Toward Freedom: The California African American Museum opens new exhibition

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Toward Freedom: The California African American Museum opens new exhibition
Timkat, 2003. By Irene Fertik (Photographed in Los Angeles).

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The California African American Museum announces its ne exhibition, “Toward Freedom.” Curated by photojournalist Irene Fertik, this 40 image collection features Ethiopian communities in Los Angeles and Jewish Ethiopians in Israel. The exhibition is on view from October 1, 2015 through January 3, 2016.

Focusing on Jewish Ethiopians in Israel and the Ethiopian community in Los Angeles, the collection features images dating from 1992 through 2012 that depict the settlement of these groups to unfamiliar new homelands. Known as the Beta Israel, Ethiopian Jewish communities inhabited isolated mountain villages in northern Ethiopia (especially Gondor and Tigray provinces) since around 1400 A.D. Beginning in 1980, however, the Israeli government conducted two large-scale resettlements of the Beta Israel: Operation Moses (1980-84) and Operation Solomon (1991).

With whole communities migrating to their new homeland, Fertik, who first traveled to Israel in 1992, had wondered if, “Israelis would be any more welcoming, as a nation, than any other country in the world, to Africans settling in their midst?” As part of her research, Fertik began engaging with the growing Ethiopian community in Los Angeles, immersing herself in its culture and traditions, stating, “To know it (Ethiopian culture) is to greatly admire it! Moreover, Fertik was interested in how these two groups were integrating into their respective new societies: technologically, culturally, and socially.

In 2000, the Ethiopian leadership and business community in Los Angeles organized together to designate a four-block area of Fairfax Ave., from Olympic down to Pico Blvd., as Little Ethiopia. The city of Los Angeles officially recognized this area on the Westside as Little Ethiopia in 2002. Historically, Little Ethiopia became the first African country to have an area within a city named after it.

Ethiopians in Los Angeles celebrate the annual “Little Ethiopia Day” as part of their New Year’s celebration, which officially occurs on Sept. 11. The celebration includes live bands, traditional dancing, speakers, children’s rides, vendor booths and much more. This year, the all-day event was held on September 13 and stretched from Olympic Blvd. to Whitworth Dr.

Irene Fertik graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 1965 with a B.A. in Sociology. A staff photographer in Vermont for The Burlington Free Press, then senior photographer for USC’s university news service for 15 years, Fertik is now a freelance photographer who has traveled to Israel 16 times since 1992 in support of her book project documenting the lives of Ethiopian Jews in Israel. The book will be published within the coming year. This book project, “From Tesfa to Tikva,” meaning “from hope to hope” in Amharic and Hebrew, chronicles the settlement, and adjustment of this fascinating community; through their many painful adjustments, failures and successes

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Toward Freedom: The California African American Museum opens new exhibition

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