Categories
Art

STRANGER DANGER…BUT MAKE IT ARTSY?

It is 4:48 AM and I am on a train back from Basel headed to Zurich. Doesn’t that sound like wealth?! Yeah, well, pipe down Switzerland has left your girl for dead. I was only a couple more coffee purchases away from auditioning for Squid Game.

If you’ve been keeping up with my gallivanting on this blog or on Instagram you know that I am currently on sabbatical trying to find the meaning of life. So far I’ve got nothing, I’m literally 3 weeks in, and I’ve run out of deodorant (that’s a story for another day) BUT I’ve had some pretty incredible experiences. The story I am about to tell you is about my experience at Art Basel this past weekend and it can NOT be made up. It is so bizarre that I am still in shock.

Wait, before I get into it let me explain what the hell this festival is even about. Art Basel is an art gathering held annually in three major cities, Hong Kong, Miami, and Basel, and I’ve decided to check it out in Basel, Switzerland as it fell on my birthday. My overly simplified version of the purpose of Art Basel is to bring curators, galleries, artists, art collectors, etc. together to buy, sell, and share artwork (I’m sure there are other explanations for this event but I’m sticking to this one.) This ain’t your “support local artists” yard sale, pieces were on sale for upwards of $40 million. So now that I’ve set the scene and called you broke lets get back to the point of this article.

I arrived in Basel on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. I am fresh off my 30th birthday celebration (slightly hungover and tired). I check into my basic ass Airbnb and somehow muster up the energy to check out the neighborhood. I walk for about 3 minutes and then boom I’m looking right onto the Rhine River. It is nothing but fine European men laid out on the sand trying to get a tan, jumping into the river, and floating on a device they call a Wickelfisch. I’m like OK this is niceeeeee – the Airbnb may be giving “utilitarian” but the neighborhood is definitely giving cultural luxe experience bay-bee. I walk around a little more and just like that I walk right into a photography outdoor exhibit by Cesar Dezfuli. Y’all I was so blown away. I low-key needed a sign and this was a sign that I was in the exact place I was supposed to be.

Fast forward to Sunday, my ticketed day to visit Art Basel. I wake up nervous and excited. I would say the feeling is comparable to first day of school jitters (outfit laid on bed you know the whole nine). I get dressed and spend about an hour trying to figure out should I wear these kitten heels, should I bring my backpack even though the website specifically says backpacks are prohibited, my mind wonders “to who the hell is going to take my instagram pictures if I can’t bring my tripod.” (I’m giving you this back story because it is really important to understand God’s timing in all of this.) So, after about an hour, I decide yes to the kitten heels, no to the the backpack and f the tripod. I head out to Messe Platz.

I get to the Art Basel Plaza and the place is crawling with people…I mean COVID who? Of course face masks were required, yada yada and I get in line with the regular citizens with my regular/general admissions ticket. Once inside I spend about 30 mins roaming and I’m starting to feel myself because I am getting really good at recognizing artists work without reading the plaques. So I’m LIKE ok bish you belong *flips hair*.

I start to walk towards the other side of the plaza and I pass by an older dark skin man, we make eye contact and I smile with my eyes of course (because COVID) and keep it moving. (Seeing Black people in these spaces, especially a brotha in these spaces is always a breathe of fresh air so I’m always gonna give the courtesy head nod.)

