Sunday, July 1, 2012


I have not had many opportunities (yet) to get out and see Ethiopia as I would like.  One of the places that I have been introduced to is Salem’s (pronounced Sah-lem, not like the capital of Oregon or where the witch trials were held) in the Bole area of Addis Ababa.  A friend of mine brought me for my first visit and I took home a set of woven napkins and a perfect little bread basket.  I mostly eyed all the beautiful items making a mental check list of what I wanted to commission for my home.  During my second trip to Salem’s I met the co-owner and designer Salem.  She is a wonderfully talented and personable woman.  I ordered a custom tablecloth and large woven basket during this trip.  On my third trip, Salem gracefully accepted my request to photograph her beautiful shop.  The colors and textures from my visits had been swirling around in my head and I knew I needed to capture the beauty on camera.  Salem’s is truly a magnificent oasis for creativity in Addis Ababa. 
Salem’s is a design shop that features artists of all types of media from around Ethiopia.  Everything from traditional beadwork to hand spun cotton.  The shop is situated on a compound with spaces devoted to weaving looms for scarves, rugs, cloths etc., a sewing room for turning the beautiful woven textiles into pillow cases and such, a jewelers area for the bead and metal work, as well as a space for the basket weavers to spend their days turning brightly dyed fronds into works of art. 
I was initially drawn to the show room with the rustic textures and bright colors of the woven cotton scarves and traditionally painted Ethiopian carvings.   The more delicate patterns of the table linens and the intricate silverwork of the jewelry continued to lure me in.  Everything displayed is beautiful and meticulously created by true artisans; but to my surprise, I found an even greater source of allure and beauty in the artistic creation at Salem’s. 
The true beauty is in the large airy room with the seemingly chaotic web of cotton thread;  both hanging from the ceiling and stretched in long horizontal rows composing the rustic handmade weaving looms.  It’s the men sitting at the looms gliding the little boats of thread through the loom creating traditional patterns from spools of colorful thread.  It’s the peaceful monotony of sound and movement when the looms shake the cotton webs that is truly beautiful.  
It’s the solitude of the woman in the sewing room with the bright stacks of fabrics waiting to be trasformed. It’s the jewelers workspace, framed by strings of colorful beads and covered in tools, lined with women hunched over tiny wires and clasps.
 It’s the powerful sense of unity among the women in the basket weaving room.  Their varied shapes all sitting around the edges of the room looks like a painted canvas in motion.  The long tails of the fronds rustling the air as the women’s hands moved in a blur of motion, their low voices a lullaby in Amharic.  All together calm and diligent, the weaver’s work was humbling, orchestrated and spectacularly beautiful. 
The finished products from these creative pocesses are intricate and wonderfully Ethiopian.  Coming to Salem’s to acquire art for your home or for yourself is an experience in textiles, patterns and color.   Coming to Salem’s to experience the artists working in their element is a lesson in the true beauty of Ethiopian art.
To learn more or contact Salem’s in Ethiopia please visit their website for directions and design shop hours.


Daniela Swider said...

Beautiful, Sara - the products, your pictures, your writing... Loved all of it, especially the picture of the mommy, breastfeeding her baby while working. Thank you for this post!

jessie said...

Wow! These baskets are insanely gorgeous. We are going to be posted in Africa next, and I can't wait to see some of what the local shops have to offer. If I ever find myself in Ethiopia, I am definitely checking this place out!!!

Sadie said...

I am in love with all the beautiful crafts you've been showing in the last few posts! Salem's is especially wonderful as it generates income so sustainably! I definitely need to plan a trip to Addis. Convenient, since I am moving to Kampala in the fall :-). I especially love the guinea hen ceramics - I have a great collection of guinea-hen-themed bakeware and table linens from South Africa, so those would be wonderful additions. I may be hitting you up for more recommendations in the next year :-).

Sara said...

Ooh! I'm always looking for shopping buddies! Please come Sadie! I still haven't found all the good spots to shop. I definitely need some of the guinea-hen bakeware you are talking about.

Sara said...

Jessie-come shop with me! I'm always looking for an excuse to look around! Good luck with your move. So far, we are really enjoying Ethiopia.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos, beautiful products, what a lovely place!! (And I can't wait for an update photo of your custom tablecloth? :))

Sara said...

Thanks all! I really fell in love with the basket weaving mother with her daughter. Aren't they just gorgeous?

Photo of the completed art I ordered will be on the way!

McKeatings said...

Oh... I am in love with your photos! I can smell Ethiopia as look at them.
Our 9 yr old son was adopted from Ethiopia 2.5 years ago. We loved Addis so much that we came home did everything we could to live a life that makes a difference. We are now an FS family and our way to Indonesia soon. Maybe one day we'll be lucky enough to be posted in Addis! Glad I found your blog.

Eshkaye said...

Your blog is awesome. I would like to go visit the weavers and I was wondering if you can give me their address.