Don’t Make Me Look Like the Kids on TV

Dawit’s main motivation for creating this project arose during a portrait session in Ethiopia when his cousin, Fitsum, jokingly told him, “Don’t Make Me Look Like the Kids on TV.” Stunned by Fitsum’s statement Dawit decided then and there that he would compile all the photos he had taken in Ethiopia to show a story most have not seen before. A real story.

Due to the state of emergency (a response to the anti-government protests) that the country was in, Dawit was limited to mostly taking photos outside of taxis or in private areas with just a $10 point-and-shoot film camera. He also only brought four rolls of film. His family warned him that his digital camera might cause unwanted attention, especially from the police. This explains the constant distance that is seen in most of the pictures, an analogy to his relationship with Ethiopia, distant. He would later add old family photos and scans of miscellaneous items.

Weaving new photos together with the old made it seem as if time was never linear. Without knowing it, the project became a personal journey through space and time in Ethiopia; a self-reflection on his life and identity while still contrasting the outdated and awfully misleading images of Ethiopia.

“Till the last couple years of grade school, I dreaded when people asked me where I was from mainly because I knew what was coming. A train of ignorant comments: “isn’t that were all the skinny kids with big heads are,” “are there lions there,” “pot-belly,” “flies” and many more. Little did I realize then that these comments were merely a reflection of their lack of knowledge, rather an attack on Ethiopia and myself. Once I realized that, I started being more vocal about the true identity of Ethiopia and its culture. Later on, I came across film and photography, which made it easier to communicate this with people. My interest in telling stories of the misrepresented finally had a home and that was through art.” - Dawit N.M.