I keep walking for about 30 secs and I see him from the corner of my eye swing back around. He pulls up on me, looks at my forehead, eyes, idk what but immediately asks are you Ethiopian? (Shoutout to my parents for these genes.) I respond “I am” and he lets me know he is from Chad, introduces himself, we do a little small talk about his time in Addis and then he asks if I’ve been to the VIP Collectors Lounge yet. Ok friends, remember when I said I came through the regular citizens line with my general admissions (another word for general is BASIC) ticket – then you all know I damn sure did NOT have access to the Collectors Lounge. I’m looking at this man like nah homie – I IS POOR. He laughs and just like that says “ok come on” and 2 minutes later I am in the Collectors Lounge hanging out with my new friend who I find out later (after some googles) has an extraordinary background. That man took me under his wing for the entire festival. We spent the entire day together (from 12:38PM to 9:30PM). He introduced me to curators, gave me contacts in the art space and access to some of the most exclusive experiences (please see photos below) at the festival and imparted some of the most timely wisdom I needed to hear just a day into my thirties. I know y’all are probably like sis did your mom ever teach you about “stranger danger?” And to be honest I would be lying if I didn’t say that the thought of this man kidnapping me did not cross my mind because it definitely did but I like to think I have good judgement *shrugs shoulders*. (My undiagnosed ADD also made me wonder is it still kidnapping if you are 30 years old?)

I don’t think y’all understand just how wildly generous this man was – his generosity was solely based on the premise that someone did it for him and that he wanted to see a community amongst Black people in the arts. Y’all I got so teary eyed because once again I felt affirmed for traveling over 3000000 miles to be in this space. He gave me a couple words of advice on how to experience life, showed me around the city and then just like that he hopped on a train back to Paris.

I was left dumbfounded. Partly because this was such a random experience but also by my ability to get into some deep ass conversations with people within 15 minutes of meeting them. *Le sigh* what can I say? It is a gift haha.

Anyway y’all know I love to overshare so of course I am sharing the three things that stuck with me during our conversations below.

  1. You deserve to live the life you live. This is essentially saying you get what you ask/go for. There are a ton of things not in our control but there are equally just as many things that are and can be mastered to create the life (or whatever you want). So show up and do your best – that is all this life requires from us.
  2. Exposure changes a person. Hanging out in the Collectors Lounge I was able to try out different products from sponsors of the event. One happened to be La Praire, a luxury skincare company, that is well known for their skin caviar collection. The rep walked me through the science/technology behind the product and rubbed the product on my hand. I wish I could give you a verbal description of how it felt but I can’t so here is a visual.
Bobby Hill Ascending / Out Of Body Experience | Know Your Meme
  1. My new acquittances and I began to have a crazy long conversation on how once you are exposed to certain things you just can’t go back. (I had to bow out though because until I touch my first billion I don’t think La Praire will be in my purview anytime soon.) Exposure and my favorite word access really changes a person. This was a VERY superficial example but it can be applied to just about anything – once you know better you really do want better.
  2. Die empty. I’m not the biggest fan of talking about death, in fact it makes me uncomfortable but I can confidently say that the goal is to die empty. In this life you can’t take anything with you so take the time to figure out what is important to you and pour into, into people, etc. My new friend had a near death experience in South Africa that really woke him up and just hearing it woke me up.

I firmly believe that my Basel experience would not have been what it was had it gone any other way. That man is an angel and he is now a good friend of mine. Bah-Pna, if you are reading this, thank you for making my Basel experience one of kind, thank you for your wisdom, for you time and effort – I hope to be able to impact another strangers life as you did mine. Also, 10/10 would recommend Basel, Switzerland. (I know it is is a privilege to be able to travel and even more of a privilege to be able to attend these events but I do hope more people can experience this cultural epicenter.)

—-

Anyways life is good. I’m headed to the Bloy Institute to get my first facial with some of the best esthetician’s the Netherlands have to offer. Y’all pray that they don’t oversell me on skincare…because like I said earlier I ain’t got it. Peace.

Categories
Art Identity Politic me.

I almost scrapped this post but Tigray wouldn’t let me…

As a disclaimer this is NOT part 3 of the “Never Needed Permission” Series. Part 3 is in the tuck because this is truly much more pressing. If you are curious as to what would make me temporarily pause on a series that essentially revitalized my love for writing on this raggedy website than please, by all means, keep reading.


This pandemic is a never ending loop of FaceTime calls, Zoom chats, WhatsApp messages, etc. I promise I’m not “complaining” but gahhh damn.

