NEW NORMAL

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As the world embarks on the “new normal”, the best way to come out of this very difficult period includes being adaptable and following the directives of the government which emphasize staying at home and washing hands. I read a ‘truth in jest’ post on FB paraphrased, “Our grandparents went to war to protect us, all you have to do is wash your hands and stay home, don’t mess it up.” So there you go. But what do the millions of Addis Abebans do to combat the depression, boredom and plethora of emotions that go along with this trying time when we are so accustomed to hugs, kisses, communal eating and all other social norms that are now off limits? Obviously a quick Google search will yield tons of projects to entertain the youngsters, who by now may be climbing the walls. One that caught my attention was bird watching. We are blessed to live in a land with more endemic birds than most other countries, and right here in Addis Abeba, we are surrounded by many species worthy to be watched. This activity can promote appreciation for something we take for granted, while brining us closer to nature. Then there are home gardening projects, story telling, and art projects that can be simple as drawings to help young ones share their feelings. Who knows it may be the start of an art career or atleast love of art for a new generation.
That said and recognizing that the arts may not be a priority at this time, I am so happy to see that several countries are paying attention to the plight of artists and cultural institutions such as South Africa, Germany and the UK. According to Minister of Department of Sports, Arts, and Culture, Nathi Mthethwa, a set aside of R150 Million “… will be utilized to render various forms of support to practitioners during this period. Priority will be given to artists and practitioners, who were already booked by some of the cancelled and postponed events funded by the department, as well as legends of the industry.” While the Arts Council England, “…typically supporting artists, curators, museums, libraries, theaters and other cultural practitioners….has established a relief fund for around $192 million for individuals and organizations during the ongoing global health crisis,” according to Artforum.com. In Germany, well aware of the burden on both artists and cultural institutions, the Minister of State for Culture, Monika Grütters announced, “I will not let them down! We have their concerns in mind and will work to ensure that the special needs of the cultural sector and creative people are taken into account when it comes to support measures and liquidity assistance.”
Now I realize Ethiopia may not have such discretionary budget, but I do hope that this sector of society will be considered, especially our senior artists who have contributed so much to this country. As most artists don’t take part in pension schemes and art sales, like any other business is dried up, a little help would not hurt. More importantly I hope that when we rise out of this dilemma that we will be stronger, more considerate to all sectors in our society and simply more humane in our every day dealings in our homes, schools and work place. Time is promised to no one and what time we do have we should make it count. I close with an appropriate excerpt from Ethiopian poet Lemn Sissay’s Invisible Kisses.
“If there was ever one
Who when you are cold
Will summon warm air
For our hands to hold;
Who would make peace in
pouring pain
Make laughter fall in falling rain.
Then see only my face
In reflection of these tides
Trough the clear water
Beyond the river side.
All I can send is love
In all that this is
A poem and a necklace
Of invisible kisses.”

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.