Dirty hands, happy families

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By Ruth Brook
An organization encouraging children to trade in their screens for paintbrushes is hosting an outdoor family play event at Unity Park on January 11th, 2020. “Nu Chika Enabuka” or “Let’s play with mud” is an event created by visual artist Hamere Mulugeta who pioneered this organization, which shares the same name as the event.
As the name suggests, the event encourages children to get their hands dirty and parents to tap into their inner child. The activities carried out include painting, making art out of recycled materials, pottery and sewing as well as culturally motivated activities such as weaving, traditional face painting, cotton spinning, weaving and traditional bread making.
“I love Ethiopia and Ethiopian culture. When I think about what I love about being Ethiopian, it’s these cultural activities. Playing tiba tibe, making mulmul. I want my children to experience the same things I experienced in my childhood and play the same games I played. I want them to be able to say they love their country,” Hamere passionately expressed.
The six year old organization initially began with a bi-annual calendar of events at different schools across Addis Ababa, one during Christmas break and a five-week camp during the summer. In the last year, “Nu Chika Enabuka” has branched out into independent day-long events, once every two months.
Contesting the idea that play dates are exclusive to children, Hamere created this organization with both parents and children in mind. The intention is for parents and children to play together; bonding over activities like face painting and pottery, bringing a sense of nostalgia for a bygone time in the parents’ lives, she explained.
While the immense benefits of technology are not lost on Hamere, the artist equally recognizes the current screen takeover in society, especially among children. The organization seeks to create a balance in children’s lives, where for a few hours they are immersed in nature and harnessing their creativity.
The future looks bright for the organization, as the opening of an official ‘Nu Chika Enabuka’ centre is in the pipelines with the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. The centre will be an extension of the event, carrying out the same outdoor activities with the addition of a café and restaurant serving nutritious meals, Hamere said. Falling in line with the workings of the event, parents and children are encouraged to attend together.
The upcoming event will take place from 9.00 am – 4.00 pm on Saturday January 11th 2020 at The Grand Palace in Unity Park. Attendees will be required to pay the entrance fees associated with Unity Park and an additional fee to “Nu Chika Enabuka” for select activities such as face painting, painting and bread making.