In one of those calls I caught up with a friend of a friend who I’d been meaning to talk to for awhile now and of course Ethiopia came up. (I’m slowly turning into my dad it’s amazing.) I told her I wanted to write about what was happening back home and her knee-jerk reaction/advice was to not throw myself into the fire. So here I am, doing it anyway, throwing myself into the pit because ya girl will risk it all for a crumb of identity talk *shrugs*

For those who are reading this and not aware of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Ethiopia please see article here. Let the ramble begin.


“Her personal experience was completely analogous with the restlessness and confusion of her beloved homeland.”

I came across this quote while reading an art history critique on Frida Kahlo. (Fancy right?! Lmao I know. I have to be honest, though, I was on ASOS looking at matching joggers and somehow ended up ten tabs deep into Frida’s life. So this whole post was partly inspired by my undiagnosed ADD and online shopping habit.) If you’re not familiar with Frida, the bad ass, then I definitely recommend doing your googles or watching Salma Hayek’s rendition of “Frida.” For the purposes of this post you just need to know that she was Mestiza (of mixed race), her father was German and her mother was an indigenous Mexican. (She was what Americans like to call a melting pot or salad, or whatever the hell the saying is…)

Anyway, back to the critique – the critic was critiquing Frida’s very public identity crisis and how her 1940’s pieces were strongly tied to a post-revolutionary Mexico. The author walked readers through Frida’s attempt to reconcile her “Mexican self with her European self.” Frida’s early portraits showed a balance between her two worlds. She understood how both “parts of herself” contributed to her wholeness but over time she went from being balanced, to a die-hard patriot, I’m talking complete nationalistic association, tat that shit on my forearm, cue the national anthem- to a clear and distinct “I don’t fuck with youuu.”

You’re probably like ok girl, Frida was clearly having a mid-life crisis what’s your point? Well my point is, right now, many of my/your friends, my/your loved ones and hell even myself are having that exact same breakdown. We are trying to put into words how the bloodshed, the displacement and quite frankly the sheer lack of compassion towards ALL Ethiopians, and I do mean ALL, is impacting our psyche and identity.

I personally have struggled to vocalize my thoughts/feelings/etc. as the conflict is extremely personal. The only way I can even begin to describe my feelings is to say I am restless and at times I am confused – oh and numb.

It does not matter where you stand on the current events of the country because a Diaspora's life, much like Frida's life, is tied to the restlessness of his or her "home." It is tied to the restlessness/confusion that some argue may or may not exist (I'm not about to get into that), the restlessness/confusion prompting ethnic groups to disassociate completely from the greater nation and the restlessness/confusion that is chipping away at the core concepts of what it means to identify as an Ethiopian.  

It is a lot. That’s the price of having two homes…right?

I mean between the race wars in the US, the many factions back home, the pandemic and then you add on the fact that we are on a floating rock paying taxes – it is just a lot. It is a lot. With all of that said I am not here to push some kind of kumbaya agenda. HELL I’m not even sure I know where I am going with this particular article anymore but I do want to make it abundantly clear that I am speaking to the kids of the Diaspora. I am speaking to the kids of the Diaspora who are trying to show up everyday but watching their mothers and fathers get calls in the middle of the night letting them know the status of our grandmothers. I am speaking to the kids of the Diaspora who are stuck in the middle of living their best lives here in America but are also having this looming paralyzing feeling over them that their privilege is too real, to the kids who are hitting the streets raising awareness but feeling unheard and lastly to the kids of the Diaspora who come from mixed ethnic group homes where you are constantly trying to find your footing. I see you. I feel you and I’m here for you. (I’m on a flight to LA right now and typing like that one cat that has so much to say, so please disregard my long ass run-on sentences.)

Now I don’t want to end this all sad, helpless and shit so here are three things you can do to support your friends and/or efforts on the ground in Ethiopia:

  1. Donate. This can be tricky people are literally profiting of the pain of others so do your homework when selecting an organization to donate too. I recommend this particular fund.
  2. Advocate/spread awareness in whatever way you feel comfortable…full stop.
  3. Lastly, “listen to listen” rather than “listen to respond.” Look…people are fighting silent battles and if they do end up opening up on how they feel just listen – this is not the time or place to offer up some twitter recap of a clubhouse discussion where your cousin who graduated from some political science program is spitting out his/her personal political views. It ain’t…it just ain’t so please just listen and if you can listen with empathy.

