coming to life.
- Conny Bendixen Danielsson, Psychologist, Candidate in Psychology
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It is an honour to endorse Joakim Larsen's ambitious project, ETHIOPIA FROM WITHIN.
Not only is Joakim a brilliant photographer but he has a passion for the people of Ethiopia as well as their many and varied stories.
This project is about the people who make up this land as told by them....the stories of the people who live here and shape this country. Joakim beautifully captures their spirit in photos that move beyond the usual travel observations.
I have watched Joakim's love for this country grow and have seen how he is able to show the beauty and soul of people living within an ancient culture rapidly moving into the modern world.
It is a project worthy of all the support it can receive. This is a story from the heart of the people who make Ethiopia what is and what it will become.
- Richard Trout Johnson, Canada
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