Michael Tsegaye: Future Memories 2009
A review by Monique Pelser
40 x 40 cm
Gelatine Silver print
Michael Tsegaye’s image, of a skyscraper under construction in Addis Ababa, is representative of the constantly shifting surface of the African landscape. Currently China is investing in the development of infrastructure in Ethiopia. The old city is systematically being torn down and replaced with major skyscrapers, bridges and other such structures. Since the early 2000’s Tsegaye has been documenting the changing city marking how the previously independent Ethiopia is slowly being financially colonized by China. Ethiopia is the only African country on the continent that was never previously colonized. It has been self-governing throughout its history. As China has been moving into the African continent in search of resources to mine for industry, it has been supporting the development of third world countries generating, good will and debt so that it can draw from these resources as a way of sustaining their massive production rate. Ethiopia is a country very rich in minerals.
In the 1980’s and 1990’s during the famine in Ethiopia the United Nations and other aid agencies like UNESCO started to move into Ethiopia. The media agencies of the Western World started to focus on the idea of the poor African and aid began. The media used images of starving Ethiopians as a tool to generate sympathy and proliferate the idea that the country could not support itself and its people and that the entire country were starving. This is not the case. While there was a famine, it affected a community in the North of Ethiopia and not the entire population as is generally understood in the West. The United Nations and UNESCO was sent to Ethiopia and subsequently over the past two or three decades the country has slowly been managed to allow the mining of resources by other countries.
At face value the image of the tower being built represents the development of the city, the eucalyptus scaffolding points towards the Chinese method of building and it shows growth and development. However the image evokes the biblical myth of the Tower of Babel, where a tower was being built for man to reach heaven.