Fin. That is it. This Delta flight attendant just handed me my coke and I’m running out of wifi minutes – I’m out y’all. Oh and for anyone who wanted to know I did not end up purchasing that jogger set it was sold out :/. Le sigh another one bites the dust.

Article is written in dedication to my Eno Hago Mulu.

Stay Down,

Astu

Categories
Entrepreneur

I see me

If you haven’t watched Black Art: In the Absence of Light please do yourself a favor and watch today. It feels so good to see me and so many of us – enjoy.

Categories
Advice Me and Life.

“Aye God if you want me to be a nun…just say dat!” (2/3)

I have stopped and started this post at least 30 times over the past two…now three months. I’ve tried to come at it at different angles. I’ve talked to my friends about it. I’ve even tried to make it a generic post when in reality this is supposed to be a place where my writing is supposed to be one of kind; it’s supposed to be authentic.

The irony of it all is it sounds exactly like my dating/love life.


I first experienced love, an unapologetic love, from my parents and the second time would be with my girlfriends who I am 1000% sure are my soulmates. These relationships are unique, they are dynamic and some of the most sacred and beautiful relationships I have in my life. Things just click and I rarely have to review the terms and conditions (because they don’t exist) and they have given back to me tenfold LIKE THIS SHIT IS BETTER THAN BITCOIN. There’s no anxiety, “peace” is guaranteed and I never ever ever ever have to question whether I can text, call, zoom (whatever the hell we doing now in a panorama) because there is an understood/mutual agreement to access. So with these solid examples of reciprocated love and healthy relationships you would think that I would understand and know how to apply it to other types of relationships right?

Fam you couldn’t be more wrong.

When I think about how I’ve approached liking/loving, dating and relationships in the past I truly laugh (to keep from crying from embarrassment). At one point in my adult life I was completely oblivious to the communication required to maintain a relationship. Like I somehow understood how communication worked with my friends but not my romantic entanglements. I was so nonchalant that I made a guy feel like he was an afterthought…his words not mine. I mean I guess I just assumed everything was fine without checking in (mistake number one…I was doing the bare minimum but in my defense I didn’t have unlimited text messaging so really, my guy, what did you want me to do)?!

I went through another phase where I used my goals as an excuse for why I couldn’t commit. I was enthralled with my studies and blog at the time that I didn’t even take the guy seriously. This man fell in love with me and I was very much so unavailable. So much so that when he finally came to his senses he jokingly said “I think you were the man in this relationship” and I didn’t flinch (mistake number two I wasn’t present…he may or may not speak to me to this day).

Ok now if you thought I had range with those two examples here is a third one for you – me overcompensating because all of sudden I GOT TIME. I had done a complete 180 where I’m like “ok dating is important” lemme go figure out this vulnerability thing right quick, laugh at the mans jokes and get my shit together. HA!

Putting on my smarter than you glasses to spit this free game.

These phases and many other personal and professional life experiences have brought me to where I am now. So here I am to impart my wisdom upon you all because I, too, was one of Lori Harvey’s foot soldiers but enough is enough thou shall not run the streets for all of eternity. We are all here trying to figure it out (well actually some of you because the two friends I know reading this already got mans dem on lock *waves hi friends*).

