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Traveling photographer shares experiences in Ethiopia

This article originally appeared in the Ball State Daily News

An artist featured in the David Owsley Museum of Art’s (DOMA) exhibition “Fractured Narratives” brought stories of his travels in Ethiopia to a campus talk March 26.

Eric Gottesman’s work in the exhibit highlights the Ethiopian novel “Oromaye” and its author Baalu Girma. The work involves photos and video. His talk covered his own time and experiences in Ethiopia.

Gottesman did not gain an interest in photography until his last year of college when he took a photography class. He was working to become a lawyer. Gottesman realized there was something about photography that he wasn’t getting from being in a court or in an office.

In 1999, Gottesman traveled to Ethiopia for a photography project. He worked closely with kids whose parents had died from AIDS. These children were called Sudden Flowers, which also happens to be the title of Gottesman’s book.

The Sudden Flower children used photography to express the grief they felt in their lives from the death of their parents. The group started with only six members, but soon grew to around 25 members.

In the beginning of the project, Gottesman worked with a translator to communicate with the kids. He then learned to speak Amharic, one of the around 80 languages spoken in Ethiopia.

With his knowledge of the language, Gottesman has been able to translate “Oromaye” to English. He began the translation as a hobby with a friend, and he has almost completed the full translation. He contacted Girma’s children and has worked with them on the translation. Girma's kids will decide whether the English version will be published.

Ball State was Gottesman’s first visit to Indiana.

“Though I’ve been to Ethiopia, this is the most exotic place I’ve been in a while,” he said.

Alyson Walbridge, a senior art history major, interns at DOMA. Because she created educational material for the docents for “Fractured Narratives,” she was familiar with Gottesman’s work previous to his arrival. She read the first couple chapters of Gottesman’s translation of “Oromaye.”

“I think what he’s doing is so great,” Walbridge said.

Another DOMA intern, James Schwab, a senior drawing major, was not as familiar with Gottesman’s work before reading "Oromaye."

“I feel like I got so much more information about his work,” Schwab said. “I got so much more understanding about what he’s doing.”

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