Accepted Paper:

Collaborating on the production and trade of images of cultural diversity of the Rift Valley  


Ricardo Leizaola (Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Nico Lewis (Goldsmiths College, University of London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper deals with the production and trade of audiovisual representations of cultural diversity during the One Thousand Stars Festival, Ethiopia.

Paper long abstract:

The Southern region (SNNPR) is the most ethnically diverse area of Ethiopia. For five years now the Thousand Stars Festival has been showcasing this diversity in Arba Minch. The festival features most of the SNNPR's 56 recognised ethnic groups. The aim of the festival is the celebration of cultural diversity. The festival also aims to be a platform for cultural exchange and understanding for all the different ethnic groups involved as well as a display for city people. This year the event attracted around 50,000 visitors including many outsiders keen to photograph the event and record the music.

In addition to organizing the festival Gughe Indigenous Art and Music Association in collaboration with researchers from the Centre for Visual Anthropology is attempting to document this cultural diversity. While the event attracts an array of image-makers (professional and amateur, local and foreign...) many groups of the performers themselves are recording their own culture and contribution.

This paper reviews this collaboration against the backdrop of these multiple and sometimes competing interests. It argues that visual anthropology is distinctive from the other records primarily because it tries to put the performances in complex context and to understand and portray these cultural expressions and exchanges as processes rather than catching them as fixed isolated products. In this light, attention should also be given to the production and trade in visual representations of cultural diversity (including by the researchers) that is taking place because of the Festival.

Panel W049
Audio-visual representation and cultural diversity