Here is what I’ve learned and I am continuing to learn:

  1. Liking/loving/dating requires a decision. If you have ever hung out with me you know I am the most indecisive person on this planet. Nothing gives me more anxiety than deciding. If horoscopes are your thing I’m a Libra, so yeah, do with that what you will. What I have learned is that relationships just don’t happen and they don’t miraculously sustain themselves. Being with someone means actively choosing them day in and day out. Go figure! Another thing to keep in mind is that decisions are not permanent, decisions can change at anytime but if you don’t make a decision you will never know peace. Take it from me who struggles to decide on a nail polish color…now throw in a man holding the nail polish bish I might as well roll over and die.
  2. Unfiltered communication and active listening skills are key. You’re probably like “wow groundbreaking stuff Aster…say it again.” And I get it. There are a million and one Cosmopolitan articles on the internet about communication and guess what?! Here goes a million and two because we are still f’ing this part up. For example, I can callout my girlfriends on their BS anytime and anywhere but swap my girlfriends out for a guy and all of a sudden I’m overthinking, journaling, stating my affirmations and calling in my council on how to broach a subject. My best friend one time even pulled out the sage to smudge our apartment! LOL. It ain’t cute…stressed Aster just ain’t cute. So yeah speak up, speak up often and if you aren’t able to then that should be something you reassess because who wants to be in something where they don’t feel like they can say what they need to say when they need to say it. Right? (All this applies to listening as well).
  3. Trust your gut. You know you. That is it. If you feel something is off then it probably is…my gut is right 99.9% of the time (I would say 100% but I’m working on being humble). Now I don’t want you to confuse this with thoughts stemming from insecurities. This is more so that feeling that you can’t shake because you know what is in front of you truly isn’t adding up. The math ain’t mathing and you have every right to act, rationally (of course), on it.
  4. It should be easy. This is my favorite tid-bit and I’m willing to die on this hill. When I used to work for the Mayor’s office back in 2014 -ish I met this woman, who is now my mentor, and she unintentionally taught me everything I needed to know about a happy and healthy relationship. While working I had met her husband and hung out with them a couple times at art events around the city and every time I would catch myself starring in awe at how they just fit. Of course, I only saw what they showed me but my curiosity, during one of our coffee dates, led me to ask her how is it being married. She picked up her cup of coffee, smiled and said “It is easy Asteriye.” I sipped the rest of my coffee like damn sis is that all I get?! Is this what I’m supposed to run back and tell my constituents, village, my tribe aka my girlfriends?!?! I was stressed. But now that I am older I know exactly what she was getting at and I wholeheartedly agree it should be easy. I can also already see you all shaking your heads and before you get your panties in a bunch let me clarify. Relationships take effort yes, relationships require work yes BUT relationships should not leave you drained, tired and/or spent. Think about your friendships – they are relatively easy otherwise why the hell are you friends with them!? I don’t know what is it but something happens when we go into dating mode. It’s like this added pressure makes us think romantic relationships are supposed to have ups, downs, and drama when in reality you (I) want it to mimic some of your closest friendships but with a little extra fun so yeah it should be easy and if it isn’t, make it and if you can’t…leave it.

Whew that was a lot of free game. To unlock all 10 key elements of a successful relationship please pre-order my ebook that will be hitting Amazon this summer titled “Make it Last Forever and Ever: Suggestions From a Fine Ass Single Girl.” (Hehe for my premium content check out my onlyFans). LOL in all seriousness take my advice with a grain of salt because I am a hypocrite and because deciding on people whether romantic or platonic is a very important decision. I’ve had great experiences and met amazing people but bottom line is a person should bring you peace, make you feel good, challenge you and push you to be the best version of you and that’s on what? Mary had a little lamb.

Stay Down,

Astu

Categories
Advice Human Character Inspiration Me and Life.

where to start (1/3)…

Wow. I felt amazing after writing those 200+ words the other day – like really amazing. I also started to overthink about when I run for public office will they find my confessions or grammatically incorrect pieces and drag it into some sort of campaign slander.

Yeah that is how I think. I go from 0 to 100 real fast. Some call it anxiety I call it proper planning.

