Eric Gottesman | Baalu Girma

Country of origin: United States
Project location: Ethiopia
Program: Magnum Foundation Fund
Year: 2012

In the wake of the revolution that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, the Derg regime massacred approximately 500,000 people in one year alone. Most were taken silently and ‘disappeared’ including Baalu Girma, an Ethiopian writer who was assassinated in 1983 for his novel Oromai. This unexplored era of modern Ethiopian history casts a long shadow on Africa’s second most populous country. Ethiopians still fear voicing dissent and the current government continues to rule with the Derg regime’s legacy of fear.

Baalu Girma stands out as one of the heroic dissenters in Ethiopia’s darkest hour. Eric Gottesman uses photography to explore the historical and cultural significance of Baalu Girma and creates new photographs that address the perpetuity of the Derg regime’s legacy of fear. Gottesman visually imagines characters from Girma’s novel, conducts interviews with Girma’s family members and acquaintances, and collects text, letters, and other primary sources.