On the 25th of July, I went to the wonderful WOMAD http://womad.co.uk/ festival in Wiltshire. In case you didn’t know already, WOMAD is a World Of Music And Dance festival, where well-known musicians, dancers and singers from around the world perform and show their talents to a crowd of several thousand people.
We travelled in our mini van with some of the Ethiopian singers and dancers performing in the ‘Taste the World’ http://womad.co.uk/taste-the-world/ exhibit at WOMAD. Taste the World brings artists performing at the festival to a ‘cookery’ stage where they are invited to prepare a traditional dish from their country of origin.
We were there for a celebration of Ethiopian coffee and culture, and to share the work of the charity Partners for Change Ethiopia https://www.pfcethiopia.org/. The key performers were Haymanot, a celebrated Ethiopian singer, her band Newanderthal, and the dancers Tesmegen and Genet.
“Welcome to WOMAD and our celebration of Ethiopia!” called out Temesgen to the crowds enticed by the smell of roasting Ethiopian coffee.
Temesgen, who is a dancer with the group the Krar Collective http://www.krarcollective.com/ opened the performance by getting the audience on their feet to take part in a traditional dance called ‘Eskista’. This dance consisted of a lot of rhythmical neck movements, and gyrating of the arms and legs.
The audience participated with huge enthusiasm. They were also greeted with a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony, which plays a large part in Ethiopian culture and tradition.
Temesgen sells coffee outside Waterloo station, in London. His stall and business are called Wagay coffee, named after his mother Wagay. A moving part of the ceremony was when Temesgen described how inspiring his mother had been during her lifetime. You could see the tears forming in his eyes just talking about her.
Our particular performance was for the charity Partners for Change, Ethiopia https://www.pfcethiopia.org They work with some of the poorest Ethiopian children, including orphans and street children, and help them go to school. Whilst Temesgen prepared coffee for the hundreds of people attending the performance, Pete Jones, from Partners for Change, told the audience what the charity did.
In 1984, the Ethiopian famine www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13349398 claimed the lives of over 1 million people. Thousands of children were orphaned as a result, with nowhere to go. Partners for Change took them in, created orphanages , and supported them as they grew up.
Orphanages were gradually phased out but the charity realised that there were still huge needs amongst the Ethiopian population, especially people and children living in urban slums.
Thirty years on, Partners for Change helps even more disadvantaged children who may have lost their parents to unfortunate conditions such as HIV. Ethiopia has one of the largest populations of orphans in the world.
Partners for Change work hard to find carers for orphans and support the communities in which they grow up. https://www.pfcethiopia.org/about-us/how-we-work
In 2013 alone, the charity provided education to 171,800 children and adults and enabled over 6,500 orphaned or vulnerable children to live in a loving family. They also have supported 8,000 women start small businesses and have trained over 7,900 people to grow their own food. By doing this, they have helped hundreds of thousands more to change their life conditions.
The WOMAD foundation http://womadfoundation.org/ who had invited us there, said they felt they hadn’t heard music quite as beautiful and uplifting as that during the whole Taste the World performance. The audience danced and sang along to the performance and happily drank their coffee and the popcorn and cake handed out by Temesgen and Genet.
After the performance, we walked around the WOMAD festival, and visited the various stalls selling items from around the world, buying lots of festival clothes and jewelry, and listening to the extraordinary music. Afterwards, we stopped off in the Taste the World Restaurant for some delicious spiced chicken and salad, then afterwards we packed our equipment away and went back to our mini van after a long day of exciting and new experiences.
by Isobel Robson,age 13
You can find Temesgen selling his beautiful Ethopian coffee outside St John’s Church, opposite Waterloo Station in London and you can contact him via twitter: at @wagaya5