Entertainment Woman fights solo to showcase Ethiopia’s beauty

Woman fights solo to showcase Ethiopia’s beauty

 

Sabela Belaynesh Abay
Sabela Belaynesh Abay

(AA) – Having lived 27 years abroad, Sabela Belaynesh Abay has had enough of negative portrayals of Ethiopia in the western media.

During those 27 years, she read nothing but articles about poverty and famine when it came to western media coverage of her native Ethiopia.

She could not, however, stand idle and allow the media to distort the facts about her country.

She came here and established a cultural center in which she exhibits everything Ethiopian – in a bid to show visitors that Ethiopia is about more than just poverty and hunger.

“The center was established with the aim of preserving Ethiopia’s rich heritage, promoting the country’s history and making Ethiopians proud of what they have in their country,” Abay told The Anadolu Agency.

“I have been trying to show the world the other face of Ethiopia,” she added.

Located in the central Ethiopian city of Berhane, the center bursts at the seams with cultural and heritage items.

The entrance to Abay’s Berhan Ethiopia Cultural Center is designed to look like the Harar Jegol Wall – an ancient wall at the entrance of the eastern town of Harar Jegol, which in 2006 was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Inside the center compound, replicas of the Castle of Gondar, the Obelisk of Axum and the intricately carved Tiya Megaliths have been erected.

There are also models of typical Ethiopian huts and waterfalls – as well as portraits of Ethiopia’s great leaders – inside the 950-square-meter compound.

-Shared dream-

Even before she came back to Ethiopia, leaving her other family members behind, Abay organized several cultural events in other countries to draw attention to the beauty of her country.

She has organized events in Mexico, the U.S., Scotland, Greece and Nigeria, all with the aim of showcasing Ethiopian heritage and history and showing the people of these countries that Ethiopia had its own beauty – beauty rarely conveyed by western media.

“All Ethiopians in the diaspora are associated with hunger and war, as their country was labeled as a land of famine and civil war,” Abay, who lived in Lima, Peru before returning to Ethiopia, said.

“These stereotypes encouraged me to exhibit Ethiopia to indigenous people and foreigners,” she added.

During these years, Abay met another Ethiopian woman who ended up being seminal to the fulfillment of her dream project.

Abay met Amarech Tademe in Washington DC 23 years ago. Both women had the same dream of refuting the negative image of Ethiopia in world media.

“I understood that Abay wanted to promote Ethiopia’s 3,000-year history, its culture and its unique alphabet,” Tademe told AA. “I wanted to support her vision.”

Tademe did this by donating the 950-square-meter compound for the cultural center. She inherited the site from her father and – valued as it was – believed it would best serve as the launch pad for Abay’s project.

-Challenges-

The site was not, however, all Abay needed to create the center. She also needed to pour money into the place so that it would be ready to receive visitors and accommodate the heritage items it now has.

Abay spent some $295,000 – her life’s savings – to build the center into what it is now.  

“So far, I have created ten permanent jobs,” Abay said. “More could be done, but there’s a lack of space.”

Some people have tried to convince Abay that the site should be turned into a restaurant or pub so as to make more money. 

But she is unwavering in her desire to show the real Ethiopia to both Ethiopians and foreigners.

“There are Ethiopians who love their country and give me support as much as they can,” Abay said. “Many architects and designers worked with me; I consider them to be my backbone.”

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