Salambo discovering Ethiopia
I went to a friend’s house the other morning for a yoga session we have set up in our area. Yoga classes and qualified teachers are hard to find in Addis so we need to organise ourselves to practice regularly. He and his family are lucky to rent out one of those modernist 1960s villas, built at the time with a lot of architectural thought, the kind of house that is being erased nowadays if located in the wrong area. Theirs is in the residential Old Airport district so it will stay, however, my friend told me, the authorities decided to take half of the front garden to turn the current road into a dual carriage way. Once again, even if in this case the house will survive, it is the green area around it that is affected by the development frenzy that has taken over Addis. While we are trying to re-create green spaces in the Western World, here the green goes at a very fast pace to build yet more roads and buildings.
The house belongs to a family who was part of the elite at the time of Emperor Haile Selassié, when the few people who were lucky enough to be part of it had a very good standard of living, freely importing whatever they needed and contracting top architects to design their private houses. Such houses are today a remaining legacy of an era long gone, allowing newcomers such as myself to get a glimpse of the old Ethiopia. Unlike the newly built style-less mansion houses surrounded by high walls with very little outdoor space, these old houses tend to have beautiful flowery gardens with jacaranda, avocado and tall palm trees. Beyond the history and politics, they also have a great aesthetic value for the unique Addis style that was created in that decade. I have written about architecture in Addis in previous posts, describing the unique style of some of the major public buildings in the city.
We can argue that Africa has the same right to urbanisation as the rest of the World, but as my friend pointed out, we are today suffering from the consequences of such hasty development, so why not try not to repeat the mistakes we made in the Western World, which continue to have a lasting effect on our quality of life. I believe we have gone past the stage of agreeing which side of the planet has more of a right to urban and industrial development, we need to work together to protect nature if we want to survive, it is our common house and the only one we have.