Other Work

Building Community: Reflections on Ethiopian Life in Los Angeles

Building Community is a multimedia presentation that looks at aspects of Los Angeles’ Ethiopian community. I collaborated on the project with the photographer Ara Oshagan, an old friend. Here’s how we described it in materials distributed earlier this year:

Taking Comptonís Virgin Mary Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church as their starting point, Oshagan and Haile explore the significance and challenges of rebuilding community, defining identity and preserving culture. The resulting work, a multimedia presentation that combines Oshaganís striking images with carefully edited clips from a series of interviews conducted by Haile, is a thoughtful reflection on universal questions of self and community as they are shaped by the specific context of the Ethiopian-American experience.

As you can see from the flyer, we debuted the work in Los Angeles in March 2008, at a presentation that was followed by a panel discussion. The four panelists offered interesting perspectives that reflected their very different biographies and professions (getting to know Elias and Mesai, whom I hadn't previously met, was a wonderful ancillary benefit. You can see more on Eliasís publishing company here and Mesaiís gallery here.) The moderated discussion was then followed by a terrific question and answer period, which just underscored for me that Ethiopian-Americans are quite ready to seriously engage these topics. I was also struck by how many questioners wanted specific "how to" guidance: how to hang on to Amharic, how exactly to preserve community, how to lend a hand to other Ethiopian-Americans, how best to use skills and resources to benefit Ethiopia. These are good, hard questions that no one person can answer.

I hope we can show our work in public forums again so that we can keep this conversation going. In the meantime click here to watch the multimedia presentation (it's about 22 minutes long) and here to read an article from the California Council for the Humanities reporting on the project.

USC sponsored the project and the California Council for the Humanities provided support. Many thanks to both institutions, and to my dad and Don Miller for the help they gave along the way.



I’m currently working on fiction, trying my hand at several short stories and a novel. You can read an excerpt from one of these works-in-progress here.


Copyright © Rebecca Haile 2008
This site designed and maintained by Bumblebee Design & Marketing©