“If I were an artist,” wrote one of the members of the Addis Ababa-based photographic collective Sudden Flowers, “I would have recorded these things and displayed them as if they really happened, as fact.”
Formed in response to the AIDS epidemic in Ethiopia, the Sudden Flowers collective attempted, over many years, to comprehend the trauma they lived through. Together, they produced photographs, videos, local installations and performances that describe the unimaginable, terrifying and transformative psychological odyssey of losing loved ones to an unknown and stigmatized disease.
This book, Sudden Flowers, gathers the collective’s creative output over the course of a decade and includes images of children’s most intimate memories and fantasies along with painful letters the children wrote to their deceased parents that describe their loss. These first-person narratives reveal an experience of grief, and of Ethiopia, rarely before seen in images.
Using photography to work through their own experiences, to visualize their future and to recreate dreams and traumatic events from their lives, these children exorcised their own sorrow and, in the process, brought light to a difficult subject.