Developing Fendika Cultural Center, A Grassroots Civil Society Organization in Addis Ababa

Where
Ethiopia
When
2020
Who
Fendika Cultural Center, melaku81@yahoo.com, +251 911 54 75 77
This measure was reported by civil society.
Describe the main features of the measure/initiative: 
Fendika Cultural Center has devoted the last 4 years to build up a grassroots civil society organization that promotes Ethiopian cultural heritage, supports artists of different disciplines, and builds cultural and creative capital for Ethiopia’s sustainable development. Fendika is the only locally-owned, multi-disciplinary cultural center in Ethiopia. Prior to Melaku Belay’s leadership, which began in 2008, Fendika was an Azmari bet (house of the Azmaris) in Kazanchis, Addis Ababa, where there were 17 similar establishments in the area in the early 1990s. Azmaris are folk musicians adept at improvising songs from current affairs. In an ancient art form, Azmari music allows freedom of expression in a censoring environment. In the last three decades, Addis Ababa’s development has crowded out many small businesses, including 16 Azmari bets in Kazanchis. Fendika remains standing, as the one and only Azmari bet in the area, because of Melaku’s commitment to indigenous musical heritage and thanks to the support of our local and international friends. Now Fendika proudly presents Azmari musicians 365 days a year. Traditionally, Azmaris only earned tips from customers; Fendika was the first venue in Ethiopia to pay musicians regular salaries so that they can be freer with their creative expressions. Fendika is at the forefront of professionalizing indigenous music, art, and dance in Ethiopia. Our pre-COVID live music program included: indigenous Azmari music (daily, since the 1990s), traditional Ethiopian music and dance by our house band Ethio-color (alternating Fridays, since 2009), Ethiopian Jazz by Negarit Band with dance improvisation (alternating Fridays, since 2016), KAYN Lab experimental Jazz (Mondays, since 2017), and Funk Disciples big band (Wednesdays, since January 2020). Fendika organizes an annual street festival during Timket, the celebration of epiphany in January: we invite folk artists from various parts of Ethiopia to perform their indigenous music and dance on the streets of Addis Ababa, along with Fendika artists. The Fendika touring group, composed of eight artists, perform Ethiopian music and dance around the world. In the past five years, they traveled to more than a dozen countries and performed at more than 50 festivals and venues. For recordings, we have an Ethio-color CD, two Fendika CDs, and three pieces of Vinyl (with the Ex and Large Unit). Fendika’s Art Gallery has presented visual artworks by Ethiopian artists of different generations since 2016. In sum, Fendika Cultural Center’s work is multi-faceted with the purpose to promote Ethiopian cultural heritage, nurturing artists, and developing cultural, creative, and human capital for our society’s sustainable development.
What are the results achieved so far through the implementation of the measure/initiative?: 
The results are seen in the vibrancy of Fendika Cultural Center’s activities: Our weekly concerts attract about 1500 audience members each week, and many international musicians to improvise with their Ethiopian colleagues. Our touring music group has toured to the U.S., France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Hungary, Morocco, Israel, Qatar, Abu Dhabi, Austria, India, and Switzerland during the last four years, performing to tens of thousands of audiences around the world, many of whom had never heard Ethiopian music and seen Ethiopian dance before. Since July 2016, Fendika Art Gallery has hosted monthly visu al art exhibitions, receiving up to a hundred visitors during the opening and many more days as the exhibit lasts. Melaku Belay, the director of Fendika Cultural Center has been recognized in Ethiopia as a finalist of the Ethiopian Person of the Year Award, and internationally with a Visa for Music Tribute in Morocco. Below are some testimonies from our visitors to the effectiveness of Fendika Cultural Center: - Fendika is home to me in Ethiopia, for research, and for my search of things that bind us all as humans. A small, grassroots art center in Addis Ababa, Fendika gives energy, love, and hope to all who pass through their welcoming space, with music, dance, and visual art. The workers and artists of Fendika considered as a family member with such expansive, inspiring love. - FENDIKA is not only a treasure of Ethiopia but also a treasure of the world!