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Wenzu (Exercpt): Stop-motion animation, grains, salt, plants, vegetables, 3' 09"

 

This animation is inspired by an Ethiopian urban folktale. It was documented as part of a larger story collection project; Story project; supported by the Dondis A. Dondis Travel Fellowship, from Massachusetts College of Art.

After a few months of travel we returned to Addis Ababa to the house were I grew up. I wanted to hear a story from my grandmother, Tafesech Zeleke, who raised me. She told us the story, Wenzu, in her kitchen. When she passed away I decided to make this piece.

In the story, Mr. Hyena who is drinking water upstream accuses Ms. Donkey who is drinking water downstream of dirtying his water. The two characters in the story are the most common residents in Ethiopia (the country has the second highest population of donkeys in the world). Today in Ethiopia, many people know this story but no one knows its origin, history or author.

For this project, I built a greenhouse and planted a crop of beans. On a piece of glass suspended over the greenhouse, I used salt, tomatoes, onions, teff, and lentil to animate the story while the beans grew in the background. A still camera connected to a computer and mounted above the greenhouse captured each frame. The most performative project for me since I was documenting the growth of the plants, I could only work forward without rearranging or reshooting scenes. The still images and the sound from the original documentation of the story were edited together to complete the animation. The process was as experiential as the telling of the story, existing only for the moment, celebratory and temporal.

Installation: DAK'ART 11th Biennale

Photo courtsey Kyla Herrmannsen

 

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