kaleidoscope // spring 2023

Emu Tsegereda Getachew

studio art // @emutgetachew

“Dir Ina Mag”
(Amharic for “Warp And Weft” )
4’ x 26’
Torn strips of woven cotton fabric, yarn

"Dir Ina Mag" is the artist's response to the ethnic-based political and social crises brewing in Ethiopia, her native country.

As a descendant of the two major rivaling ethnic groups in Ethiopia, the Oromo and the Amhara, the artist explores her own identity in the context of her native country's cultural identity.

Since the artist left her native country several decades ago, Ethiopia has undergone several regime changes. Politicians have divided the country into ethnically based states, causing divisions and rivalry among Ethiopia's once united and peacefully co-existing people. As a result, the people's unity and inter-ethnic relationships are deteriorating. Currently, people are being displaced and persecuted based on their ethnicity.

Ethiopia as a country is the sum of all its 75 plus ethnic groups. Each has woven its unique culture, tradition, custom, and language into the larger fabric of the "Ethiopian Culture."

Thus, in "Dir Ina Mag", the artist used a handmade loom and traditional weaving methods to examine the notion of cultural identity. The wefts of the throw are torn strips of cotton fabric known as "Gabi," a traditional Ethiopian throw. A Gabi is made out of hand-spun cotton threads, white in color, and mostly made with borders that have colorful patterns. From the colors and patterns of a Gabi, one can tell in which part of the country it is made. Traditionally women make the hand-spun cotton threads for the wefts, and the men do the weaving. For this work, the artist bought several Gabis directly from the weavers in Ethiopia as well as collected donations of used Gabis anonymously. She then tore off strips of Gabis and used them as the wefts for her larger Gabi. Gabis with no borders were chosen to eliminate regional identification for this work to symbolize the everyday use of Gabi across different ethnic groups.

Gabi is the primary material in "Dir Ina Mag" because it holds deep cultural significance and carries endless uses by many ethnic groups in Ethiopia. For instance, a Gabi is given as a gift to close friends and families at momentous occasions such as weddings. It is also used as a shroud for the deceased.

Through visibly loose hand weavings, knots, and interconnecting panels of throws, the artist is re-creating a larger "Gabi" from smaller pieces of other Gabis. Through this process, the artist explores the complexities of the different aspects of cultural identity.

Like the warps and the wefts coming together harmoniously in creating a fabric, one's cultural DNA is inseparably woven from the sums of all their inherited cultural identities. Whenever one's larger cultural fabric unravels, it inevitably unravels one's identity.

* Amharic - is one of the widely spoken languages in Ethiopia. The work is meant to be titled in Amharic. “Dir Ina Mag” is the phonetic spelling and pronunciation of the Amharic words “ድር እና ማግ”. The English translation of the Amharic words are “Warp and Weft”.