We received a call in the middle of 2019 asking if we could travel to Ethiopia for an urgent mural project. Mr Asit from Dubai shared the design with us, and after a few briefing calls, we agreed on our first overseas project. The challenge was that we had to cover a large amount of ground in twelve days.
We didn’t know much about the project until we arrived in ‘Addis Ababa,’ Ethiopia’s capital. Our project coordinator in Addis informed us that we would be painting the walls of Unity Park, which also serves as the Prime Minister of Ethiopia’s residence. We were astounded!
They were not supposed to reveal the full details of the project because Ethiopia is a political ground and there are major security threats. 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’. At the entrance, our cameras, phones, and even wallets were confiscated. “Here we are in the hands of Ethiopians,” we exchanged glances. Nobody is permitted to bring anything into the palace other than your body, dress, and soul.
The palace had its own inventory, where we could get anything needed for the painting. We began the work in the erratic weather of Addis. Early mornings can be as cold as the single digits, but by afternoon, it gets hotter and sometimes rains unexpectedly. Our few days of work were ruined by the unexpected rain. It was heartbreaking to see paint draining from the wall; it is not paint that is draining, but hours of work. Remember that we only have 12 days inside the palace. If we don’t finish by the deadline, Asit will have to reapply for our passes, which can take weeks or even months to get 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!!❤