Anyway you may or may not be here because of my decision to overshare. I’m not sure where to start. I promised three things: my love life, how I reclaimed my personal power and what I am continuing to learn. So I guess I’ll start with how I reclaimed my personal power…


Do you know what its like to achieve your biggest GOAL at 24? I mean something you’ve said you will do in the future and plan and plan and structure your everyday to meet? I’ll tell you what it feels like…it is devastating. My biggest goal at one point was to live, work, and give back to Ethiopia. At 24, I was fresh out of graduate school and just landed a fellowship that would give me, little ole ME, just that the opportunity to serve my beloved Ethiopia but little did I know it would take so much more from me.

Ok I’m being a little dramatic but when I say this trip changed my life IT CHANGED MY LIFE. I’ll start with the good. I met brilliant people, I was finally doing it (whatever “it” was at the time) and working in a space that I thought was meant for me and of course the ego boost whew those “I’m proud” of you messages hit different when you about to leave the country. But the 6 months were difficult. During those months, I experienced imposter syndrome, I struggled with the idea of being the eldest in my family returning to my parents country with empty hands, partying in a city with some of the most privileged people merely because my passport said American, and I struggled with the language – oh the LANGUAGE – that left me mute and sometimes isolated. Some parts of me shrunk and I didn’t even know it. I even let others communicate for me…bish whet?! This fellowship put me face to face with some of my insecurities around identity and I had no idea.

It wasn’t just identity like cultural identity BUT identity as it related to my field of study and work. Up until fairly recently I associated my identity with employment and truth be told I am still processing my detachment from that mindset (because friend you are not your job…OKURTT). I landed an incredible opportunity with some of the most brightest people in Addis and I learned so much from them. I, also, came face to face with blurred boundaries, burn-out from late hours and quick turn arounds, and immature coping mechanisms. No one could have prepared me for this and I’m not blaming anyone I’m just pointing it out for what it is an experience that accelerated my personal growth.

Reading this may seem like I figured out God was testing me pretty quickly, or that I pivoted or that the road to personal development was immediate but the gag is sis I am just now facing the impact of the trip in year of our Lord 2020. For the three years after I romanticized the experience when in actuality my confidence took a blow partly from my own doing AND partly because I was unable to address the experience.

Anyway, now on to the part about reclaiming my personal power part because no one likes a pity party. Here are three things that I believe have played a role in me getting back right post fellowship:

  1. Journaling – My journal is that b****. Actually I meant to say my journals are* because I have three large journals that have every crush, achievement, moment of weakness recorded. Them pages know the real me. I say this to say it is where I truly unload. If you think this post is a bit much whew you don’t want to see what my pages have. My journals give me a safe space to truly reflect and that was how I began to notice patterns, behaviors, things that didn’t make sense and I needed to get a grip.
  2. Plan – Part of my freakout with Ethiopia was due to the fact that I had achieved a goal and didn’t have the next thing lined up. It wasn’t that I didn’t have a job lined up because obviously I did. I came back to the US and landed a position at one of the top firms in the world BUT I didn’t get real about my passions and plan for them until I was already working 60 + hrs doing something I didn’t intend to do. My career counselor once told me if you don’t decide/plan someone will decide/plan for you and it won’t always align to what you want for your future. That was the realist shit I ever heard. I mean I am just now letting that sink in BUT hey it is sinking in.
  3. Don’t give up your power, its yours!Whew child. The number of times I willingly let this happen. BISH I should be arrested. I’m trying not to sound like a self help book but everything I type sounds like a page out of 7 Effective Habits of Successful People or something lol. In all seriousness be mindful of your energy, who has access to you, how they transfer on to you and what you take from them. Stay true to you BUT stand your ground. I say this because everyone has this image of someone telling another person to back off when they feel disrespected but that’s not my personality so stay true to you but stand your ground gently and in a way that is YOU.

All in all I do not regret my fellowship experience but I do want folks especially children of immigrants who return to their parents home countries to really have a soul searching moment to understand how this experience will transform and impact a person. These moments and experiences are invaluable and I can honestly say I thank God for his grace and for his roadmap on my life because he has been patient with me and it is truly up to Him in the end. Now go out there friend and reclaim that power because it is already yours…God said so.

Part 2/3 to be continued…

#StayDown