I was born in Kirkos, which is considered a rough neighborhood in Addis Ababa. I don’t personally see it as a rough neighborhood, because for me it’s a neighborhood of love. But for the rest of the country, when they hear Kirkos, they always go, “Oh my god!” In my opinion, everything is complete there. We have all kinds of people. We have people who are very poor, people who are middle class, and also wealthier people; people who have an education and people who don’t have an education. They all live there. I think if you grow up in that kind of neighborhood, especially if you have an artistic inclination, it completes you. There’s a lot to see — different things at once. I think a lot of my inspiration comes from having grown up in that neighborhood, especially with my collages. I do what I feel today. This is what you see here. I feel that’s what probably moves me to make the next piece of art. One thing leads to another. Because I do what I feel, it’s truly contemporary. If I have stitches that I’m making, if I’m working on metal, then I include them in there. It becomes a mélange of all these things. If you have to think “I’m going to do a wooden door,” that stops you right there. I know what’s going to be next, but I like to play with it. Maybe that’s why it’s still harmonized, because I’m following whatever I feel inside. At the beginning, I didn’t know the house was going to become like this. The first thing I wanted to do was build a studio. It started happening organically — the house began to change from a studio to what it is now. But it was a slow process. When we first got the house, in 2002, it was very old and falling apart. We couldn’t change the shape because we had to deal with government regulations. So we had to figure out how to play with the existing design. If we hadn’t had any restrictions, maybe the design would have been very different. But that’s what led it to where it is. I feel that if I had to think about how I do things, the work would become boring. It’s more a reflection of how I’m feeling at that moment. It’s like falling in love, and the feeling moves you inside. There’s no limit to how you feel. You don’t plan it, it just comes out, it just happens. If you have to think about these things then you start limiting yourself. For how I feel, there’s no limitation.

Taken from PIN–UP 20, Spring Summer 2016. Interview by Hans-Ulrich Obrist.

Photography by Mekbib Tadesse.