Field and river

20th International Conference of Ethiopian Studies (ICES20)
Mekelle University, Ethiopia

"Regional and Global Ethiopia - Interconnections and Identities"
1-5 October, 2018

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Kim GLÜCK, Frobenius Institute for Research in Cultural Anthropology, Germany
Sarah BUSHRA, Ankeboot Publishing House, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Adey, the first international dance festival in Ethiopia took place from October 26-28, 2017 as a result of a 3-months road tour across the country. Considering the influence of funding institutions and organizing companies on the proposed and achieved goals of this festival, this paper analyzes the methodology involved in the inception, preparation, organization, and presentation of a festival and its impact in shaping the appearance and overall characteristics of the outcome. ADEY project was organized by DESTINO dance company, a private institution that secured funds from European Development Fund (EDF), EU’s main instrument for providing development aid to Africa, under the division: “Promoting Heritage and Culture for Ethiopia’s Development – support to the development of cinema, photography, and visual art sector”. What are the aims of this multinational operating economic and political union in providing monetary support to this project and how do these aims align with the goals of the fund recipient and eventually with the general public for whom the Festival is meant to benefit. As part of the travelling group in the Adey project, our investigation draws from the organizers’ approach in engaging with locals throughout the places they visited, in an endeavor to document, preserve, and advertise traditional dances of various ethnic groups in Ethiopia. We study the impact of constraints of the journey, including shortage of allocated time for visited regions, language barriers, and the presence of cameras that encouraged curated situations in lieu of documenting what is observed. Bearing in mind the monopoly of the organizing company on the decision making process involved in shaping the festival compounded with the requirements and expectations of its funding institutions does the Festival celebrate culture or the selected benefits of culture to the organizing companies? Furthermore, we put to question the nature of the “object” a Festival produces. Is festivilization of culture equivalent to commercialization of culture and does it run the risk of folklorizing the culture it aims to promote?