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French photographer vows to press ahead with his endeavors to promote Ethiopia’s heritages

Addis Ababa, June 15, 2023 (FBC) – The renowned French photographer, author and documentary film maker, Hugues Fontaine has pledged commitment to press ahead with his strides to release additional works of photography and books that are instrumental to promote Ethiopian historical and cultural heritages to the rest of the world.

Fifteen years ago, Hugues Fontaine has published a book entitled ‘Un train en Afrique’ in which he presented his photographs depicting travel accounts of the peoples of Ethiopia and Djibouti.

In addition, last year on 9th February, he released a book named MENELIK which has more than 300 pages and 420 photographs, maps and documents showing Ethiopia during the reign of Emperor Menelik II from 1868-1916. This book is written in three versions: French, English and Amharic.

The Amharic version of the book is aimed to offer the Ethiopian public a sum of 410 photographs, illustrations and maps depicting the faces of the then Ethiopia through the eyes of explorers at the end of the 19th century.

The book presents leaders including the emperor and the empress, historical places, buildings, activities and historic events took place in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country that took place 100 years ago. The collection of the photographs, maps and other materials included in the book took him more than 15 years.

Furthermore, Hugues Fontaine has recently co-organized a photo exhibition held at Yimbtubezina Museum in Friendship Park II, Addis Ababa under the theme “Addis Ababa: The Birth of a City”.

Hugues Fontaine explaining to foreign and local visitors about his photographs

The photo exhibition is tailored to portray the birth of Addis Ababa as a capital city of Ethiopia a century ago.

In an exclusive with Fana Broadcasting Corporate, Hugues Fontaine said the photographs showcased in the exhibition have been collected from private and public libraries and museums in the U.S., Italy, Germany, Australia and Russia and other countries in Europe.

He said Ethiopians used their own homegrown methods including drawings, paintings, carvings and books to record their historical and cultural facts; but, the photographs taken by historians and explorers in late 19th century and early 20th century are more important to depict the then Ethiopia in a more realistic manner.

Photographs taken by Alfred Ilg, the Swiss Engineer and advisor of the Emperor were also included in the exhibition, he said.

Addis Ababa is currently changing rapidly. There are huge investments and economic activities in Addis Ababa. It is attracting international conferences and other events. Given this booming growth in the city, the photograph exhibition helps visitors to clearly see the image of the century old progress of the capital.

He appreciated the decision made by the city administration of Addis Ababa to preserve the house of Woizero Yimtubezina as a museum, calling the government to strengthen its ongoing efforts to promote similar attration sites so as to boost the tourism sector.

The French photographer and author told FBC that he has been completing his new book which is focused on Tadjoura town, Djibouti and its historical significance in the East African region.

Hugues Fontaine further announced that he is working with Ethiopia-Friench friendship team to release his another book substantiated with photographs and other valuable documents on the National of Jubilee Palace of Ethiopia which will be opened for public as a museum in the years to come.

“Foreign tourists mainly want to visit historical and cultural sites in Addis Ababa and other parts of the country. Therefore, the government give prior attention to the preservation and promotion of historical heritages so as to better boost the tourism sector,” he noted.

He expressed gratitude to the Embassy of Switzerland and scholars of the Addis Ababa University for their contribution to his book and the exhibiton held at Yimtubezina Museum, calling other stakeholders to play their part in preserving and promoting historical and cultural heritages of Ethiopia.

Abel Asefa, the main curator of Yimtubezina musem, the first privately owned museum in Ethiopia, told FBC that Hugues Fontaine has been voluntarily promoting the heritages of Addis Ababa citing his contribution to the recently held exhibition as in exemplary support.

Abel said the museum was built in 1900 as a private house of one of the prominent figures of Ethiopia, Woizero Yimtubezina. The city government of Addis Ababa has registered the house as one of the heritages of the city and left it at its original place which is now located in the Friendship Park II. And the house has become the first privately owned museum in Addis Ababa.

The museum holds Household utensils, traditional coloths and other personal properties of Woizero Yimtubezina and other prominent figures of the country that date back to a century ago are being showcased in the museum, he explained.

The museum helps visitors to easily compare the oldest Addis Ababa with the current one which is seeing fastest social and economic development.

We have so far organized three exhibitions in the museum. The recent one was opened in June 1, 2023 and lasted for two weeks. Members of the diplomatic community, foreign visitors and residents of Addis Ababa have visited the exhibition that was closed on 14 June.

Besides serving as a museum, the historical house is serving as reference for students of higher educational institutions who are conducting research projects on the historical architectural designs and buildings of the capital, Abel added.

By Wondesen Aregahegn

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