“I was inspired by my mother and pass knowledge to my daughter and others…” Meskerem Assegued
Women continue to wow us in March and beyond. Here is yet another to add to the list, one of my sheroes, Mesekerem Assegued, founder of Zoma Museum. Winding green aromatic paths; ancient irrigation and filtration systems; traditional superb architectural designs with well-fed cows for fresh milk and yogurt with chickens looking on. Welcome to Zoma Museum, reads the handcrafted sign. Named after a young artist Zoma Shiferraw who lost his battle with cancer in 1979, Meski, mother of the museum says, “The museum’s aim is to showcase innovative and cutting edge art and architecture in a vernacular museum where the old and new merge.” The well known anthropologist, activist and author has ensured the museum is an environmentally conscious art institution, “a bridge between artists and architects from around the world to create cutting edge ecological art and architecture,” sates the website. Zoma is a resounding effort to save the environment through ancient and contemporary knowledge and techniques.
This weekend Zoma will officially open its gates to visitors of all ages. What is in store? The oasis, located in the Mekanisa area, is situated near the Akaki River which receives the purified water that has meandered through the museum compound, cleaned through old and new water systems. Lush gardens filled with vegetables, herbs and spices from tennedam to lemon grass scent the fresh air. But plan to stay a while, as you really won’t know where to look first, as focal points abound. There is a high ceilinged white washed gallery for art exhibitions and meetings; a library for art and one for the public with a diverse collection of books; a children’s center with chickens and plants for live learning; an elementary school with a mixed pedagogy for holistic early education; a barn for cows where visitors can sip on macchiatos made with milk straight from the source; and an amphitheater set on the most lush green lawn ever. But the beautifully crafted buildings…wow!
The tall works of art, aka buildings, are intricately designed and crafted by Meski’s partner, internationally recognized Ethiopian artist Elias Sime. A well established master at recycling/up-cycling Elias says, in his usual soft voice with a humble spirit, “It took almost four years to complete the buildings all by hand. We worked very hard because we know that this space is an example of how to conserve the environment in the midst of modern construction.” He echoes Meski’s concerns who further shares, “I am a bit worried about what is going to happen with the knowledge dying out. I was inspired by my mother and pass knowledge to my daughter and others, in an effort to address issues of preserving the environment impacting climate change. But where do we go from here? How do artists respond to such a space? Why can’t we look at ancient techniques for answers to current problems?”
I can only say that walking through the field of green at Zoma, which is also a field of dreams come to reality after being seeded twenty five years ago, is curated for everyone’s enjoyment and inspiration. Be it that special date with that special one; the family outing with grandparents to newborns; scientists and engineers seeking new methods of irrigation and purification; and ofcourse artists seeking a space for motivation and creativity…Zoma Museum has it all. Most importantly, this incredibly awesome space which has grown out of the love for Mother Earth and the desire to highlight the role of art and architecture, proves that Addis Abeba can house an international standard yet organic venue that adds value to our city and lives; bringing joy, education and entertainment to us all, six days a week.
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.