In the mid of the year 2019 we got a call, asking if you can travel to Ethiopia for an urgent mural project. The client, Mr Asit from Dubai shared with us the design and after few calls of briefing we agreed for our first overseas project. The challenge was that we had to cover quite a lot of area within twelve days of time.
Until we reached ‘Addis Ababa’ the capital of Ethiopia, we didn’t know much whereabouts of the project. Our project coordinator in Addis told us that we are going to paint the walls of Unity Park, which is also the residence of the Prime Minister of Ethiopia. We were awestruck!
Ethiopia being a political ground and due to major security threats they were not supposed to reveal us about the full details of the project. She took us to the gate of the palace where we went through tough security checks by the Ethiopian military personnel who resembled like the ones from the Dicaprio movie ‘Blood Diamond’. Our cameras mobile phones and even wallets were seized at the entrance. “Here we are in the hands of Ethiopians” we looked at eachother. Nobody is allowed to carry anything inside the palace except your body, dress and soul.
The palace had its own inventory inside, where we would get anything that is required for the painting. We started the work in the capricious weather of Addis. The early mornings can get about as cold as the single digits but that changes by afternoon, it gets hotter and sometimes it all of sudden rains. These unexpected rain washed off our few days of work. The sight of paint draining from the wall was heartbreaking, its not paint that is draining its hours of work. Remember we only have 12days passes inside the palace. Incase if we couldn’t finish within the deadline, Asit has to reapply our passes, it can takes weeks or maybe months to get that approved.
We worked almost 12 hours a day straight, under the hot sun and when it rained we covered the wall with tarpaulins. The palace is located at a highland area, you can see the entire city without climbing any tree. That view of Addis from the palace is heart warming, It suddenly brought peace despite all the pressure.
After almost 10 days we were nearing the completion of the artwork. One day while we were painting suddenly the place was covered with so many armed men in military uniforms holding guns. After a while a dozen of men showed up in black suits. While passing by the leader of the herd came near us and asked “where are you guys from?”, “India” we replied.
He smiled and said “nice, the painting is coming out good, Is everything ok?”
“Everything is just fine except we weren’t allowed to take our phones and cameras inside, so we don’t have any option to take photographs of the artwork”. He spoke to the person nearby and said “don’t worry they will help you out with the pictures”
We thanked him and one of us asked him the most dumbass question ever! “Sir, what is your role in this palace?”
All the men behind him started laughing. He smiled at us and said “Im the Prime Minister of Ethiopia”.
They moved away from us with laughing faces, leaving the four of us mouths open.
The next day we left Addis airport with the beautiful memories. It is a vibrant city with a buzz, and Ethiopians love Indians. The same week PM got the nobel prize for peace and also later he tweeted the pictures of our artwork.
It felt like a dream!!❤