IMAGinING TOBIA (2006, 2007)



Salem Mekuria

Rachelle Dang
Funded by BIACS2, Wellesley College Faculty Awards, and the McNeil Program for Studies in American Art.
Excerpts from “My Country” a poem by Gebre Kristos Desta.

A Triptych Video Installation | By Salem Mekuria


IMAGinING TOBIA is a triptych video installation synchronized to present vivid images of the Ethiopian cultural and physical landscapes.

September 2007 is the beginning of Ethiopia’s Third Millennium. In celebration of this milestone, I offer IMAGinING TOBIA as a mirror on which to reflect issues confronting the nation, and as a space in which to meditate on the disjunction between our “real” and imagined knowledge of Ethiopia and its multi-faceted history.


As an Ethiopian-American I examine my own gaze on my native land as I take in impressions of the variety and diversity of the landscape and its people. In this way, TOBIA (a vernacular pronunciation for Ethiopia) represents a travelogue recorded by a hybridized explorer’s camera, then layered and juxtaposed in infinite ways to create a multitude of meanings and associations. The triptych is a reference to Ethiopia’s traditional religious art. By inviting viewers to engage with fast moving images on multiple channels I show the simultaneous existence of the old and the new while giving primacy to images over words.



Bienal Internacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Sevilla, 2006-07
“Continuity and Change: Three Generations of Ethiopian Artists” The Harn
Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, 2007