On my way in to work most mornings, I tune into NPR and the BBC World Report. I don’t get the newspaper or TV so my news consumption comes from online sources that I access via apps my Twitter feed or that I search out. NPR and BBC keep me informed with views from outside the US and about world news that may not get the same focus here in the US.
Much of the news today was about the death of Ethiopian Prim Minister Meles Zenawi. He was a controversial figure but a pivotal one in Africa and for the world. His death will be a big change to the region.
But why am I writing about this topic here?
As a child growing up in the 80s, Ethiopia was a recipient of much of the aid programs such as Band Aid and Live Aid. We saw the pictures and sent in money. These programs helped to remind us that there is a world outside our borders. We talked about the issues.
What’s weird to me is that every day I hear the news but never get the chance to talk about it. Sure people I know talk politics (usually on heated partisan lines) and other rights issues, when the topic is hot, but other than that…. not much. There isn’t a lot of discussion about influential books or world news or scientific breakthroughs. Maybe I need to start a salon, a la the ladies of the Enlightenment.
But behind these big stories are the individual people who live in the countries. I love the inspirational work showcased each year at the Arise Collection during NYFW. I wanted to see if I could find any footwear designers from Ethiopia.
My favorites were the pieces from soleRebel. They’re fair trade and artisan crafted, creating jobs and cute shoes for men and women. Founded 8 years ago, they’re helping locally and reaching out globally.
But in thinking about Ethiopia, I began thinking about Eritrea. I met a lovely lady from there many years ago. At the time I didn’t know much about the country or how it had fought for independence from Ethiopia. I’ve tried to learn more and the news today brought the country back to the forefront of my mind.
One thing I did not know is that Barka sandal, or “shida” is a national symbol for the country. The sandals were worn by the fighters wore, almost as a de facto uniform, during their bid for independence.
Lightweight and repairable, these shoes are such a part of the national identity, they are even symbolized in monument in Shida Square.
Shoes as a symbol of change.
In each country they are supporting the people differently but they each are representative of the hopes and lives and dreams for a better future.