Addis Abeba Diplomatic Capital of Africa?

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Addis Abeba is known as the ‘Diplomatic Capital of Africa’, with every nation, particularly Continental, situating an Embassy or Chancery in the fast moving mountain city. That said, we would expect Addis to be one of the most diverse, prolific Pan African cities on the continent. Is it? If not then why not? How can this change and whose responsibility is it to realize this transformation? So here we go. No, Addis is not the most culturally diverse Pan African city in Africa. And though filled with substantial continental political, cultural and social institutions/missions, they appear to go about their jobs and mandates, hosting private events for colleagues, kith and kin and ofcourse maintaining good relations with local and federal government, paying their rent, taxes and “dues”.
Now don’t get me wrong, we are well aware of the “African music” nights at clubs and African restaurants that pop up here and there, typically close to the AU. But beyond that, there is not a whole lot happening on the Pan African cultural or social scene that says Addis Abeba IS a dynamic African hotspot. In all fairness, its typically private sector that identifies need in the market and proceeds to meet said. Enters Qetselawork Seifu, a decade plus producer and host of Sheger FM’s Africa Weyan. The Ethiopian born, Sandford educated and internationally travelled, mom of two and wife to renowned musician Tewodros “Teddy Ahadoo” Akililu, is on a mission to make sure Africa unites through music. Her popular radio show includes music from the Africa’s 6 regions woven together with touches of history and heritage in an effort to educate and entertain her mostly Ethiopian listenership. Qetsela also keeps those of us seeking musical retreats after work or on weekends with her African-reggae mix on Sundays at Metro Club located at the Hyatt Regency on Bole. The easy going music and cultural promoter has also made her mark working with artists from North, South and West of Ethiopia hosting renowned African musicians and vocalists around the city with a stream of shows, simply stating, “I am committed…”.
In the past, on the visual art side, artist/curator Konjit Seyoume of Asni Art Gallery has also made strides hosting African artists for exhibitions and workshops alike. These collaborations have created lifetime friendships and connections to Addis with artists such as Zambian Zenzele Chulu. There were also one offs with embassies such as the South Africa Embassy’s 2019 pop up show for motorcycle marvel of an artist Reggie Khumalo. He rode from the Cape to Cairo, stopping n Addis where his large paintings depicting Ubuntu, the South African proverb, “I am because you are,” were snapped up by ETREP’s Gossa Oda in an auction. Reggie’s paintings are now displayed in the ETREP/Goma Kuteba’s CSR initiative, Medemer Africa Art & Sculpture Space known as Medemer Africa or MAASS. Located in the heart of the business district, directly across from the Ministry of Health, Medemer Africa has been positioned to become the space that all African artists, art lovers and inquiring minds seeking a cool space in the city to chill are welcomed. A cup of coffee, a stroll around Tesfahun Kibru’s spectacular sculptures, the cozy fire pit amphitheater for poets, or just to sit and think for a moment during lunch break for bankers and builders …there is something for everyone. Though incomparable in size, it reminds me of Central Park in New York City, an oasis amidst the high rise buildings where the green space adds value to the quality of life for city dwellers. Full disclosure, it is my pleasure and honor to work with Goma Kuteba to ensure a well-curated space for all.
So there is hope on the horizon and Addis Abeba should not be counted out as a significant future contemporary cultural mecca in Africa based on our past and even present situation. Instead, the prospect for the city to become the Diplomatic Capital twinned with a Cultural Pan African identity is feasible. This should be a wider discourse and desire to connect with the continent and grow culture and tourism aimed at those who are already here on post. As they say, “ A bird in the hand in the more than two in the bush…” So as hundreds of youth pour out of the Tourism Schools dotting the city and as we realize that folks don’t and can’t always leave the city for historic sightseeing etc. we must find ways to capitalize on the opportunities to provide for all Africans living in Addis. With this comes employment and expansion of minds and hearts. And with the “invention being the mother of necessity” let us continue to support the efforts of promoters like Qetsela and ensure spaces like Medemer Africa are given the opportunity and support to thrive, for the sake of our city, Addis Abeba, diplomatic capital of Africa.

Dr. Desta Meghoo is a Jamaican born
Creative Consultant, Curator and cultural promoter based in Ethiopia since 2005. She also serves as Liaison to the AU for the Ghana based, Diaspora African Forum.