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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