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"Daybreak is Near" Draws Inspiration from Ancestral Memory in The Horn of Africa

Daybreak is Near is a love letter to a city that has been a historical center of African power. The project explores the idea of what it means to live in an ever modernizing urban space, how we as citizens are able to reclaim and re-experience the history of our cities, and the role that fashion plays in the idea of belonging. Throughout the project the subject moves through her city as a flaneur, exploring questions around urban spectatorship, class tensions, and gender divisions of the twenty-first-century African metropolis and grapples with the notions of modern alienation & the postmodern spectatorial gaze. The project draws inspiration from ancestral memory and attempts to show what it means to subvert cultural, social, and gender imaginaries in the Horn of Africa.

Staged in the infamous Piassa neighborhood of Addis Ababa, the project also grapples with the themes of gentrification, urban renewal, and the long lasting effects of displacement on communities tied to historic centers. The main figure poses in front of various structures throughout the series to commemorate and memorialize what may in the near future no longer exist. In this sense Daybreak is Near also serves as an archive, as a pathway for us to remember what once was, what may soon be gone.

Playing with the theme of temporarily the subjects in Daybreak is near traverse time and space. The short film opens up with a montage of a cityscape. Viewers are introduced to Addis Ababa. The city is a living character, as much a part of the story as its human counterparts. The viewer is led through market places, through memorials, spaces of worship, and sites of commerce. In Piassa the viewer finds the subject dressed in a shimmering red dress perched on a chair next to a shoe cleaning service, in another frame she stands in-front of a modern architectural structure in a green Somali Dirac, shifting her weight from one foot to another. She glides across a main road, green tulle fabric in her arms, hair billowing in the wind to stand in-front of a classic neighborhood restaurant. Richly textured fabrics, and ornate jewelry, feature heavily in the images, to cement the idea that in East Africa fashion is both an elaborate, and artistic affair. As day becomes night we make leaps from the urban to the natural, from a densely populated city to a sparse forest. The subjects become almost ghost like in this new setting. Their costumes, and jewelry glistening in the moody dusk light.

Juxtaposing the nostalgia evoked by vintage photography and film the project attempts to circumnavigate history to superimpose a future not yet here, not yet lived. The body plays a central role in the works created, and it is used as a signifier and tool to challenge traumatic histories; as well as to shed light on the historic and present power dynamics that govern the manner in which identity, and memory are viewed both throughout the region, and globally. The series seeks to dissect history and move it to the present and future. In essence this means to create conceptual frameworks, to interrogate & re-shape how structures of power have created meaning in how the 'other' is seen & understood in the East African Region.

In a world where sentiments like "less is more" are highly pervasive, the series seeks to highlight how in the global south, namely the African continent the converse holds true. How "more is more" is an accurate descriptor of how life is lived here in the Horn. Daybreak is Near seeks to highlight that. It seeks to show what it means to embrace your uniqueness, and be free from society's limiting beauty ideals.


Photography: Madenna Ibrahim

Styling/Costume design: Gouled Ahmed

Anatoli Bulti ( @___anatoli____)


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